H. Rap Brown

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H. Rap Brown
H Rap Brown - USNWR.jpg
H. Rap Brown in 1967
5th Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
In office
May 1967 – June 1968
Preceded byStokely Carmichael
Succeeded byPhil Hutchings
Personal details
Hubert Gerold Brown

(1943-10-04) October 4, 1943 (age 75)
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Spouse(s)Karima Al-Amin
ResidenceUnited States Penitentiary, Tucson
(sentenced by the state of Georgia[1])
Known forBlack Power movement

Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin (born Hubert Gerold Brown; October 4, 1943), also known as H. Rap Brown, was the fifth chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the 1960s, and during a short-lived (six months) alliance between SNCC and the Black Panther Party, he served as their minister of justice.

He is perhaps most famous for his proclamations during that period that "violence is as American as cherry pie" and that "If America don't come around, we're gonna burn it down." He is also known for his autobiography, Die Nigger Die! He is currently serving a life sentence for murder following the 2000 shooting of two Fulton County Sheriff's deputies.


Brown was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He became known as H. Rap Brown during the early 1960s. His activism in the Civil Rights Movement included involvement with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), of which he was named chairman in 1967. That same year, he was arrested in Cambridge, Maryland, and charged with inciting to riot after he gave a speech there.[2]

Brown was introduced into SNCC by his older brother Ed. Rap first visited Cambridge with Cleveland Sellers in the summer of 1963 during the period of Gloria Richardson's leadership in the local movement. He witnessed the first riot between blacks and whites in the city, and was impressed by the local civil rights movement's willingness to use armed self-defense against racial attacks.

He later organized for SNCC during Mississippi Freedom Summer, while transferring his studies to Howard University. Representing Howard's SNCC chapter, Brown attended a contentious civil rights meeting at the White House with President Lyndon Johnson during the Selma crisis of 1965.[3] In 1966, he organized for black voter registration and enforcement of the recently passed Voting Rights Act in Greene County, Alabama.[4] Elected SNCC chairman in 1967, Brown continued Stokely Carmichael's fiery support for "Black Power" and urban rebellions in the ghettos.[5]

In the late 1960s, Brown was tried on federal charges of inciting to riot and carrying a gun across state lines. A secret 1967 FBI memo called for "neutralizing" Brown and he was targeted by the COINTELPRO program at this time. The charges were never proven.[6] His attorneys in the gun violation case were civil rights advocate Murphy Bell of Baton Rouge, the self described "radical lawyer" William Kunstler, and Howard Moore, Jr., general counsel for SNCC. Feminist attorney Flo Kennedy also assisted Brown and led his defense committee, winning him support from some chapters of the National Organization for Women.[7]

During his trial, Brown continued his high-profile activism. He accepted a request from the Student Afro-American Society of Columbia University to help represent and co-organize the April 1968 Columbia protests against university expansion into Harlem park land.[8]

Cambridge incident[edit]

Brown is now known to have no direct relationship with the alleged riot of 1967. Documents from the Kerner Commission investigation show that he completed his speech at 10 pm July 24, then walked a woman home and was shot by a deputy sheriff without provocation. Brown was hastily treated for his injuries and secretly taken out of Cambridge. The one major fire did not break out until hours later, and it's expansion is attributed to the deliberate inaction of the Cambridge police and fire departments, which had hostile relations with the black community.[9] The head of the Cambridge police department, Brice Kinnamon, nonetheless claimed that the city had no racial problems, Brown was the "sole" cause of the disorder, and it was "a well-planned Communist attempt to overthrow the government." [10]

Unsolved bombing and time underground[edit]

Brown was originally to be tried in Cambridge, but the trial was moved to Bel Air, Maryland. On March 9, 1970, two SNCC officials, Ralph Featherstone and William ("Che") Payne, died on U.S. Route 1 south of Bel Air, when a bomb on the front floorboard of their car exploded, killing both occupants. The bomb's origin is disputed: some say the bomb was planted in an assassination attempt, and others say Payne was intentionally carrying it to the courthouse where Brown was to be tried. The next night, the Cambridge courthouse was bombed.[11]

Brown, center, is seen in this April 1968 file photo with his lawyer, William M. Kunstler, left.)

