|This article needs additional citations for verification. (December 2007)|
July 26, 1931
|Died||May 13, 1985
|Known for||founder of MOVE|
John Africa (born Vincent Leaphart, July 26, 1931 – May 13, 1985), was a founder of MOVE, a Philadelphia-based black liberation group prominent in the United States in the early 1970s. He died while involved in an armed standoff with the Philadelphia Police Department.
Early life, work, and death
Africa was born Vincent Leaphart on July 26, 1931 in the Mantua neighborhood of West Philadelphia. Leaphart's mother died when he was young and he blamed the hospital where she was being treated for her death. By the age of 9, he had been classified "orthogenetically backward" - what educators today call educably mentally retarded. When he was first tested, his IQ was measured at 84; tested again eight years later at age 15, his score fell to 79. Transferred to a special school where slow-learners could be taught simple trades, he compiled a spotty attendance record. Twice, at age 11 and again at 13, his teacher rated his overall performance as unsatisfactory - though Leaphart always did fine in civics. His scholastic ability had reached the third-grade level when, at age 16, he dropped out. At 17, he was arrested for an armed holdup and for stealing a car (court records no longer list the case's outcome).
Leaphart served in the Korean War, from which he derived an early hatred of the American class system and what he perceived as its ties to race. He adopted the name "John Africa" because of his ethnic origin as an African-American, and because he believed Africa to be the place where life originated.
Glassey, after being found in possession of weapons, was later arrested; he implicated Africa and other MOVE members in various crimes. On July 23, 1981 in the Philadelphia federal court, Africa and his co-defendant Alfonso Africa (representing themselves) were tried and acquitted on weapons and conspiracy charges by a jury that deliberated for almost six days. The Philadelphia police, in a pre-planned raid on MOVE, used parole violation, contempt of court, illegal possession of firearms, and making terroristic threats as reasoning. Law enforcement obtained indictments on the implicated members of MOVE and, on May 13, 1985, attempted to arrest them, which led to an armed standoff with MOVE and a subsequent raid by the Philadelphia Police Department. During the raid, Africa was killed along with five other adults and five children when the Philadelphia Police Department, flying a Pennsylvania State Police helicopter, dropped a F.B.I. supplied explosive device on the MOVE headquarters. This caused a fire that destroyed 60 homes and incinerated all but 2 members of MOVE, Ramona and Birdie Africa (a juvenile) who were both severely burned. Birdie was released while Ramona went on to serve her maximum sentence of 7 years in prison.
Influence on others
Mumia Abu-Jamal follows the teachings of John Africa, and was a supporter of the MOVE organization. During Abu-Jamal's 1982 murder trial, Abu-Jamal made repeated requests to be represented by Africa, which were denied by the presiding judge since Africa was not an attorney.
- Johanna Saleh Dickson (2002). Move: Sites of Trauma (Pamphlet Architecture 23). Princeton Architectural Press.
- Frank Trippett (May 27, 1985). "It Looks Just Like a War Zone". TIME magazine. Retrieved 2007-05-20.
- Letter from Mumia: Long Live John Africa! NoDeathPenalty.org, July 4, 1998
- "The Suspect - One Who Raised His Voice". The Philadelphia Inquirer. December 10, 1981. Retrieved 2007-10-18.
- Trial transcript, §1.49–1.52, available at http://www.justice4danielfaulkner.com/Days/6-17-82.html