African Martyrs! #AfricanMartyr

The following is a brief biography of some of our African martyrs. This series can also be found at: #AfricanMartyr

Fred Hampton
Fred Hampton was a U.S. born revolutionary member of the Black Panther Party (BPP). Hampton began his political career organizing with the NAACP however as BPPs influence began to spread he was immediately attracted to their approach and 10-point program that integrated black self-determination and certain elements of Maoism.

Hampton joined the Party and relocated to downtown Chicago, and in November 1968 he joined the Party's nascent Illinois chapter.

Hampton's organizing skills, substantial oratorical gifts, and personal charisma allowed him to rise quickly in the Black Panther Party. Once he became leader of the Chicago chapter, he organized weekly rallies, worked closely with the BPP's local People's Clinic, taught political education classes every morning at 6am, and launched a project for community supervision of the police. Hampton was also instrumental in the BPP's Free Breakfast Program. After previous leadership left the Party because of a "FBI-fomented SNCC/Pather split", Hampton assumed chairmanship of the Illinois state BPP, automatically making him a national BPP deputy chairman. As the Panther leadership across the country began to be decimated by the impact of the FBI's COINTELPRO, Hampton's prominence in the national hierarchy increased rapidly and dramatically.

In 1968, he was on the verge of creating a merger between the BPP and a southside street gang with thousands of members, which would have doubled the size of the national BPP.

Eventually, Hampton was in line to be appointed to the Party's Central Committee's Chief of Staff. He would have achieved this position had it not been for his assassination on the morning of December 4, 1969.

Amilcar Cabral
“Hide nothing from the masses of our people. Tell no lies. Expose lies whenever they are told. Mask no difficulties, mistakes, failures. Claim no easy victories…” – Amilcar Cabral

Amilcar Cabral was an agricultural engineer, writer, a nationalist thinker and political leader. He was also one of Africa's foremost anti-colonial leaders. Cabral led the nationalist movement of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde Islands and the ensuing war of independence in Guinea-Bissau.

From 1963 to his assassination in 1973, Cabral led the PAIGC's guerrilla movement (in Portuguese Guinea) against the Portuguese government, which evolved into one of the most successful wars of independence in modern African history. The goal of the conflict was to attain independence for both Portuguese Guinea and Cape Verde. Over the course of the conflict, as the movement captured territory from the Portuguese, Cabral became the de facto leader of a large portion of what became Guinea-Bissau.

In preparation for the independence war, Cabral set up training camps in neighboring Ghana with the permission of Kwame Nkrumah. Cabral trained his lieutenants through various techniques, including mock conversations to provide them with effective communication skills that would aid their efforts to mobilize Guinean tribal chiefs to support the PAIGC.

Amílcar Cabral soon realized that the war effort could be sustained only if his troops could be fed and taught to live off the land alongside the larger populace. Being an agronomist, he taught his troops to teach local crop growers better farming techniques, so that they could increase productivity and be able to feed their own family and tribe, as well as the soldiers enlisted in the PAIGC's military wing. When not fighting, PAIGC soldiers would till and plow the fields alongside the local population.

Cabral and the PAIGC also set up a trade-and-barter bazaar system that moved around the country and made staple goods available to the countryside at prices lower than that of colonial store owners. During the war, Cabral also set up a roving hospital and triage station to give medical care to wounded PAIGC's soldiers and quality-of-life care to the larger populace, relying on medical supplies garnered from the USSR and Sweden. The bazaars and triage stations were at first stationary until they came under frequent attack from Portuguese regime forces.

Other than being a guerrilla leader, Cabral was highly regarded internationally as one of the most prominent African thinkers of the 20th century and for his intellectual contributions aimed at formulating a coherent cultural, philosophical and historical theoretical framework to justify and explain independence movements. This is reflected in his various writings and public interventions.

In 1972, Cabral began to form a People's Assembly in preparation for the independence of Guinea-Bissau, but was assassinated in 1973 by Portuguese agents.

