Lorenzo Kom'boa Ervin

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Lorenzo Kom'boa Ervin
ResidenceMemphis, Tennessee
Political partyBlack Panther Party
MovementBlack Power Movement
Criminal chargeAttempted Murder
Criminal penaltyLife Imprisonment
Criminal statusReleased after 15 years
Military Career
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branchUnited States Army
Battles/warsVietnam War

Lorenzo Kom'boa Ervin (born 1947) is an American writer, activist, and black anarchist. He is a former member of the Black Panther Party and Concerned Citizens for Justice. He was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and has lived in Memphis, Tennessee, since 2010.[1]

Youth and early activism[edit]

When he was 12, Ervin joined the NAACP youth group and participated in the sit-in protests that helped end racial segregation in Chattanooga. He was drafted during the Vietnam War and served in the army for two years, where he became an anti-war activist. In 1967 he joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and, a short time later, the Black Panther Party.[1]

Hijacking and incarceration[edit]

In February 1969, Ervin hijacked a plane to Cuba to evade prosecution for allegedly trying to kill a Ku Klux Klan leader. While in Cuba and Czechoslovakia, Ervin became disillusioned with state socialism. After several unsuccessful attempts, the American government eventually extradited Ervin and brought him to the U.S. to face trial. Ervin was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.[1]

Ervin first learned about anarchism while in prison in the late 1970s. He read numerous anarchist books, and his case was adopted by the Anarchist Black Cross, a political prisoner support organization. While in prison, Ervin wrote several anarchist pamphlets, including Anarchism and the Black Revolution, which has been reprinted many times and may be his best-known work.

Eventually, Ervin's legal challenges and an international campaign led to his release from prison after 15 years.

Post-prison activism[edit]

After his release Ervin returned to Chattanooga, where he became involved with a local civil rights group called Concerned Citizens for Justice, fighting police brutality and the Klan. In 1987, Ervin helped file a class action civil rights lawsuit that resulted in the restructuring of the Chattanooga government and the election of several black city council members.

On April 26, 2008, Ervin and his wife organized a march and rally in Nashville, Tennessee, to protest the deaths of two youths in Tennessee facilities at the Chad Youth Enhancement Center, and the deaths of a number of prisoners at the Nashville Detention Center, allegedly by guards at that facility.

In June 12, 2012, the Ervins and other black activists held a conference called "Let's Organize the Hood", and there created the Memphis Black Autonomy Federation to fight the high levels of unemployment and poverty in African American communities, rampant police brutality, including the unjustified use of deadly force, and the mass imprisonment of blacks and other peoples of color by the United States government through its War on Drugs, which Ervin and other activists claim are unjustly directed to black/POC communities.[2]

Australian speaking tour[edit]

During July 1997 Lorenzo Kom'boa Ervin was invited to tour Australia by local anarchist organization "Angry People".[3] The far-right organization Australians Against Further Immigration,[4] raised the issue with Acting Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone. Then anti-immigration politician Pauline Hanson accused him of being "a known terrorist and gun-runner".[5]

Prime Minister John Howard was reported as horrified to learn that Mr Lorenzo Kom'Boa Ervin had been granted a visa and was visiting Australia,[6] and Immigration officials started an urgent investigation,[7] detaining Ervin in Brisbane and cancelling his visa.[8] The visa was cancelled on the grounds that he was not of good character, which Ervin disputed.[9]

Ervin had visited 20 countries on lecture tours since his release from prison in 1983. Ervin's Australian visa had been granted through an electronic lodgment system in Los Angeles.[10] The imprisonment of Ervin was taken to the High Court of Australia, where Chief Justice, Sir Gerard Brennan, restored Ervin's visa and ordered his release from prison saying that Ervin did not appear to have been accorded natural justice,[11] as well as chiding the Government's lawyers for suggesting he had no power to hear the case.[12][13][14]

The Federal Government agreed to pay Ervin's legal costs.[14] Ervin stated that Mr Howard should apologize.[15]

