He was born Hubert Gerold Brown. He would become known as H. Rap Brown. He evolved into Imam Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin.
His name became legendary in the tumultuous civil rights era of the 1960s. The mere mention of “H. Rap Brown” struck outrage born of historical fears in the hearts of George Wallace segregationists.
As a young man in his 20s, this native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, looked directly into the eyes of George Wallace adherents, stared them down, and dared them to stand in the way of his march toward racial equality and social justice for Black Americans.
Leading Civil Rights Activist Becomes Target
In the early to mid-1960s, H. Rap Brown was a leading civil rights activist in several non-violent organizations in Mississippi, Alabama, and Washington, D.C. He was gifted at organizing the Black vote in America’s racially segregated Deep South, where racial violence killed thousands and was not only protected but encouraged by all-White political and law enforcement institutions.
H. Rap Brown became a state and federal law enforcement target and was tagged as a violent antagonist during this racially charged era. There was no evidence that he met this description. Still, law enforcement at federal and state levels continuously harassed him with trumped-up charges and arrests, such as Federal Firearms Act violations.
In that Deep South racist social era, it was legal for a White man carry a gun and use to murder innocent Black people, while it was illegal for a Black man to carry a gun to protect himself, his family, and community.
By 1967, H. Rap Brown had become a primary target of former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s unconstitutional “COINTELPRO” surveillance program designed to disgrace, disrupt, arrest, and neutralize Black civil rights activists like Brown.
In 1968, following Director Hoover’s lead, Republican Party leader Gerald Ford said it was time to “slam the door” on H. Rap Brown and other “Black power” advocates. With the passage of the “Anti-Riot Act that effectively gave corrupt law enforcement and racist prosecutors a vehicle to stifle the “Black Power” movement in America, elected officials gave the nod to Wallace’s “segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever” dogma.
In 1971, with federal convictions, numerous arrests, and racist-inspired prosecutions against him, H. Rap Brown entered New York’s infamous “Rikers Island Jail,” proclaiming he had accepted Islam and adopted the Muslim name Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin.
Al-Amin was prosecuted and imprisoned by the federal government and state authorities for the next five years on additional charges. His appeals became a fixture in the nation’s judicial system, including the U.S. Supreme Court.
Between 1976 and 1986, while under parole supervision in both New York and Georgia, Al-Amin continued his activism fighting drug abuse, poverty, and violence in Black communities.
Between 1990 and 1995, while living in the State of Georgia, Al-Amin founded numerous religious organizations, created social programs, and participated in movements designed to end the violence crippling Black communities. He also led several prominent Muslim organizations and became president of the American Muslim Council, the first Muslim organization based in Washington D.C. to promote Muslim issues.
War on the Muslim Community
In August 1995, as federal law enforcement waged an undeclared war on the American Muslim community in the wake of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, authorities arrested Al-Amin. The Muslim Imam was hounded by an FBI counter-terrorism task force and a Georgia police officer for allegedly assaulting a neighborhood resident and an illegal firearms violation. Despite concerted efforts by both federal and state authorities to get the resident to identify Al-Amin as his attacker, the resident refused to do so. The charge was dropped after the resident became a Muslim and joined Al-Amin’s mosque.
But Georgia law enforcement authorities refused to end their vendetta against Al-Amin. IN March 2000, the Muslim peace activist, then 57 years old, was arrested for killing a Fulton County, Georgia sheriff’s deputy during a shootout with a heavily armed task force trying to serve a minor bench warrant intended for Al-Amin.
Although “on scene” descriptions varied, a surviving sheriff’s deputy identified Al-Amin as the shooter. An ensuing massive search led by Georgia state, local, and federal officials resulted in the capture of Al-Amin in neighboring Alabama on March 16, 2000.