Dedan Kimathi
Field Marshall, Dedan Kimathi, born Kimathi wa Waciuri, was a leader of the Kenyan Land and Freedom Army (KFLA), also known as Mau Mau, which led an armed military struggle known as the Mau Mau uprising against the British colonial government in Kenya in the 1950s.

In around 1947 or 1948, whilst working in Ol Kalou, Kimathi came into close contact with members of the Kenya African Union. By 1950, he was secretary to the KAU branch at Ol Kalou, which was controlled by militant supporters of the Mau Mau cause. The Mau Mau began as the Land and Freedom Army, a militant Kikuyu army out to reclaim their land. As the group's influence and membership widened it became a major threat to the colonialists.

Upon taking the oath of the Mau Mau, in 1951 he joined the Forty Group, which was the militant wing of the defunct Kikuyu Central Association. His activities with the group made him a target of the colonial government, and he was briefly arrested that same year but escaped with the help of local police. This marked the beginning of a violent uprising. He formed the Kenya Defense Council to coordinate all forest fighters in 1953.

Contrary to British propaganda and western perceptions of the time, the Mau Mau attacks were mostly well organized and planned.

"…the insurgents' lack of heavy weaponry and the heavily entrenched police and Home Guard positions meant that Mau Mau attacks were restricted to nighttime and where loyalist positions were weak. When attacks did commence they were fast and brutal, as insurgents were easily able to identify loyalists because they were often local to those communities themselves.”

The Mau Mau command, contrary to the Home Guard who were renowned as “the running dogs of British Imperialism” were relatively well educated.

In 1956, on 21 October exactly four years to the day since the start of the uprising, Kimathi was arrested in the Nyeri. He was sentenced to death by a colonial court, while he lay injured in a hospital. In the early morning of 18 February 1957 he was executed by the colonial government. The hanging took place at the Kamiti Maximum Security Prison. He was buried in an unmarked grave, and his burial site remains unknown.

Ithaka na Wiyathi! (Land and Freedom!)

Benkos Bioho
Benkos Bioho; was said to have been born in the region of Bioho, Guinea Bissau, West Africa where he was seized by the Portuguese Pedro Gomez Reynel, the dealer, sold to businessman Juan Palacios and resold as a slave to the Spaniard Alonso del Campo in 1596, in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia. He established the maroon community of San Basilio de Palenque some time in the 16th century. He was hanged by the governor of Cartagena in 1621.

The former African king escaped from the slave port of Cartagena with ten others and founded San Basilio de Palenque, the legendary "village of the Cimarróns". In 1713 it became "the first free village in the Americas" by decree from the King of Spain, only after experiencing numerous defeats at the hands of the liberated Africans.

Benko made his first escape when the boat that was transporting him down the Magdalena River sank. He was recaptured, but escaped again in 1599 into the marshy lands southeast of Cartagena. He organized an army that came to dominate all of the Montes de Maria region. He also formed an intelligence network and used the information collected to help organize more escapees and to guide the runaway Africans into the liberated territory, known as settlement.

Unable to defeat the Maroons, on July 18, 1605, the Governor of Cartagena, offered a peace treaty to Benkos Bioho, recognizing the autonomy of the Palenque Matuna Bioho and accepting his entrance into the city armed and dressed in Spanish fashion. The treaty was violated by the Spaniards in 1619 when they captured Bioho.

Bioho was hanged and quartered on 16 March 1621. Governor Garcia Giron who ordered the execution, argued bitterly that "it was a dangerous the respect Bioho generated in the population.

Maurice Bishop
Maurice Bishop was the revolutionary leader of the Grenadian Revolution. He led an overthrow of 400 years of British imperialist rule of the island country of Grenada and served as prime minister from 1979 until he was murdered in a 1983 CIA-led plot to destroy both Grenada’s Black Revolution and the Internationalist direction of Bishop and his party, the New Jewel Movement (NJM).

Well-read in the theories of Marx, Lenin, Mao, and others, he is said to have been most influenced by The Arusha Declaration and Ujaama: Essays on Socialism (both by Julius K. Nyerere).

