By: Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare

Two law firms and a civil rights committee filed a lawsuit monday. The suit claims black residents have had their voting rights violated, in North Carolina.

According to NewsOne: Attorneys from the Washington-based Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and two private law firms filed the suit…The suit alleges that the black residents who account for about a third of the population in Jones County, N.C., are prevented from electing candidates who represent their needs because the county elects commissioners at large rather than by district. The complaint alleges the at-large system prevents black residents from electing black candidates from their communities, and says the at-large system dilutes black voting power.

A black person reportedly has not served on the Jones County board since 1998 and white commissioners have constantly made decisions that benefit whites and disenfranchises blacks.

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By: Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare

President Barack Obama, on December 16, 2016, signed legislation that will get rid of time limitations on civil rights cases that happened prior to 1970. This will allow cold cases that happened during the Jim Crow era, to be reopened by local, state and national law enforcement officials.

This is an expansion on a bill titled the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime bill. The bill was originally introduced in 2005, by activist Alvin Sykes. He named the proposed bill after Till, after he promised Till’s mom that he would have the case of her son ( who was brutally lynched and murdered for allegedly whistling at a white woman in 1955) reopened. The lynching of the 14 Till, by two white men who would ultimately be found not guilty by a racist all-white jury, is believed by many to be the last straw the sparked the civil rights movement.

In 2008, the bill was made into law.

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By: Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare

John Brown was born on May 9, 1800, in Torrington, Connecticut, he was the fourth of eight children of Ruth Mills and Owen Brown.

In 1805, his family moved to Hudson, Ohio, his father would start a tannery business there. Brown, was raised an evangelical Christian.

At the age of 16, Brown left the safety and comfort of his family home and moved to Plainsfield, Massachusetts, where he was enrolled in a preparatory program. Soon after, he transferred to Morris Academy in Litchfield, Connecticut. Brown had plans to become a congregationalist minister, but when he ran out of funds and suffered inflammation of the eye, he was forced to leave school and return home.

Once back in Hudson, Ohio, he worked for a short time at his father’s tannery, before starting his own tannery business with his brother.

In 1820, Brown married Dianthe Lusk, a little over a year later they would have their first child together. In 1825, Brown moved his family to New Richmond, Pennsylvania, he would buy two hundred acres of land there, build a home, a barn and a tannery. Within a year, Brown would create a post office, school and an interstate business that consisted of cattle raising and leather making.

The years 1831 and 1832 were horrible years for Brown, he became very sick, one of his sons died and his wife Dianthe passed away. On June 14, 1833, Brown married Mary Ann Day, she was 16 years old. They would raise twenty children, seven of whom were from his previous marriage.

In 1836 Brown would move his family to Franklin Mills, Ohio (now Kent). He would get loan to buy land and open a Tannery business. During the economic crisis of 1837-1839, Brown would suffer severely economically. Brown’s financially situation became so bad that he was put in jail, after refused to leave a farm he lost after not being able to pay the mortgage.

In September 1842, Brown would be declared bankrupt by a federal court and a year later, Brown would suffer more hardship when he lost four of his children due to dysentery.

In 1846, Brown and business parner Simon Perkins moved to the politically and socially progressive city of Springfield, Massachusetts. The city’s was a hotbed for the anti-slavery movement.

From 1846-1850 Brown was a parishioner at the Free Chuch (now St. John’s Congregational Church), there he would listen to speeches from legendary abolitionists like Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglas.

In 1850, the United States passed the Fugitive Slave Act, a law that required authorities in free states aid in the capture and return of runaway slaves. In response, Brown founded the militant group called “The League of Gileadites”. In the bible, Mount Gilead was a place where the toughest and bravest Israelites would go to face an invading enemy.

Before leaving Springfield, Massachusetts, Brown would give orders to the League of Gileadites to protect escaped slaves in the area.

In 1855, Brown was informed by his sons, who resided in the Kansas territory that their families were at risk and unprepared for attack by pro-slavery forces, Brown would leave for the territory of Kansas with a son-in-law to collect funds and weapons.

In 1856, Brown and the free settlers were hopeful that they would be able to bring Kansas in the union as a free state and as a result they were in direct conflict with pro-slavery activists, who wanted to make Kansas a slavery state. In May, the town of Lawerance was sacked by sheriff-led lynch-mob. The argument on rather Kansas should be a slave state or free state became so heated that pro-slavery Senator Preston Brooks brutally beat anti-slavery Senator Charles Sumner with a cane. The incident threw gasoline on the already hot fire of John Brown and other anti-slavery activists.

