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Barksdale, David (1947-1974)

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Public domain

American gang leader David Barksdale was born on May 24, 1947 in Sallis, Mississippi although his full name was “Donise David Barksdale.” He was the son of Virginia and Charlie Barksdale and grew up with his twelve other brothers and sisters. The Barksdale family moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1957.

Soon after they had settled, the young Barksdale founded the Black Disciple Nation in 1960 which, like many street gangs at the time, mainly consisted of teenagers between 13 and 17. The Black Disciples were then better known as the Devils’ Disciples. By 1966, the Disciples had merged with several other gangs and had grown considerably more powerful in opposition to their chief rival, the Black Stone Rangers, a much larger organization. Barksdale led the Disciples in wanton violence against the Rangers and other organizations like the smaller Black Gangsters, and sometimes against people who were not affiliated with Chicago gangs or the gang life, in order to generate respect and fear.

In 1968, David Barksdale was shot six times while exiting a bar. It was discovered that Black Stone Rangers founder Eugene Hairston had ordered the shooting; he “commissioned” several 14-year-old children to kill Barksdale. Surprisingly Barksdale survived and continued to run the Black Disciples.

By the mid-1960s, however, Barksdale became increasingly aware that the violence he and other gang member were regularly engaged during their “wars,” was endangering the survival of Chicago’s African American communities. Therefore, he decided to forge an alliance with the Black Gangster Nation’s Larry Hoover in order to reduce the frequent gang wars. The now larger group became known as the Black Gangster Disciple Nation. Barksdale and Hoover ran the gang alternatively. Barksdale became “king of the streets” and gained his nickname: “King David.” They failed however to bring the largest gang in Chicago, the Black Stone Rangers, into their alliance, and gang warfare continued.

From the day he turned 18 years old to his death, Barksdale was arrested 25 times but was charged less than half a dozen times for crimes he allegedly committed. He died at age 27, on September 2, 1974, due to kidney failure that was a result of an attack he sustained in in 1968.

Sources:
Karen L. Kinnear, Gangs: A Reference Handbook, Second Edition (ABC-CLIO, 2009); “Black Disciples”, Chicago Gangs, 2012, http://chicagogangs.org/index.php?pr=BDN; Know, George, “The Black Disciples”, National Gang Crime Research Center, 2004, https://ngcrc.com/bdprofile.html.

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Sciences Po, Paris

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