It was the Black Power Movement that inspired and motivated Bishop, just as it had risen up African revolutionaries all over the world. The anti-colonialist struggle in Vietnam and the struggle for black power being waged by the Kenya Land Freedom Army, under the leadership of Dedan Kimathi, especially resonated with him.

Upon his return to the Caribbean in 1970, Bishop leant himself to the uprising then happening on the island of Trinidad. Inspired by the Black Power Movement, he organized support remotely from Grenada.

During this time, the islands of the Caribbean (including Trinidad, but also Cuba, Jamaica and Guyana) also were in a struggle to regain control of their economics and politics, which were dominated at the time by Great Britain, France, the United States and Spain.

In Grenada, Bishop organized a consortium of activists from neighboring islands who were against the British-led government of Grenada, then headed by Eric Gairy.

Black Nationalism for Grenada was at the forefront of Bishop's mind because without Black Nationalism, in a country that that had a black majority, the people would remain colonized.

In a speech given at the African Liberation Day conference, Bishop compared the situation of Africans in the Caribbean to the plight of Africans in Africa:

The same enemy called imperialism for Grenada is the same enemy for Africa, the same banks that try to exploit us in the Caribbean are the same banks that are exploiting our sisters and brothers in Africa, the same big oil companies that are exploiting us in the Caribbean are the same big oil companies that are exploiting our sisters and brothers in Africa.”

Armed with this understanding, Bishop and his childhood comrade, Bernard Coard, formed the NJM. The NJM challenged the Gairy regime, labeling it undemocratic.

On March 13, 1979, members of the NJM staged a bloodless coup that seized control of the military bases and media outlets, and detained members of Gairy's cabinet.

The constitution composed under the leadership of the British and Gairy had been suspended. The People's Revolutionary Government (PRG) was established.

Under Bishop's leadership, many organizations bloomed and took on many of the concerns that Gairy had overlooked. Organizations that dealt with women's concerns (The National Women's Organization), education (Center for Popular Education), health care, youth affairs (National Youth Organization) and more now saw their concerns being addressed.

Fidel Castro also lent his support and helped Bishop and the Grenadian people construct a new international airport that ended Grenada's isolation from the rest of the progressive world. Cubans worked side-by-side with Africans in Grenada to build this airport.

The U.S. did not want an independent Grenada. In 1983, the U.S. invaded the island, which ushered into power a U.S. puppet regime.

Bishop and the Grenadian revolution are important because, for the first time in the trans-colonial African Caribbean and the second time in the history of the Caribbean, a predominately African island country wrested control from its colonial/neocolonial masters and dared to define their own destiny based upon their own needs, not the imperialist agenda.

Bishop died for what he believed: that Grenadines and all African people have the right to use our resources in order to benefit us. This is a dangerous concept, one that Bishop was aware of when he paraphrased a "secret" State Department document in a presentation delivered at Hunter College in 1983:

The Grenada Revolution is in one sense even worse than the Cuban and Nicaraguan revolutions because the people of Grenada and leadership of Grenada speaks English and therefore can communicate directly to the people of the United States; [they] are predominately black, [in fact] 95% of predominately African origin. Then we can have a dangerous appeal to 30 million black people in the United States.

Bishop’s body was never found. Some believe it was buried and then removed to the U.S by U.S. forces.

To this day, the extent of the CIA’s, and U.S. government’s involvement in the assassination of Bishop and the overthrow of the Grenadian government are still hidden from public view, despite Barack Obama’s claim of transparency.

Read the full article at

Granny Nanny
Nanny, or Granny Nanny as she was affectionately called, was a brilliant military strategist who lead a fierce resistance struggle against the British on the island of Jamaica. She was also the spiritual leader of Jamaica's Windward Maroons. She unified the Maroon alliance and directed an effective resistance movement against the British. She established a formidable resistance against a technologically superior force.