Life Without Parole
In March 2002, Al-Amin was convicted in Fulton County of the killing of the sheriff’s deputy and sentenced to life without parole. He was placed in the corrupt, violent Georgia prison system, where he was placed in maximum security lockdown and subjected to a continuing pattern of physical and verbal abuse by prison guards, conduct sanctioned at the highest levels of the prison system.
The Georgia Supreme Court upheld Al-Amin’s conviction and sentence in November 2004.
Between 2007 and 2019, Al-Amin engaged in repeated post-conviction relief efforts to have his conviction reversed based on egregious prosecutorial misconduct and Brady violations. These efforts were rejected by state and federal courts, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Evidence Supports Innocence
From the time of his arrest, Al-Amin stated that he was not involved in the 2000 shootout with the police and was at another location. The prosecution’s own evidence lends support to Al-Amin’s claims of innocence. The wounded but surviving deputy testified that he had shot the assailant in the stomach, but when Al-Amin was arrested by the FBI a short time later, he did not have bullet wounds or gun powder residue on his body.
Trail of Blood
Further, law enforcement recovered the assault rifle and ammunition that killed the sheriff’s deputy in a wooded near an abandoned house not far from the crime scene. A trail of blood led from the crime scene to the abandoned house. An ensuing search of the house led to the discovery of blood evidence; however, the blood evidence did not match Al-Amin’s. No fingerprints or other physical evidence tied the Imam to either the weapon or ammunition.
Al-Amin has argued that the rifle/ammunition and other evidence were planted by former FBI agent Ron Campbell, who was assigned to Al-Amin’s case. Al-Amin charged that Campbell kicked and spat upon him while making the arrest. This former FBI agent had a sordid history of attacking Black suspects. In 1995, Campbell killed a Black man in Philadelphia while serving a warrant for assaulting two police officers. The agent said he shot the man after he pulled a weapon, but an autopsy revealed the man had been shot in the back of the head.
Two decades after his conviction Al-Amin’s supporters continue to raise the following issues that surfaced during the trial which lend credence to his claims of innocence:
- Prosecution almost systematically eliminated older African American women from the jury, who could have some knowledge of the FBl’s COINTELPRO program, which targeted African American leaders.
- The surviving deputy stated that at least one of the deputies had shot the assailant.
- The surviving deputy was emphatic when describing the assailant as having grey eyes – Imam’s eyes are brown.
- The crime scene contained blood on the street and in a neighboring abandoned house; however, Al-Amin was not shot.
- The deputies offered conflicting accounts of the assailant’s description and clothing that did not match the Imam.
- The testimony of 911 tapes confirming reports of a wounded person in the area on the night of the shooting was not admitted into evidence.
- The Imam’s fingerprints were not found on the firearm or ammunition associated with the crime.
- Pieces of evidence relating to the sheriff’s vehicle were either lost or destroyed before court proceedings.
- FBI agent Ron Campbell who admitted to kicking and spitting on the Imam during the arrest escaped all scrutiny of his role in the case.
- Local residents refuted the account of the U.S. Marshals who claimed the Imam shot at them in White Hall.
- Evidence that an individual, Otis Jackson, confessed to being the shooter on the evening of March 16, 2000, was never introduced at trial by the prosecution or defense-Otis Jackson continues to maintain that he was the assailant.
In 2007, Georgia prison officials transferred Al-Amin from state custody into the custody of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.
Isolated in Federal Custody
The civil rights icon and Muslim activist has been and is being held virtually incommunicado in a federal prison facility in Arizona. He is now legally blind and is 79 years of age. The federal Bureau of Prisons continues to pursue the FBI vendetta launched against Al-Amin by the disgraced and psychologically unhinged former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.
At the behest of Georgia officials, the federal government is determined to keep Al-Amin silenced in a prison cell until he dies.
What has been done, and continues to be done, to Imam Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin is a travesty—and despite all the political efforts to stifle “critical race theory,” Al-Amin is today and will be tomorrow, a symbol of America’s sordid history of racism.