Black Liberators

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The Black Liberators was a militant civil-rights organization formed in St. Louis, Missouri in the spring of 1968. The Liberators were led through most of their short existence by Charles Koen, who went on to organize a nationally noted civil-rights campaign in Cairo, Illinois.

Charles Koen, a founder of the Black Liberators in E. St. Louis, Illinois, was convicted and sentenced on May 21, 1991, to 12 years imprisonment, ordered to pay over $636,000 in restitution, and $5,000 in penalties. His sentence stems from a conviction on charges of embezzlement, misapplication of Federal Program Funds, theft of public money, false statements, arson and mail fraud. He was ordered to make restitution to the City of Cairo, Illinois, for the disability payments to a fireman who was injured while extinguishing the fire for which Koen was convicted. The 1985 arson destroyed the building which housed th UFI (United Front) a social service agency founded by Koen in the late 1960s. The defense contended that the blaze could have been ignited by a firebomb thrown by the Ku Klux Klan. The jury accepted the government's claim that the fire was an act in a scheme to collect $550,000 from an insurance policy and a means by which Koen attempted to conceal his alleged theft of government grant funds over Koen's claim that he used the proceeds to rebuild the United Front building. U.S. v Koen (S.D. Illinois)[1]

Another leader of the Black Liberators, Sam Petty, was arrested in New York on October 16, 1971 along with Rap Brown who had been "Minister of Justice" of the organization. Along with Petty and Brown were Arthur Lee Petty, and Levi Valentine, both members of the Black Liberators.[2] They had attempted an armed robbery of the Red Carpet lounge, a predominantly black club. Brown wounded a police officer before being wounded and captured. Brown had been a fugitive since April 1970, when he failed to appear in court in Ellicott City, Md., to stand trial on charges of inciting to riot and arson. He was on the FBI's "10 Most Wanted" list.[3]


  1. ^ Office of Inspector General, US Department of Labor, April 1-September 30, 1991
  2. ^ New York times, Oct 18, 1971
  3. ^ New York Times, October 17, 1971, page 1