Chokwe Lumumba (1947-2014)

Chokwe Lumumba, 2013
Chokwe Lumumba, 2013

Chokwe Lumumba was a civil rights attorney and the former mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, where he served from July 2013 until his death on February 24, 2014. He was born Edwin Finley Taliaferro in Detroit, Michigan, the second of eight children of Lucien Taliaferro, from Kansas and Priscilla from Alabama. He changed his name in 1969 after joining the Republic of New Afrika, a black nationalist organization and two years later moved to its headquarters in Jackson, Mississippi when he became vice president of the organization.  He took responsibility for confronting and negotiating with law enforcement agencies who confronted black radical groups like the Republic of New Afrika.

While still living in Jackson, Lumumba graduated from Kalamazoo College in 1969 with a degree in political science. Three years later he earned a law degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. He was also involved in the founding of the National Black Human Rights Coalition and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement.

In 1978, Lumumba returned to Detroit where he started his own law firm in Detroit and handled numerous civil rights cases. In 1981 he had defended Cynthia Boston, also known as Fulani Sunni Ali, the Minister of Information of the Republic of New Africa, in the Brink’s robbery case. He also worked on the Geronimo Pratt murder case in 1985 and occasionally with the late rapper Tupac Amaru Shakur on the shooting of two off-duty Atlanta police officers in 1993. He also helped free Gladys and Jamie Scott, two sisters from a Mississippi prison in 2011 after they had served 16 years for an armed robbery they did not commit.

Chokwe Lumumba returned to Jackson, Mississippi in 1988 where he became a public defender on contract with the City of Jackson’s consortium to represent the indigent citizens of the municipality. Twenty-one years later, in 2009, Lumumba won election to the city council, and four years later he successfully ran for mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, defeating Harvey Johnson Jr. His main concern was repair of streets and sewers. For this reason, he passed a one percent sales tax to fund the improvements.

Chokwe Lumumba died of heart failure on Feb. 25, 2014 at the age of 66. Lumumba’s son, Chokwe Antar Lumumba, is also an attorney and after winning the election in 2017 he is now serving as the current mayor of Jackson, Mississippi.