An open letter to Assata Shakur in response to her autobiography

Dear Assata Shakur,

I would like to start by saying that your autobiography has had a profound effect on me.  You will always remain an inspiration for generations of underprivileged groups as well as students like me.  I was much impressed by the clarity of your thoughts and the rationale for your goals.  The quality of writing is simple and lucid, making your book very accessible for people like me.  The following are some of the questions and comments that I would like to make about the book.

Firstly, when there are stellar examples of non-violent political action, why would you choose to adopt militant ways.  I can understand the indignation and frustration felt by you, which might have prompted you to act in desperation.  But I felt a little disappointed that you did not take after inspiring examples such as Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.. Seen in retrospect, his tactic of non-violent civil disobedience has done more for black emancipation than what militant protests have done.

Reading through your autobiography, I was also bothered by your implied involvement in robberies and other illegal activities.  While I have sympathies for the economic impoverishment of the black community, opting for robbery as a way of recompensing does not please my conscience.  I personally feel that this aspect of your activist life is potentially dangerous, in that it can mislead aspiring young social activists into illegal acts.  I also felt that you’ve not covered your personal life in any measure in the book.  Since you are a gender activist as well, your take on relationships with men would have added value to the book.

Having made these criticisms, I also salute you for the bravery and resolve that you showed right through your life.  Given the social and personal limitations that women faced in your time, you have overcome all of that and emerged as a leader for your community.  In fact, the success of the women’s rights movement was only possible because of inspirational figures like you.  For students of history and culture like me, the book provides vital first-hand information.  Having not read elaborate accounts of American history (such as Howard Zinn’s People’s History of America, I find your book a great introduction as well as a spur for further reading.

Work Cited:

Shakur, Assata. (1987). Assata: An Autobiography. Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books.