- Sixties radical, led “Black Power” movement
- Succeeded Stokely Carmichael as leader of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in 1967
- Former Executive Board President of the American Muslim Council
- Currently serving a life sentence for killing a police officer in 2000
Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin was born Hubert Gerold Brown in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on October 4, 1943. Popularly known as H. Rap Brown during the 1960s, he succeeded Stokely Carmichael as leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in May 1967. Brown was a physically imposing individual, standing 6-foot-5.
In the mid-Sixties, Brown and Carmichael together were key activists in the Lowndes County Freedom Organization, an Alabama group whose flag sported the image of a black panther. Both men rejected Martin Luther King’s nonviolent and integrationist politics, and called instead for “Black Power.” One of Brown’s most famous statements was, “Violence is a part of America’s culture. It is as American as apple pie.” He commonly referred to President Lyndon Johnson as a “mad, wild dog” and a “honkie cracker.” “If you give me a gun,” Brown warned, “I just might shoot Lady Bird” (Mrs. Johnson). In the aftermath of the violent 1967 race riots in Newark, New Jersey, Brown exhorted black people to “wage guerrilla war on the honkie white man.”
In July 1967, Brown delivered an incendiary speech at a civil-rights rally in Cambridge, Maryland, where he told his listeners to “get you some guns” because “the only thing a honkie respects is force.” Additional noteworthy quotes from the speech included:
- “Black folks built America, and if America don’t come around, we’re going to burn America down. We are going to burn it down if we don’t get our share of it.”
- “Don’t try loving a honkie to death. Shoot him to death. Shoot him to death, brother, ’cause that’s what he’s out to do to you.”
- “This town is ready to explode … if you don’t have guns, don’t be here … you have to be ready to die.”
Just hours later, a massive fire broke out in Cambridge at the local Pine Street School, which Brown had said, in a speech the previous night, “should have burned down long ago.” By the time it was over, the fire had engulfed two square blocks of a black neighborhood.
Accused of instigating arson and riots in Cambridge, Brown was subsequently arrested while attempting to board a plane at Washington, D.C.’s National Airport. He was released on bail, claiming all the while that President Johnson was to blame for the unrest because he had sent “white killers into the black communities” to commit murder.
On various other occasions in 1967, Brown accused the white power structure of “escalating genocide” against blacks; he said that black U.S. soldiers in Vietnam should return home to “fight the real war”; he urged black women who worked for white families to serve their employers food sprinkled with “arsenic instead of salt”; and he called for arson and mass rioting in American cities.
At a 1968 rally in Oakland, California, Brown was named the Minister of Justice for the Black Panther Party.
In 1969, Brown published his first book, Die Nigger Die, in which he:
- divides the history of white nationalism into two parts, “BC” and “AD” — designations corresponding, respectively, to the time periods before the advent of the white man’s religion and after it;
- sarcastically notes that whites, by trying to “[c]ivilize the savage through Christianity,” compel the average black child to grow up in a “big white world [that] forces a white God and a white Jesus on him and has him worshiping somebody that doesn’t even look like him”;
- asserts that the United States “represents everything that humans have suffered from”;
- declares that America’s very existence “appals [sic] most of mankind”;
- characterizes the U.S. as “the world’s slop jar”;
- states that “the animal that is america [sic] must be destroyed”;
- claims that it is morally justifiable to threaten whites physically, steal from them, or maliciously lie about them; and
- endorses the idea of collective racial guilt and retribution, as evidenced by his reaction to an incident where some whites had recently attacked a black man in Fort Deposit, Alabama: “I thought that we should at least jack up 10 or 12 crackers.”
Also in his 1969 book, Brown explains his refusal to study the writings of William Shakespeare by claiming that he himself is capable of producing written works of a far higher quality. For example: “I fucked your mama / For a solid hour. / Baby came out / Screaming, Black Power.” After regaling his readers with this and two additional verses, Brown concludes: “And the teacher expected me to sit up in class and study poetry after I could run down shit like that. If anybody needed to study poetry, she needed to study mine.”
Rather than face the criminal charges stemming from his 1967 activities in Cambridge, Brown jumped bail, skipped his trial date in March 1970, and disappeared for approximately 17 months, thereby earning himself a spot on the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted” list.
