Chokwe Lumumba

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Chokwe Lumumba
Chokwe Lumumba 2013.jpg
Lumumba in 2013
Mayor of Jackson, Mississippi
In office
July 1, 2013 – February 25, 2014
Preceded by Harvey Johnson, Jr.
Succeeded by Tony Yarber
Personal details
Born Edwin Finley Taliaferro
(1947-08-02)August 2, 1947
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Died February 25, 2014(2014-02-25) (aged 66)
Jackson, Mississippi, U.S.

Chokwe Lumumba (/ˈʃ.kw.lʌˈmm.bɑː/; August 2, 1947 – February 25, 2014) was a New Afrika politician, human rights lawyer, and Mayor of Jackson, Mississippi. He was born in Detroit, Michigan, as Edwin Finley Taliaferro, the second child of eight born to Lucien and Priscilla Taliaferro.[1] Lumumba was elected mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, on June 4, 2013.

Early age[edit]

Lumumba's father, Lucien, was from Kansas, and his mother, Priscilla, was from Alabama. Some of his forebears were Cherokee. He graduated from St. Theresa High School in Detroit, where he served as president of the student council and captain of the football team. As a young man he witnessed police brutality. His mother would stand with her children on corners collecting money for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and she impressed on her son the important role of political activism and civil rights.[citation needed]

The assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1968, had a deep effect on Lumumba, who the day following King's assassination participated in the occupation of a university building at Western Michigan University. The occupation protested the lack of African-American faculty among other academic demands.[2]

He majored in political science and graduated from Kalamazoo College in 1969, where he formed the Black United Front to advocate for African-American studies in Midwestern higher educational institutions. Lumumba was elected to the cabinet of the Republic of New Afrika in 1971 as the second vice president.[3] He was in the same position when the capital of the provisional government was moved to Hinds County, Mississippi, and dedicated on March 28, 1971.[4]

Lumumba was in the lead car with Alajo Abegbalola which was halted by the Bolton police on that day when the "Land Celebration" was set to take place, marking the establishment of the capital of the Republic of New Africa.[5] In 1972 Lumumba was appointed by the Republic of New Africa president as the Minister of Justice to succeed attorney William E. Miller Jr.[citation needed]

Legal career[edit]

Lumumba finished first in his law school class and graduated cum laude from Wayne State University Law School in 1975.[6] While there he created the Malcolm X Center[7] and was a staff attorney in the Detroit Public Defenders Office. He formed a law firm in Detroit in 1978 and successfully defended 16 prisoners who faced murder charges after a riot in a prison in Pontiac, Illinois.[8] He was initially barred from representing Cynthia Boston, known as Fulani Sunni Ali, a member of a revolutionary group charged in a Brink's robbery case; she was jailed on $500,000 bond. Many national legal groups protested the barring of Lumumba from representing the prisoner and the characterization of him as a terrorist due to his membership in the Republic of New Africa.[9] In 1983 while handling the Brink's case he was held in contempt by the federal judge for his press comments.[10]

He worked on the Geronimo Pratt case and encouraged black youth to eschew gang activities and participate in global actions such as protesting apartheid in South Africa. The 1980s witnessed a large increase in the number of imprisoned African-Americans in the United States.[11] In September 1987 at Harvard Law School, as a co-founder of the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America, Lumumba addressed a conference sponsored by the National Conference of Black Lawyers regarding the constitutional neglect of the needs of enslaved persons. [clarification needed][12]

In 1988 he returned to Jackson, Mississippi and three years later was granted the right to practice law. He was a public defender on contract with the City of Jackson's consortium to represent the indigent citizens of the municipality. In 1994 Lumumba sued to have a public defender contract voided.[13] In 2000 Judge Swan Yerger dismissed a lawsuit filed against a police officer and Lumumba was publicly reprimanded by the Mississippi Bar after the judge found him in contempt. In a Leake County case he was found in contempt and publicly reprimanded. After an unsuccessful appeal to the Mississippi Supreme Court, he served three days in the county jail when bond was refused. He also lost his license to practice law for six months.[14] A human rights and criminal defense attorney, he was licensed to practice in both Michigan and Mississippi.[15]

Jackson city council[edit]

In 2009 Lumumba was elected to the Jackson Ward Two council seat with the help of the organization he helped found, the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, along with, the Jackson People's Assembly, the Mississippi Disaster Relief Coalition, and other community activists. He served as chairman of the New African Peoples Organization and co-sponsored the Washington D.C. rally, Occupy the Justice Department. In 2010, he addressed the New Black Panther Party in Atlanta. He helped the Mississippi Public Broadcasting agency in the anti-dropout campaign for young students.[16]

2013 mayoral race[edit]