Brown disappeared for 18 months, during which he appeared on the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Ten Most Wanted List. He was arrested after a reported shootout with officers after what was said to be an attempted robbery of a bar in New York City. He spent five years (1971–76) in Attica Prison after a robbery conviction. While in prison, Brown converted to Islam and changed his name from Hubert Gerold Brown to Jamil Abdullah al-Amin.

After his release, he opened a grocery store in Atlanta, Georgia, and became a Muslim spiritual leader and community activist preaching against drugs and gambling in Atlanta's West End neighborhood. It has since been alleged that al-Amin's life changed again when he allegedly became affiliated with the "Dar ul-Islam Movement".[12]

2000 arrest and conviction[edit]

On March 16, 2000, in Fulton County, Georgia, Sheriff's deputies Ricky Kinchen and Aldranon English went to al-Amin's home to execute an arrest warrant for his failure to appear in court after a citation for speeding and impersonating a police officer. It was believed that he was an honorary police officer in a town in Alabama, and showed his honorary badge to gain the sympathy of the officer citing him.

After determining that the home was unoccupied, the deputies drove away and were shortly passed by a black Mercedes headed for the home. Kinchen (the more senior deputy) noted the suspect vehicle, turned the patrol car around, and drove up to the Mercedes, stopping nose to nose. English approached the Mercedes and told the single occupant to show his hands. The occupant opened fire with a .223 rifle. English ran between the two cars while returning fire from his handgun, but was hit four times. Kinchen was shot with the rifle and a 9 mm handgun.

The next day, Kinchen died of his wounds at Grady Memorial Hospital. English survived his wounds, and identified al-Amin as the shooter from six photos he was shown while recovering in the hospital. Both of the Sheriff's deputies al-Amin was convicted of shooting were black, which undermined al-Amin's racial conspiracy theory defense at trial.[13]

Shortly after the shootout, al-Amin fled to White Hall, Alabama, where he was tracked down by U.S. Marshals and arrested by law-enforcement officers after a four-day manhunt. Al-Amin was wearing body armor at the time of his arrest, and officers found a 9 mm handgun and .223 rifle near his arrest location. Firearms Identification testing showed that the weapons were the ones used to shoot Kinchen and English.

Later, al-Amin's black Mercedes was found riddled with bullet holes.[14] His lawyers argued he was innocent of the shooting. Defense attorneys noted that Al-Amin’s fingerprints were not found on the murder weapon, and he was not wounded in the shooting, as one of the deputies said the shooter was. The deputy also said the killer's eyes were gray, but Al-Amin's are brown.[15]

On March 9, 2002, nearly two years after the shooting, al-Amin was convicted of 13 criminal charges, including Kinchen's murder. Four days later, he was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole.[16] He was sent to Georgia State Prison, the state's maximum-security facility near Reidsville, Georgia.

Otis Jackson, a man incarcerated for unrelated charges, confessed to the Fulton County shooting two years before al-Amin was convicted of the same crime, but the court did not consider Jackson's statement as evidence. Jackson's statements corroborated details from 911 calls following the shooting, including a bleeding man seen limping from the scene: Jackson said he knocked on doors attempting to solicit a ride while suffering from wounds sustained in the firefight with deputies Kinchen and English.[17]

At his trial, prosecutors pointed out that al-Amin had never provided an alibi for his whereabouts at the time of the shootout, nor any explanation for fleeing the state afterwards. He also did not explain the bullet holes in his car, nor why the weapons used in the shootout were found near him during his arrest. In May 2004, the Supreme Court of Georgia unanimously ruled to uphold al-Amin's conviction.[18]