The Brooks-Sumner incident.

On June 2nd, Brown and 29 anti-slavery activists, nine of whom were his personal followers successfully defended Palmyra, a freestate settlement in Kansas against a pro-slavery missourian force, led by Captain Henry Pate. Pate and twenty-two of his men were taken prisoner and brought to Brown’s camp, where Pate was forced to sign a treaty in exchange for his freedom and the freedom of his men, Pate also had to agree to release two of Brown’s sons, who had been captured in an earlier conflict between the the Brown family and Pate and his followers. Brown released Pate to Colonel Edward Sumner, Brown would be infuriated when he discovered his sons release would be delayed until September.

In August, Major General John Reid with over three hundred men from Missouri travelled to Kansas, with the plans to destroy the Free State settlement in Osawatomie and to march on the cities of Lawerance and Topeka, Kansas.

On August 30, 1856, they attacked the Brown and his followers, killing son Federick and his neighbor David Garrison. Brown and his men who were numbered and outgunned seven to one, but still managed to kill at least twenty of Reid’s men and wound as many as forty. Eventually though, the numbers were just to high to overcome and Brown and his men were forced to flee across the Marais des Cygnes River, while fleeing four of Brown’s men were captured and one was killed. Reid and his Missourian force would pillage, purge, plunder and burn down the city of Osawatomie, while Brown and his remaining men were forced to hide in the woods for shelter.

On the 7th of September, Brown travelled to Lawerance to have a meeting with Free State leaders about ways to defend the city against a likely attack by a pro-slavery militia from Missouri, with almost three-thousand men. On September 14, there was a small confrontation between opposing forces, but before a serious battle could take place, John W. Geary, the new governor of Kansas orderd
Both sides to disarm and disband. Brown would take advantage of the interference from the governor to devote time to raise funds and acquire weapons from his supporters in the north.

In March 1858, while in New York meeting with supporters, Brown was introduced to Hugh Forbes, who was a mercenary from England, who had experience fighting with Giuseppe Garibaldi in Italy in 1848. After the meeting, Brown hired Forbes to be the drillmaster to his men and write a tactical handbook.

Over the next few weeks, Brown and Forbes came out with a strategic and tactical plan to combat the system of slavery in the southern states, even though the two men had a difference of opinion on some of the plan’s details. In the month of November Brown and his troops left for Kansas, Forbes would not make the trip to Kansas, instead he would return to the East Coast because he had not been paid and his relationship with Brown continued to deteriorate, it got so bad at one point that Forbes threatened to expose Brown’s plan to the government.

In January of 1858, Brown travelled to Rochester, New York, from his base in Springfield, Iowa, to visit with former slave and abolitionist, Frederick Douglas, the two men spoke about Brown’s plan and tl reassess some of Forbes’ criticisms. Brown also wrote provisional constitution, that planned be used when he created a new state in the region he was going to start his war against slavery.

On May 10, Brown and his followers travelled to the small town Chatham, Ontario, Canada, to take part in constitutional convention. About one-third of the residents in Chatham, were former slaves.
Brown would be elected commander-in-chief.

Even though most of the delegates in attendance signed the constitution, only a meager amount signed to fight in Brown’s militia. To make matters worst, Forbes created major security issues when he attempted to expose the plans of Brown to Massachusetts Senator Henry Wilson and other politicians. In an attempt to make Forbes claims seem false, Brown returned to Kansas in June, he stayed there for six months. There he met with James Montgomery, a man who was already executing raids in Missouri.

On the 20th of December, Brown performed his own raid with his followers and gave eleven slaves their freedom, he also captured two white men and looted supplies.

On January 20, 1859, Brown made the long trip to to take the newly freed 11 slaves to Detroit, where he planned to take a ferry to Canada, while he was passing through Chicago, Brown met Allan Pinkerton, who assisted Brown with raising funds for the ferry ride to Canada.

The next several months, Brown would travel to Connecticut,Ohio, New York and Massachusetts to gain more support for his revolution. On the 9th of May, Brown gave a lecture in Concord, Massachusetts, in the the crowd were several famous people, including Henry Thoreau and Bronson Alcott.