On the day of the Democratic Party primary election for Mayor of Jackson on May 7, 2013, prior to the regular, local evening news, it was made known that Lumumba had forced Jonathan Lee into a runoff election and that the incumbent, Harvey Johnson, Jr., had been soundly defeated in each municipal ward. Lumumba had led in at least five of the seven wards.[17] Von Anderson[who?] of Jackson noted that Lumumba had raised only $69,000 prior to the primary election on May 7 which was five times less than Jonathan Lee, but that their grassroots work would be more decisive in the upcoming runoff.[18] On May 15, attorney Regina Quinn, the fourth place Democratic primary finisher, endorsed Lumumba for his stance on infrastructure development as an economic stimulus for local Jackson businesses and his insistence that the city pay women equally with men in like positions.[19]

On May 21, 2013, Lumumba defeated Jonathan Lee by over 3,000 votes and bested his opponent in five out of the seven municipal wards. With negligible opposition in the June 4th general election, he easily became the mayor-elect for the capital of and largest city in Mississippi. On June 5, 2013, one day after his electoral victory, Lumumba questioned the significance of Christopher Columbus as "discoverer of America".[20] He was sworn in as Mayor on July 1, 2013.[20]


Chokwe Lumumba died on February 25, 2014, at the age of 66.[21] City officials said Lumumba died at St. Dominic Hospital, Jackson. The cause of death was not immediately clear, but City Councilman Quentin Whitwell told reporters that Lumumba died of heart failure.[22]


  1. ^ "Elect Chokwe Lumumba Mayor of Jackson". Retrieved May 12, 2013.
  2. ^ Chokwe Lumumba profile,; retrieved May 12, 2013.
  3. ^ Caldwell, Earl; Rackley, Lurma; Walker, Kenneth (December 1994). Black American Witness: Reports from the Front. Lion House Publishing. p. 348. Retrieved May 24, 2013. 
  4. ^ Welsh, Kenneth Kwame. "New Afrikan Independence Movement"; retrieved May 13, 2013.
  5. ^ "Alajo Adegbalola" (obituary), The Black Panther (Oakland) Winter 1995, p. 8. Johnson Collection. Series 9, Box 1. Fannie Lou Hamer Institute. Jackson State University. Special Collections.
  6. ^ "Jackson mayor - Democrat". The Clarion-Ledger. May 6, 2013. Retrieved May 24, 2013. 
  7. ^ Z. Jeffries (2014-02-26). "Mayor Chokwe Lumumba Joins the Ancestors". Michigan Citizen. Retrieved 2014-02-28. 
  8. ^ Siddhartha Mitter, "Chokwe Lumumba, radical mayor of Jackson, Miss., dies at 66"., February 26, 2014.
  9. ^ Marable, Manning. How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America: Problems in Race, Political Economy, and Society. Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 2000, p. 247.
  10. ^ Lubasch, Arnold H. (September 18, 1983). "Contempt ruling in a Brink's case", New York Times, p. 51.
  11. ^ Sundiata Acoli. "A Brief History Of The New Afrikan Prison Struggle", November 30, 1995; retrieved May 14, 2013.
  12. ^ Winbush, Raymond. Should America Pay?: Slavery and the Raging Debate on Reparations. New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2010.
  13. ^ Simmons, Grace (January 4, 1994). "Jackson sued on contract", Clarion Ledger (Jackson), p. 4B.
  14. ^ "Jackson Attorney Reinstated". WLBT. January 18, 2007. Retrieved May 24, 2013. 
  15. ^ Anderson, Talmadge; Stewart, James Benjamin (2007). Introduction to African American Studies: Transdisciplinary Approaches and Implications. Black Classic Press. pp. 157–. ISBN 9781580730396. Retrieved 24 May 2013. 
  16. ^ Can I Kick it? on YouTube, Mississippi Public Broadcasting. (Jackson, MS); September 24, 2012; retrieved May 12, 2013.
  17. ^ Eason, Brian. "Race no longer clear-cut issue in Jackson mayoral politics",, May 9, 2013; retrieved May 13, 2013.
  18. ^ Mitchell, Jerry. "Jackson mayoral runoff: A day with Chokwe Lumumba",, May 12, 2013; retrieved May 12, 2013.
  19. ^ Verbatim statement by Regina Quinn,; May 15, 2013; retrieved May 15, 2013.
  20. ^ a b Barnes, Dustin. "Chokwe Lumumba's comments on Christopher Columbus fuel debate",, May 23, 2013; retrieved May 24, 2013.
  21. ^ "Mayor Lumumba is Dead",; accessed February 26, 2013.
  22. ^ "Lumumba's health was a subject of persistent rumors. Coroner: Mayor died of natural causes", Clarionledger,com, February 26, 2014.

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