In August 2007, al-Amin was transferred to federal custody, as Georgia officials decided he was too high-profile for the Georgia prison system to handle. He was moved to a federal transfer facility in Oklahoma pending assignment to a federal penitentiary. On October 21, 2007, al-Amin was transferred to the ADX Florence supermax prison in Florence, Colorado.[19] On July 18, 2014, having been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, al-Amin was transferred to Butner Federal Medical Center in North Carolina.[20] As of March 2018, he is incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary, Tucson.[1]


  • Die Nigger Die!: A Political Autobiography, Westport, CT: Lawrence Hill Books, 1969; London: Allison & Busby, 1970.
  • Revolution by the Book: The Rap Is Live, 1993.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Federal Bureau of Prisons Inmate Locator". Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved 2018-04-01. (BOP Register Number 99974-555)
  2. ^ "Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) Actions 1960-1970". Mapping American Social Movements.
  3. ^ Lawson, Steven F. (2015-01-13). Civil Rights Crossroads: Nation, Community, and the Black Freedom Struggle. University Press of Kentucky. p. 306. ISBN 9780813157122.
  4. ^ "H. Rap Brown - SNCC Digital Gateway". SNCC Digital Gateway. Retrieved 2018-10-02.
  5. ^ Levy, Peter B. (2018-01-25). The Great Uprising. Cambridge University Press. p. 67. ISBN 9781108422406.
  6. ^ Levy, Peter B. (2018-01-25). The Great Uprising. Cambridge University Press. p. 113. ISBN 9781108422406.
  7. ^ Randolph, Sherie M. (2018-02-01). Florynce "Flo" Kennedy: The Life of a Black Feminist Radical. UNC Press Books. pp. 140–143. ISBN 9781469647524.
  8. ^ Bradley, Stefan M. "1968 protests at Columbia University called attention to 'Gym Crow' and got worldwide attention". The Conversation. Retrieved 2018-12-07.
  9. ^ dholt@chespub.com, DUSTIN HOLT (Jul 23, 2017). "Author debunks riot myth". Dorchester Star.
  10. ^ Levy, Peter B. (2018-01-25). The Great Uprising. Cambridge University Press. pp. 70–89. ISBN 9781108422406.
  11. ^ Holden, Todd (March 23, 1970). "Bombing: A Way of Protest and Death". Time. Retrieved February 14, 2010.
  12. ^ Black America, Prisons, and Radical Islam (PDF). Center for Islamic Pluralism. September 2008. ISBN 978-0-9558779-1-9. Retrieved February 14, 2010.
  13. ^ Hart, Ariel, "Court in Georgia Upholds Former Militant's Conviction", The New York Times, May 25, 2004
  14. ^ "Ex-Black Panther convicted of murder". CNN. March 19, 2002. Retrieved January 18, 2008.
  15. ^ "Muslim Cleric Jamil Al-Amin Is Convicted of Murder; Prosecutors Urge Jurors to Sentence The Muslim Spiritual Leader to Death". DemocracyNOW Independent Global News. Retrieved November 30, 2016.
  16. ^ "Deputy Sheriff Ricky Leon Kinchen". Officer Down Memorial Page. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. Retrieved January 8, 2008.
  17. ^ Siddiqui, Obaid H. "The Unofficial Gag Order of Jamil Al-Amin (H. Rap Brown): 16 Years in Prison, Still Not Allowed to Speak". Retrieved 30 November 2018.
  18. ^ "Law.com". Law.com. Retrieved 30 November 2018.
  19. ^ Bluestein, Greg (August 3, 2007). "1960s Militant Moved to Federal Custody". ABC News. Archived from the original on April 11, 2008. Retrieved January 18, 2008.
  20. ^ "Imam Jamil Al-Amin (H. Rap Brown) transferred to Butner Federal Medical Center, N.C.", Bay View, July 18, 2014.

External links[edit]