In June, Brown visited his family one last time in North Elba, before be left for Harpers Ferry.

As Brown continued to seek supporters for his revolution against slavers, he and his abolitionist allies were assisted by Harriet Tubman, whom he called the “General Tubman” .Tubman gave Brown and his allies access to her network and resources in border states like Delaware, Pennsylvania and Maryland, Tubman also assisted Brown with getting former slaves in Canada to fight in his militia.

On July 3rd of 1859, Brown arrived at Harpers Ferry, several days later he used the name Isaac Smith to rent a farmhouse in Maryland to use as his base of operation. There Brown waited for his recruits to arrive, his plan called for 4,500 men, but only 21 men arrived to join by September.

On October 16, 1859 , Brown and his men attacked the Harpers Ferry Armory, there plan was to attack the lightly guarded building and steal the over one hundred-thousand rifles and muskets. Once those weapons were acquired, plan-B, was to arm local slaves he and his men freed, then head down south to free and arm more slaves. Frederick Douglas and Brown’s family would later testify that Brown’s strategy was to continue to free and arm slaves in Virginia, eventually depleting Virginia of its slaves and then to moving on to other slaves states to do the same and make the system of slavery collapse on itself.

Brown’s attack originally went very well, they received virtually no resistance from the under-staffed Armory and they collected nearby hostages from farms with relative ease and informed local slaves about their impending liberation. Their first violent incident occured when Brown’s men told a baggage master to stop, the man, ironically was a free black, and he was shot after he tried to warn passengers of Brown and his men.

News of Brown’s raid reached D.C. and Baltimore, by the morning, at the sametime Brown and his forces were already battling a local militia, made up of local farmers and townspeople, both sides received loses, but the town’s militia gained the upper-hand when they seized a bridge, that was blocking the only escape route.

Brown and his men would move into the engine house, a small brick building at the entrance of the armory, the militia battered the building and Brown’s men shot back at them. Brown eventually sent his son Watson and another of his followers to go out and wave the white flag of surrender, but the militia was not yet ready to stop fighting and the two men were shot. The shooting would go throughout the day and another one of his sons would be shot, this time his son Oliver, who would soon die of his injuries.

In the morning of October 18, Brown and his men were surrounded by a company of United States Marines, under the command of Colonel Robert E. Lee. The Marines broke into the engine room, using a sledgehammer to break down the door.

When the attack was over, Brown’s men had killed four people and ten of his men were killed, including his two sons Oliver and Watson.

Brown would be put on trial on the 27th of October, he was charged with murder, treason and conspiring with slaves to rebel. On the 2nd of November, he was convicted of all three charges.

Brown was sentenced to hang a month later on December 2nd.

On the 2nd of December, Brown was escorted from the county jail, through thousands of soldiers, one of which was future Confederate general Stonewall Jackson and Wilkes Booth, who borrowed a uniform to gain entrance.

Brown was hanged at 11:15am and pronounced dead at 11:50am.

On the morning of his hanging, Brown wrote:

” I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood. I had, as I now think, vainly flattered myself that without very much bloodshed it might be done.”

Video on John Brown.

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By: Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare

H. Rap Brown (Hubert Gerold Brown), the former civil rights activist and chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee ( SNCC ), was born on October 4, 1943 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

In 1967, he was arrested in Cambridge, Maryland, and charged with inciting a riot, after giving a powerful and fiery speech. Brown would make the FBI’s ten most wanted list, after failing to appear in court for charges of inciting a riot and bringing a gun across state lines, Brown would eventually go to trial in Bel Air, Maryland.

On March 9, 1970, William Payne and Ralph Featherstone two officials in the SNCC organization were blown up in their car en route to the courthouse in Bel Air, Maryland, where Brown was to be put on Trial. The two main theories are first that the two men were assassinated on their way to the courthouse and the other is the two associates of Brown intended to set off the bomb at the courthouse to disrupt the trial.

Brown would disappear and be on the run for approximately a year and a half, which would come to an end after he allegedly attempted a robbery at a bar, which resulted with a shootout with New York City police officers in 1971.Brown would spend the next five years of his life from 1971-1976, at Attica Prison, after he was convicted of robbery. While incarcerated Brown converted to Islam and change his name to Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin. After he was released from prison, he would open a grocery store and become a community activist and Muslim spiritual leader in the Atlanta, Georgia area.

