An Open Letter From Assata Shakur: ‘I Am Only One Woman’

The longtime political activist is once again defending herself amid renewed FBI attempts to extradite and imprison her in the United States.

By Jamilah King May 06, 2013

Correction on 5/6/13 at 2:37pm EST: This morning we published an open letter from Assata Shakur, who was recently placed on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorist List. We reported that the letter was published on May 3. However, the letter actually dates back several years. The University of Texas’ Digital Repository dates the letter to 1998. Apologies for the error. 

In her letter, Shakur provides her own account of the events leading up to her arrest and 1977 conviction. She also details the extent to which the media played a role in her prosecution. Shakur was sentenced to life in prison plus 33 years before she escaped to Cuba.

The U.S. Senate’s 1976 Church Commission report on intelligence operations inside the USA, revealed that "The FBI has attempted covertly to influence the public’s perception of persons and organizations by disseminating derogatory information to the press, either anonymously or through "friendly" news contacts." This same policy is evidently still very much in effect today.


Like most poor and oppressed people in the United States, I do not have a voice. Black people, poor people in the U.S. have no real freedom of speech, no real freedom of expression and very little freedom of the press. The black press and the progressive media has historically played an essential role in the struggle for social justice. We need to continue and to expand that tradition. We need to create media outlets that help to educate our people and our children, and not annihilate their minds. I am only one woman. I own no TV stations, or Radio Stations or Newspapers. But I feel that people need to be educated as to what is going on, and to understand the connection between the news media and the instruments of repression in Amerika. All I have is my voice, my spirit and the will to tell the truth.

Last week, the New Jersey State Police and the FBI announced a $2 million reward for information leading to Shakur’s capture. The FBI has also put up billboards across New Jersey asking for the public’s help in her arrest. Since her exile, Shakur has remained outspoken about racial and economic injustice in the United States and, as a result, has become one of the most widely recognized and admired names in the struggle for black liberation. While her supporters are not surprised by the FBI’s continued diligence in the case, many were taken aback by timing  and prominence of the agency’s renewed efforts.

Renowned scholar and activist Angela Davis, who was once on the FBI’s List of the 10 Most Wanted Fugitives and labeled by President Richard Nixon as a "dangerous terrorist" in 1970 before being exonerated, appeared on Democracy Now last week to talk about the timing of the agency’s new pursuit of Shakur. 

You know, certainly, Assata continues to advocate radical transformation of this country, as many of us do. You know, I continues to say that we need revolutionary change. This is why it seems to me that the attack on her reflects the logic of terrorism, because it precisely is designed to frighten young people, especially today, who would be involved in the kind of radical activism that might lead to change.

Davis appeared in a segment that also included Shakur’s longtime attorney Lennox Hinds. You can see video and a full transcript of that segment over at Democracy Now.