In 1971 Brown was arrested at the scene of a shootout with police following his attempted robbery of the Red Carpet Lounge, a New York City bar, and he was subsequently sent to prison for five years. According to a Time magazine report about the robbery, Brown “ordered about 25 customers to lie on the floor, assaulted some of them, took their wallets and laid down a barrage of fire as they left.” Brown’s defense attorney for the case was the radical William Kunstler, who previously had represented Stokely Carmichael and Angela Davis.
While serving his sentence behind bars, Brown in 1971 converted to a Muslim movement known as Dar-ul-Islam, a Sunni organization of African Americans which blended the rhetoric of “Black Power” with a call for strict religious devotion. A fellow inmate recommended that Brown take the surname “Al-Amin,” which translates to “the trustworthy” in Arabic. From then on, Brown was known as Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin.
When he was paroled in 1976, Al-Amin founded and became Imam of the Atlanta Community Mosque. By 1980, he was the recognized spiritual leader of more than thirty Islamic centers belonging to Dar-ul-Islam; their aggregate membership was approximately 10,000 people.
In 1990 Al-Amin was elected vice president of the American Muslim Council (AMC), which would later become a member organization of Sami Al-Arian’s National Coalition to Protect Political Freedom. As of 2001, Al-Amin was AMC’s acting president.
When Al-Amin was asked in 1992 for his reaction to the deadly riots that had devastated Los Angeles following the famous acquittal of the police officers who had beaten Rodney King a year earlier, he claimed that racial justice had not progressed at all since his days of active protest in the Sixties. “What scale can you measure progress on if the response to injustice is the same?” he said. “I don’t see any progress.… The struggle put into motion when the first African was enslaved is still the struggle that is at hand today.”
In 1993 Al-Amin was a founding member of the Islamic Shura Council of North America, an organization authorized to make key decisions about Muslim religious life in the United States.
In his 1994 book Revolution by the Book (The Rap is Live), Al-Amin wrote: “When we begin to look critically at the Constitution of the United States, we see that in its main essence it is diametrically opposed to what Allah has commanded.”
In the Nineties, male worshipers belonging to Al-Amin’s Atlanta mosque wore either Islamic-style skullcaps and long robes, or black-nationalist combat boots and fatigues. In 1995, two of the mosque’s members were convicted of illegally shipping more than 900 firearms not only to groups in Detroit and Philadelphia, but also to an Islamic gang with ties to Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman. Subsequently, a young convert at Al-Amin’s mosque joined Islamic separatists in Kashmir, where he was killed while participating in an attack against an Indian army post.
In 1995 Al-Amin was arrested for shooting a drug dealer four times in the legs, and also was charged with carrying a concealed and unlicensed handgun. The following year, he was investigated for more than a dozen homicides but was never formally charged. Then, in 1999, he was charged with possessing a stolen car, driving without insurance, and impersonating a police officer. But Al-Amin refused to appear for his court date, prompting police to issue a warrant for his arrest. When two sheriff deputies (both African American) tried to serve the warrant on March 16, 2000, which was the Muslim holiday Eid ul-Adha, they were shot. Deputy Ricky Kinchen was killed, and his partner Aldranon English was wounded. English later identified Al-Amin as the shooter, and after a five-day police manhunt the suspect was caught and arrested in a wooded area near a small town in Alabama. The gun that had been used in the police shootings was found in Al-Amin’s car. In 2002 Al-Amin was tried and found guilty of Kinchen’s murder and was sentenced to life in prison.
As of 2009-10, Al-Amin was serving — from the confines of his prison cell — as the spiritual leader of Ummah (meaning “the brotherhood”), a fundamentalist Sunni Muslim group consisting mostly of African-Americans, many of whom were former inmates who had converted to Islam while in prison. According to the FBI, Ummah’s objective was to create “a separate, sovereign Islamic state (‘the Ummah’) within the borders of the United States, governed by Sharia law [and] ruled over by Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin.”
Along with fellow convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu Jamal, Al-Amin now ranks among the most celebrated “political prisoners” championed by the Left. A supportive Mumia himself has praised Al-Amin for having “lived a good and rich life in service to his spiritual and ethnic community.”
Further Reading: “The Curious Case of Jamil Al-Amin” (by Daniel Pipes, American Spectator, Jamil al-Amin, the Former H. Rap Brown” (by Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, 11-20-2009); “Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee” (by The U.S. Department of Defense, 1967); “Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin” (Encyclopedia.com).