As the leader of the main group of the Windward Maroons, her military genius was unparalleled. Maroon strategies included the use of camouflage, using bush wrapped around their bodies to blend in with the environment. In addition, Asante retentions were utilized in developing communications systems based on the cadences of drums and abengs (horns), which were unintelligible to the enemy. Bolstered by tales of the Maroon's ferocity, this provided an element of psychological warfare, which struck terror in the hearts of their enemies.

In addition to being a brilliant military strategist and fearless leader, Nanny played an important role psychologically by not only instilling confidence and courage in her followers but preserving loyalty by administering oaths of secrecy.

There are conflicting stories about her death, but there are records found that indicate she was killed by another African who claimed a reward offered by the British.

Thomas Sankara
Thomas Sankara was a Burkinabé military captain, African revolutionary theorist, and President of Burkina Faso from 1983 until he was assassinated in 1987.

Born in 1949 in the colonial territory formerly known as Upper Volta, Sankara embarked on a military career, quickly rising in the ranks. Sankara became his country's head of state in 1983 after leading a coup d'état against the then current government. He renamed his country Burkina Faso, meaning "Land of Upright People."

Affectionately called “Africa’s Che Guevara” Sankara was profoundly influenced by the work of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin, he committed his presidency to eradicating poverty and to uplifting the working class. He sought to end neocolonialism as well as the continent's dependency on foreign “aid.” "He who feeds you, controls you", he argued.

A leader ahead of his time, Sankara was also dedicated to seeing the status of women in his country improve. Under his government, female genital mutilation, forced marriages and other practices that undermine the dignity of women were discouraged and banned. He became the first African head of state to elevate women to multiple top government positions, as well as recruiting them in the army.

A frugal man, Sankara sold off the government's fleet of Mercedes vehicles, making the Renault 5, the cheapest car available in the country at the time, the official vehicle for his ministers. He reduced his own salary to $450 a month plus his personal possessions. He also banned the use of government chauffeurs and first class airline tickets by his government officials. He encouraged the Burkinabe to purchase garments produced by their fellow countrymen. Sankara also refused air conditioning in his office, arguing that most of his fellow countrymen lived without such luxuries.

His other achievements include policies to fight corruption, environmental protection and reforestation of the Sahel, promotion of education and health, agricultural sustainability, and land redistribution.

On October 15, 1987, Sankara along with twelve other officials were killed by an armed group in a France and U.S.-backed coup d'état organized by his former colleague, Blaise Compaoré.
Deterioration in relations with neighboring countries was one of the reasons given, with Compaoré stating that Sankara jeopardized foreign relations with former colonial power France and neighboring Ivory Coast.

Read more on Sankara

George Jackson
George Jackson was an African born in America who became a Field Marshal of the Black Pan­ther Party while in prison, where he spent the last 12 years of his life.

When Jackson was 18, he was sentenced from one year to life for stealing $70 from a gas sta­tion. He spent the next 11 years in prison, eight and a half of them in solitary confinement.

When he was 28 years old, he was charged with the murder of a guard in Soledad prison. Shortly after his indictment for this mur­der, his first book, “Soledad Broth­er,” a book of his letters, was pub­lished in England, Germany, Italy and Sweden.

He was acclaimed through­out the world as the most power­ful and eloquent Black writer to emerge in years. He became a symbol for the struggle of all op­pressed people.

Commenting on Jackson’s writing, C.L.R. James pointed out, “The letters are in my opinion the most remarkable political documents that have appeared inside or outside the United States since the death of (Vladimir Ilyich) Len­in.”

The late Walter Rodney used to talk about how it was amazing that Jackson could develop an international consciousness from a prison cell. Rupert Lewis, who wrote the book, “Walter Rodney’s Intellectual and Political Thought,” found an essay that Rodney had written about Jackson while he lived in Tanzania. The essay is titled, “History Is A Weapon George Jackson: Black Revolutionary.”

Jackson’s second book, “Blood in My Eye,” was complet­ed only days before his assassi­nation. “Blood in My Eye” clearly showed Jackson’s global outlook.

