Who is Assata Shakur, the FBI's Most Wanted Female Terrorist?

Piper Weiss, Shine Staff
Healthy Living
May 2, 2013

This week marked a dubious moment in women's history. On Thursday, the FBI added Assata Shakur, to the list of the country's most wanted terrorists. Shakur, born Joanne Chesimard, became the first female on the list, for incidents that date back forty years. Shakur was convicted of killing New Jersey state trooper Werner Foerster and sentenced to life in prison in 1977. She managed to escape in 1979 and has been a fugitive for the past three decades. But Shakur, who is the step-aunt of Tupac Shakur, never disappeared, in fact she might be one of the most well-known fugitives on the FBI's list. Here is a rough timeline of Shakur's case.

1973: Shakur and two fellow passengers were stopped for a broken tail light on the New Jersey Turnpike. After a heated exchange, they exchanged fire with police officers, and allegedly Shakur shot Foerster in the head. You can read the FBI's account of what happened here.

1977: Shakur was found guilty of first degree murder, assault and battery of a police officer, assault with a dangerous weapon, assault with intent to kill, illegal possession of a weapon, and armed robbery, according to a statement by the FBI.

1979: She escaped a New Jersey maximum security prison and hid out in safe houses for the next few years, allegedly aided by the Black Liberation Army.

1984: She surfaced in Cuba and remained there in political exile.

1987: She published her autobiography from Cuba, recounting her experiences with an impartial justice system, and emerged as a prominent critic in the discussion of racial conflicts within the U.S. over the next two decades.

2000: Hip hop artist Common wrote "Song for Assata" and, reflecting on the incident 40 years ago, asked "I wonder what would happen if that would've been me?"

2005: The FBI classified Shakur as a domestic terrorist and added a $1 million bounty for her capture.

2013: On the 40th anniversary of the Foerster's death, the FBI added her to their "most wanted terrorist" list, alongside a roster of suspects in bombing attempts on American soil. It was also announced the reward money for her capture had doubled to $2 million. New Jersey State Superintendent Col. Rick Fuentes called the Shakur's case an "open wound" in the history of state troopers. James Braxton Peterson, Director of Africana Studies at Lehigh University, calls her a "prosecuted and persecuted" revolutionary. Hundreds of supporters of Shakur have taken to twitter using the hashtag #handsoffassata as a show of support for the controversial figure. Today she's being called everything from a freedom fighter to a murderer. No matter where you stand, the biggest question being asked on social media is what actually qualifies her as a terrorist?

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