Throughout history, Black folks who have stood up against white supremacy have been labeled “extremists.” Both in the United States and abroad, people of African ancestry who have resisted oppression and fought for justice have been demonized and criminalized. We have provided below a sample of some of the figures who have been characterized as “extremists” by the state. The list is by no means exhaustive, however, it provides a glimpse into some of these heroic figures:
Martin Luther King, Jr – was a great champion for justice and civil rights in the United States. The FBI began monitoring M.L. King, Jr in 1955. King was subjected to surveillance and wiretaps under the FBI’s COINTELPRO in the 1960s. Hoover publicly called King the “most notorious liar in the country.” The FBI sent king a letter encouraging him to commit suicide or face public humiliation from compromising tapes they had of him.
Nelson Mandela – was a South African freedom fighter who spent 27 years in prison as a result of his fight to dismantle the Apartheid system. He was released from prison in 1990 and became president of South Africa in 1994. However, he was labeled as a terrorist by the United States government under the Reagan administration in 1988 and remained on the US terrorist list until 2008 when the US congress passed a law to remove his name from the US terrorist list.
Claudia Jones – was a Trinidadian native who became a member of the Young Communist League. She was deeply involved in the defense of the Scottsboro Boys. Because of her activism on behalf of the oppressed and her engagement in the communist movement, she was targeted by the US government. She was arrested twice and like Marcus Garvey before her, she was deported from the United States in 1955.
Fannie Lou Hamer – was a community organizer and civil rights leader in Mississippi in the 1960s. She led voter registration drives and desegregation efforts in the Mississippi delta and throughout the South. Mrs. Hamer was targeted by local authorities because of her activism and suffered sever beatings while jailed. Mrs. Hamer was one of the founding members of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.
Ida B. Wells – was an anti-lynching civil rights activist, journalist and publisher. She was a co-founder of the NAACP. She was driven out of Tennessee because of her fight against lynching and her stance for justice for Black folks.
Paul Robeson – one of Black America’s greatest multi-geniuses who fought for the rights of people of African ancestry was targeted by the US government. The government revoked his passport in 1952 and denied him permission to leave the country because he was a suspected communist.
W.E.B. DuBois – was an intellectual giant who defended the rights of people of African descent at home and abroad. He was a co-founder of the NAACP and key organizer of the Pan African Congresses of the early 1900’s that ultimately contributed to the independence of African nations from European colonial rule. Dr. Dubois’ passport was confiscated by the US government in 1951.
Marcus Mosiah Garvey – founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association – African Communities League (UNIA-ACL). He led the first and largest organized mass movement of Blacks in the history of the United States. He was a major Pan Africanist figure who coined the term, Africa for the Africans. Garvey was pursued by J. Edgar Hoover for years in an attempt to either suppress his activities or deport him seeing that he was a Jamaican immigrant. The government finally succeeded in deporting Garvey back to Jamaica in 1927.