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1-Page Summary of Assata
Assata: An Autobiography is an autobiography of Assata Shakur. The book traces her early childhood to the time she was granted political refugee status in Cuba and includes a preface written by Angela Davis and Lennox Hill.
Born in North Carolina and New York, Assata Olugbala Shakur was the granddaughter of strict Southern grandparents. She had a rebellious daughter to a single mother who taught her how to survive as a Black girl in the racist society during segregation. Later she became more involved with political organizing and joined several groups including the Black Panther Party.
On May 2, 1973, Assata was driving with Zayd Malik Shakur and Sundiata Acoli on the New Jersey Turnpike when they were stopped by police. She had several warrants for her arrest due to kidnapping charges as well as bank robbery. They ended up in a shootout that resulted in Zayd’s death along with two state troopers. Assata was severely injured and hospitalized after the incident. For four years she was tortured while incarcerated before she went to trial where she was acquitted of all criminal charges except for one—the shooting on the New Jersey Turnpike. With help from other Black activists, Assata escaped from prison where she remained until being granted political asylum in Cuba in 1984
On May 2, 1973, Assata Shakur was driving down the New Jersey Turnpike after a shootout with police. She heard one of the cops say he wanted to kill her and she couldn’t feel her arm or chest. After being taken to a hospital and handcuffed to a bed, she was beaten repeatedly by the cops who told her they were going to bash in her face if she didn’t start talking. When she tried telling a nurse about contacting Evelyn Williams (her lawyer), this wasn’t possible because of what happened next.
The police took Assata to a private room so they could continue torturing her. She learned that Zayd was killed and Sundiata had been arrested. The police tried to convince Assata that Sundiata was betraying her by placing the blame of the shootout on her. They tried to convince her to reveal information about the shootout in order for them not to punish her as harshly, but she refused because she knew it would be another trick from the police. After a while, things improved slightly when other nurses noticed what kind of treatment Assata was receiving and told her how to use the call button if anything happened again. Other Black nurses also brought books for Assata so that she could keep up with everything going on around here during this difficult time period in which society is trying hard to break up our allegiances with each other as Blacks and women who are fighting against racism and sexism simultaneously.
Eventually, a judge came to Assata’s room and read the charges against her. The judge accused her of being involved in the shooting and murder of New Jersey state troopers James Harper and Werner Foerster. Assata asked for a lawyer but was told that she didn’t need one because she wasn’t going to be pleading guilty anyway. Her aunt promised to get court orders so that they could visit each other more often, before being ushered out by security guards right away.
Assata’s mother and sister visited next, telling her “I’m proud of you.”
Assata was shot in the hand, chest and leg. Her lung was damaged and her hand would be permanently disabled. Doctors couldn’t predict whether she’d ever regain use of it again. But over time, they released Assata from her cuffs and allowed her to heal.
Assata remembers her childhood, growing up in Wilmington, North Carolina and then Jamaica, New York. She learned about the prejudices of Southern segregation while living near white people who refused to acknowledge their property rights over their own land. In order to protect themselves from harassment by those white people with guns, Assata’s grandparents had a chain installed at the entrance to a dirt parking lot they owned for other Black people in the neighborhood.