10 Quotes from the Autobiography of Assata Shakur

10 great quotes from the Autobiography of Assata Shakur, activist, writer, poet, former member of the Black Liberation Army, and international icon of the Black freedom struggle.

  • “I wasn’t against communism, but i can’t say i was for it either. At first, i viewed it suspiciously, as some kind of white man’s concoction, until i read works by African revolutionaries and studied the African liberation movements. Revolutionaries in Africa understood that the question of African liberation was not just a question of race, that even if they managed to get rid of the white colonialists, if they didn’t rid themselves of the capitalistic economic structure, the white colonialists would simply be replaced by Black neocolonialists. There was not a single liberation movement in Africa that was not fighting for socialism. In fact, there was not a single liberation movement in the whole world that was fighting for capitalism.”
  • “Those who believe that the president or the vice-president and the congress and the supreme kourt run this country are sadly mistaken. The almighty dollar is king; those who have the most money control the country and, through campaign contributions, buy and sell presidents, congressmen, and judges, the ones who pass the laws and enforce the laws that benefit their benefactors. The rich have always used racism to maintain power. To hate someone, to discriminate against them, and to attack them because of their racial characteristics is one of the most primitive, reactionary, ignorant ways of thinking that exists.”
  • “On July 19, 1973, i was taken to New York to be arraigned on a Queens bank robbery indictment in Brooklyn federal court. The trip was like a surrealistic cartoon. There must have been at least twelve cars in the procession, and a new jersey state trooper’s car was stationed at every exit on the turnpike. All the cars had lights on and sirens going. A helicopter trailed us. And the pigs in the car i was in were comical. At every point they said something like “At least we got to the turnpike.” “At least we got to the bridge.” “At least we got to New York.” “At least we made it to the court.” Whenever they passed a police car they waved and sometimes raised their fists. When the jersey police were replaced by New York police at the bridge to Staten Island, they shook hands and gave each other the power sign. They even called each other “brother.” “This is my brother officer, so and so.” They acted like they were on some dangerous mission inside Russia. They were actually afraid. White people’s fear of Black people with guns will never cease to amaze me.Probably it’s because they think about what they would do were they in our place. Especially the police, who have done so much dirt to Black people — their guilty conscience tells them to be afraid. When Black people seriously organize and take up arms to fight for our liberation, there will be a lot of white people who will drop dead from no other reason than their own guilt and fear.
  • “One night one of the nurses came in and gave me three books. I hadn’t even thought about reading. The books were a godsend. They had been carefully selected. One was a book of Black poetry, one was a book called Black Women in White Amerika, and the third was a novel, Siddhartha, by Hermann Hesse. Whenever i tired of the verbal abuse of my captors, i would drown them out by reading the poetry out loud. “Invictus” and “If We Must Die” were the poems i usually read. I read them over and over, until i was sure the guards had heard every word. The poems were my message to them. When i read the book about Black women, i felt the spirits of those sisters feeding me, making me stronger. Black women have been struggling and helping each other to survive the blows of life since the beginning of time. And when i read Siddhartha, a peace came over me. I felt a unity with all things living. The world, in spite of oppression, is a beautiful place. I would say “Om” softly to myself, letting my lips vibrate. I felt the birds, the sun, and the trees. I was in communion with all the forces on the earth that truly love people, in communion with all the revolutionary forces on the earth.”
  • “As far as i can tell, you have the extreme right, who are fascist, racist capitalist dogs like Ronald Reagan, who come right out and let you know where they’re coming from. And on the opposite end, you have the left, who are supposed to be committed to justice, equality, and human rights. And somewhere between those two points is the liberal. As far as i’m concerned, “liberal” is the most meaningless word in the dictionary.
  • “One of the amazing things was the number of student supporters who gave their time and energy to help us. They volunteered to index and organize past transcripts and, together with political activists, did a survey of prospective jurors in Middlesex County. Members of the defense committee published a bulletin to keep people informed about what was happening in the case and also did speaking engagements and fundraising. People circulated petitions and demonstrated in front of the kourtroom. They volunteered to do typing, handle the telephones, etc. Entertainers like Harry Belafonte, Ossie Davis, and Ruby Dee performed at fundraising benefits. Poets like June Jordan, Audre Lorde, and Sonia Sanchez, among others, gave poetry readings. Political activists like Angela Davis and Amiri Baraka worked hard to educate the people about what was happening in new jersey. When Angela Davis came to new jersey to do a speaking engagement on my behalf, the new jersey prosecutor’s office ambushed her and her party, harassing them until the moment they left the state. She tried to visit me at the jail, and not only did the judge forbid her to visit me but he stopped all of my other visits as well.”
  • “My daughter goes over to the barred door that leads to the visiting room. She pulls and she pushes. She yanks and she hits and she kicks the bars until she falls on the floor, a heap of exhaustion. I go over and pick her up. I hold and rock and kiss her. There is a look of resignation on her face that i can’t stand. We spend the rest of the visit talking and playing quietly on the floor. When the guard says the visit is over, i cling to her for dear life. She holds her head high, and her back straight as she walks out of the prison. She waves good-bye to me, her face clouded and worried, looking like a little adult. I go back to my cage and cry until i vomit. I decide that it is time to leave.
  • “I spent my first weeks in Havana walking and watching. Nowhere did I find a segregated neighborhood, but several people told me that where i was living had been all white before the Revolution. Just from casual observation it was obvious that race relations in Cuba were different from what they were in the u.s. Blacks and whites could be seen together everywhere — in cars, walking down streets. Kids of all races played together. It was definitely different. Whenever i met someone who spoke English i asked their opinion about the race situation.”
  • “I spent my first weeks in Havana walking and watching. Nowhere did I find a segregated neighborhood, but several people told me that where i was living had been all white before the Revolution. Just from casual observation it was obvious that race relations in Cuba were different from what they were in the u.s. Blacks and whites could be seen together everywhere — in cars, walking down streets. Kids of all races played together. It was definitely different. Whenever i met someone who spoke English i asked their opinion about the race situation.”
  • “As the plane swooped down over Havana, it seemed that my heart was beating on my ribs to get out. My stomach hurt. My mouth was dry like cotton. It seemed like a million people poured off the plane before the tall little girl with the great big eyes started down the ramp. I could see my mother, looking frail, yet so determined. With my aunt behind her, looking triumphant. How much we had all gone through. Our fight had started on a slave ship years before we were born. Venceremos, my favorite word in Spanish, crossed my mind. Ten million people had stood up to the monster. Ten million people only ninety miles away. We were here together in their land, my small little family, holding each other after so long. There was no doubt about it, our people would one day be free. The cowboys and bandits didn’t own the world.