The detainment of Ervin stimulated international protests that included pickets of Australian embassies and consulates in South Africa, Greece, Italy, Sweden, UK, Ireland, New Zealand and the US.[16]

Immediately after his release from four days in prison, Ervin attended NAIDOC celebrations in Musgrave Park, West End, as a guest of the Murri people (Indigenous Australians from Queensland), and gave a brief speech. Ervin continued his speaking tour, while Immigration officials prepared further questions for him to answer.[17] While travelling on his speaking tour Ervin attempted to visit Australian Black Panther movement activist Denis Walker in Cessnock Jail, but was denied access by police and warders.[18]

The actions of the government were generally said to have generated attention and publicity for Ervin, and to have resulted in many more people attending his speaking tour than would have otherwise.[19][20]

The affair resulted in Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock cutting short an overseas trip to oversee further Immigration handling of the issue.[21] Ervin left Australia on July 24, 1997, claiming that Immigration officials had threatened to deport him if he stayed any longer.[22] Soon after Ruddock announced an upgrade of Australia's migrant alert systems[23] and toughened its visa screening procedures, with more stringent checking of "high-risk" applicants.[24]


  1. ^ a b c "A Short Biography of Lorenzo Komboa Ervin". libcom.org. 25 April 2005. Retrieved 17 June 2019.
  2. ^ Garraway, Jessica. "'Racism has to be challenged': An Interview with Lorenzo Kom'boa Ervin". Deep Green Resistance News Service. Deep Green Resistance Great Plains. Retrieved 21 July 2013.
  3. ^ "Deportation of Ervin an act of white supremacism: Sponsors", ABC online, July 9, 1997 (5:57am AEST)
  4. ^ "Anti-migrant group revealed activist's visit", Sydney Morning Herald, July 9, 1997.
  5. ^ "A Win for the Panther", Sydney Morning Herald, July 11, 1997.
  6. ^ "Howard orders Panther visa probe", The Age, July 7, 1997.
  7. ^ "Visa review for visiting black activist", Sydney Morning Herald, July 7, 1997.
  8. ^ "Minister Cancels Lorenzo Ervin's Visa". Media Release from Acting Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Senator the Hon. Amanda Vanstone, 8 July 1997. Accessed May 8, 1997.
  9. ^ "Activist in jail after visa seized", Sydney Morning Herald, July 8, 1997.
  10. ^ "System failed twice - and in came Panther", Sydney Morning Herald, July 9, 1997,
  11. ^ "Expensive backdown over arrest of activist", The Age, July 11, 1997.
  12. ^ "Judge decides today if Panther stays caged", Sydney Morning Herald, July 10, 1997.
  13. ^ Re: The Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs Ex parte Ervin [1997] HCATrans 213 (10 July 1997), High Court (Australia).
  14. ^ a b Re: The Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs Ex parte Ervin [1997] HCATrans 214 (11 July 1997), High Court (Australia).
  15. ^ "Ervin calls on Howard to apologise", Sydney Morning Herald, July 11, 1997.
  16. ^ The Australian, July 9–10, 1997.
  17. ^ "Black activist gets on with tour while awaiting visa quiz", The Age, July 13, 1997.
  18. ^ "Black Panther banned from jail", Sun Herald, July 19, 1997.
  19. ^ "Unlikely martyr for free speech", The Age, July 13, 1997.
  20. ^ "Lorenzo Komboa Ervin Arrested in Australia" - website from 1997 including some early Australian media reports. Accessed May 8, 2007.
  21. ^ "Minister cuts trip short to sort out Panther visa row", The Age, July 18, 1997.
  22. ^ "Ervin claims he is being forced to go", Sydney Morning Herald, July 24, 1997.
  23. ^ "Migrant alert upgrade after ex-Panther bungle", Illawarra Mercury, July 27, 1997.
  24. ^ "Crackdown on visa-seekers as laws get tougher", Sydney Morning Herald, July 27, 1997.

Further reading[edit]