He wrote, “The commitment to total revolution must involve an analysis of both the economic motives and the psycho­social motives which perpetuate the oppressive contract. For the black partisan, national struc­tures are quite simply nonexis­tent. A people without a collective consciousness that transcends national boundaries—freaks, Afro-Amerikkkans, negroes, even Amerikkkans, without the sense of a larger community than their own group—can have no effect on history. ”

On August 21, 1971, three days before he was to go on trial, George was as­sassinated in the prison yard at San Quentin in what was later exposed as an FBI counterinsur­gency operation.

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Patrice Lumumba
Patrice Lumumba was the first democratically elected Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo who was also a staunch anti-colonialist.

When the Belgians organized general elections in May 1960, they were convinced that their African petty bourgeoisie agents would win, establishing a servile, pro-imperialist government that would maintain the status quo.

But Lumumba’s victory disrupted their program.

His demands—total independence for Congo from colonial control, and that the Congo’s resources must benefit the people of Congo and help build a united Africa—won him the support of the majority of Congolese and of the African world.

The Belgians and the whole white colonial world worked overtime to overturn the victory and government of Lumumba, including the anti-colonial mass movement that created him and put him to power.

Belgian and U.S. counterinsurgencies flowed into Congo soon after the celebrations and festivities of June 30, 1960, independence.

The Belgian army began the military re-occupation of Congo when they occupied the airport of Ndjli and the port of Matadi.

On July 10, under the guise of secession, the Belgian military occupied Katanga province, and by July 18, they occupied 23 key places in the Congo.

In August they triggered the secession of Kasai, and in September, both the Belgian and U.S. governments launched the coups of Kasa-Vubu and Mobutu, which arrested Lumumba and effectively overthrew his government.

Lumumba was ultimately assassinated by firing squad, buried, exhumed days later, dismembered and submerged in sulfuric acid.

Stephen Bantu Biko
Stephen Bantu Biko was a South African (Azania) born revolutionary who in 1968 established a new all-Black organization, the South African Students Organization (SASO). He was elected as its first President in July 1969.

SASO adopted a new pro-Black and radical doctrine that became known as Black Consciousness which, by Biko's own definition, was the "cultural and political revival of an oppressed people."

By 1971, the Black Consciousness Movement had grown into a formidable force throughout the country. In an attempt to reform SASO (which originally comprised students) and incorporate an adult element, Biko established the Black People's Convention (BPC) as well as Black Community Programmes (BCP).

The development of the BCM clearly threatened the establishment. In 1973, he was banned and confined to the magisterial district of King William's Town, his birth place. Among other things, the banning prohibited him from teaching or making public addresses (or speaking to more than one person at a time), preventing him from entering educational institutions and ordering him to report to the local police station once every week. In spite of being banned, Biko continued to advance the work of Black Consciousness. For instance, he established an Eastern Cape branch of BCP and through BCP he organized literacy and dressmaking classes as well as health education programs. Quite significantly, he set up a health clinic outside King William's Town for poor rural Blacks who battled to access city hospitals.

Biko died of brain injuries while in police custody.

Walter Rodney
Walter Rodney, a Guyanese born African who was an historian, scholar and political activist best known for his book "How Europe Underdeveloped Africa". Rodney founded the Working People's Alliance party in 1974 in response to the neo-colonial government's policies against the poor and working class people of the country.

Rodney was killed by a car bomb during a high point in his political development.

Huey P. Newton
"By surrendering my life to the revolution, I found eternal life…" – Huey P.Newton  

Huey P. Newton co-founded the Black Panther Party in 1966. The Black Panther Party was a U.S. based African revolutionary socialist organization that worked toward ending the oppression of Africans in the United States.

The Party achieved national and international renown through their deep involvement in the Black Power movement and in politics of the 1960s and 1970s. The Party's political goals, included better housing, jobs, and education for Africans, which is documented in their Ten-Point Program.
By 1968, the Party had expanded into many cities throughout the United States, among them, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Newark, New Orleans, New York City, Omaha, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C.
Peak membership was near 10,000 by 1969.

Huey P. Newton was assassinated in Oakland, California on August 22, 1989.



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