It is theorized that Brown now Al-Amin life took a turn for the worst when he allegedly became associated with the Dar Ul-Islam movement.

On March 16, 2000, in Fulton County, Georgia, when two Sheriffs came to deliver an arrest warrant for failure to appear in court for a speeding citation, somehow he and the sheriffs engaged in a shootout, one of the two sheriff deputies died and the deputy who survived identified Al-Amin as the shooter.

Almost exactly two years to the day of the shootout, on March 9, 2002, he was convicted of 13 criminal charges and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Short speech by H. Rap Brown

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By: Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare

Ella Josephine Baker was born on December 13, 1903 in Norfolk, Virginia. She was raised with her parents Georgiana and Blake Baker. At the age of 7, her family moved to her grandmother’s hometown of Littleton, North Carolina, a Small rural town. There she would hear great historic tales of courageous slave revolts, including the story of her maternal grandmother, Josephine Elizabeth “Bet” Ross, who was whipped by her master for refusing to marry a man, her master had chosen for her.

Baker would attend Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she would graduate as class valedictorian in 1927, during her college days, she also built a reputation for standing up against school policies that she believed to be unjust. After college she moved to New York City.

In 1931, Baker would join the young Negroes Cooperative League (YNCL) which was a group dedicated to black economic empowerment, she would soon raise to the rank of national director of the organization.

During the 1930’s Baker worked with the Worker’s Education Project of the Works Progress Administration , there taught classes in labor history, African history and consumer education. She would also immerse herself into the political atmosphere of the time, by protesting Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia and supporting the campaign to free the Scottsboro defendants in Alabama, a group of black youths, she believed were falsely accused of raping two white women. At around this time, Baker began to advocate for nationwide, local activism as a means of achieving political change.

Baker believed grassroots activism did not need charismatic leaders with a messiah complex, instead she believed and taught that the struggle should be fought by we the people in the streets, on a grassroots level.

In late 1940, Baker began working for the National Association for the Advancement of colored people (NAACP), where she first worked as a secretary, then soon began recruiting new members locally, raising money and organizing local events. She rose fast in the organization, and in 1945 was named Director of Branches.

In 1946 Baker returned to New York, to take care of her niece, which forced her to leave her leadership role in the NAACP. She would still continue to volunteer for the organization on a local level. She would soon join the New York chapter of the NAACP, where she worked hard to end segregation in public schools and police brutality against black people. In 1952 she would become president of the New York chapter.

Baker would resign from the organization in 1953 to run for New York City, city council as a member of the Liberal Party, she was unsuccessful in her bid for city office.

In 1957 Baker traved to Atlanta, Georgia to take part in a conference that was supposed to build on the success of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, in February of that same year, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) was formed.

The organization’s aim was to unite black churches and their leaders, who fought against systematic white supremacy in the south, as they used nonviolent protests to fight against systematic white supremacy oppression. Baker was the organization’s first staff member, she soon began to organize voter registration, assist local activists with their local grievances, helping local civil rights activists in states like Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi.

In 1960, Baker insisted the SCLC invite southern student protestors, who were having desegregation
sit-ins to Shaw University, for a youth civil rights conference, to discuss their struggles and go over possible solutions with the young activsts in attendance. At this meeting the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was created. SNCC would become the most active civil rights organization in the Delta region of the United States. After the conference, Baker would resign from the SCLC and would become an advisor to the SNCC activsts.

In 1964 Baker would help organize the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party ( MFDP) which was to be an alternative to the racist and all-white Mississippi party.

From 1962-1967 Baker worked as staff for the Southern Conference Education Fund (SCEF) , which was an interracial organization, that fought for social justice issues, human rights and fought against segregation.

In 1972 Baker Traveled the nation to give her support in the “Free Angela” campaign, the objective was to get justice for civil rights activist Angela Davis, whose supporters believed was targeted unlawfully by law enforcement for her political and activism activities.

Towards the end of her life, she still continued to support many causes including the Puerto Rican Independence Movement, she supported many women’s groups and spoke out against the brutally racist South African apartheid regime.

In 1986, on her 83rd birthday she died.

Here our some of her most famous  quotes:

Cornel West thoughts on the great civil rights activist Ella Baker.

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