Herman Ferguson, 90 years young, was a dedicated colleague of Malcolm X. Unlike the stereotypical Malcolm X devotee, painted by the media of the time as a ghetto dwelling sub-working class malcontent, Ferguson was the example of a successful, well-educated suburban family man who gravitated to Malcolm X in the social ferment of the early 1960s. In the process, he self-consciously sacrificed his American dream for a Black revolutionary vision.
An Unlikely Warrior moves on to recount Ferguson’s attempts to build upon and advance what he understood as Malcolm’s political legacy. Ferguson was rewarded for his efforts with a concerted COINTELPRO campaign to criminalize his political activities. The Queens District Attorney convinced an all-white male jury that Ferguson and his co-defendant, Arthur Harris, sought to kill civil rights leaders in hope of eliminating conservative leaders who were impediments to the Black revolutionary agenda. A summary conviction and seven-year prison sentence followed in rapid sequence, The former assistant principal in turn fled the country and reappeared as Paul Adams, the revolutionary fugitive. He landed in Guyana, where he lived 19 years as an exile.This book tells the story of Herman Ferguson’s amazing life, the twists and turns which led him from a childhood in North Carolina to the summit of Black academia; through a personal war with the military establishment to the Nazi submarine infested North Atlantic as a Merchant Marine seaman; through the communist influence of the labor movement to the Post-War euphoria of the 1950s; and professional accomplishment as a New York City school official. The book chronicles the journey of a seemingly All-American boy becoming a founding member of Malcolm X’s Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU) and an eyewitness to his leader’s assassination in Harlem’s Audubon Ballroom.
Ferguson experienced a meteoric rise through the Guyanese bureaucracy. He became a leading official of the Ministry of Education. He helped found the Guyanese National Service, a type of Jobs Corp, eventually winning the post of Assistant Director General of the Guyana National Service—no meager accomplishment for an American outlaw. Ferguson retired with the rank of Lt Colonel in the Guyana Defense Force.
But for all of his Guyanese laurels, Ferguson longed to rejoin the political fight in the U.S. Against the advice of his wife, Herman Ferguson voluntarily returned to the U.S. in 1989 and was immediately arrested at New York’s JFK airport.
Today Herman Ferguson is a highly respected veteran of the Black liberation movement. He is, however, an unlikely revolutionary, a self-described “All-American Boy,” who fought the evils of fascism during WWII only to return to encounter its American variant alive and kicking after the flags and confetti of victory had been put away.
This biography/memoir, An Unlikely Warrior, is directed at students of the civil unrest of the 1960s and particularly to young readers eager to explore the history of the Civil Rights Movement and the rise of the separatist ideology in the United States, the growth of the Republic of New Afrika, and the turbulent days of the late 1960s. Moreover, it speaks to the emotional cost of political activism, its impact on families and supportive friends in the face of government repression.
Video interview of Herman Ferguson about Malcolm X.
“We Are Afrikan People Wherever We Were Born No matter where we were born in the world. Afrikan (Black) People are historically and culturally linked. Our history, identity, and culture are rooted in the many thousands of years of development of Afrikan civilization on the Afrikan continent. This is a consequence of the ever forward movement and motion of the New Afrikan masses. It is from this historical march of our people (Afrikan [Black] People) that we derive our African culture, the sum total of material and spiritual values created by our people. It is this invincible weapon, Afrikan culture, that has always served to fight against all forms of oppression and exploitation, to move forward New Afrikan People and Afrikan civilization.
“From: RBG BLACKADEMIXTAPE VOL.1-Talib Kweli Feat. RBG Street Scholar- Ballad Of The Black Gold
Dr. Mutulu Shakur
Some transitions come in the midst of crucial times and we wonder why. I am lost for words, but not for emotions and reflections. The chairman as we called him in the organization (NAPO) that we built together. He lived a life where every major decision was politically motivated in establishing his political ideology and actions. As I said before, he was of the best of us.
As he and I moved from adolescence into manhood in the early stages of the revolution, we met in the streets of Motor City, Detroit. We came there to decide which way we would go to join the struggle. In those days, there were many options. Many beautiful sacrifices and the articulation of those leaders could fire up the emotions in anyone. We amongst others fell in line with an ideology and the leaders who were very pragmatic, and fundamental in establishing goals in our hearts and minds. That, in the future, would guide our work and sacrifices for over 45 years.
We became citizens of the (Republic of New Africa). Him from Detroit, and me from New York. Northerners with our eyes on the five southern states that we named New Africa. The thing that impressed us was the rigorous black legionnaire’s defense of our people on the streets of Detroit while under attack by Michigan vigilantes and the heroic battle waged by the black legions against an army of law enforcement agencies against New African civilians, the church of Aretha Franklin’s father that saved all of their lives led by the great General Mwesi Chui (who also just made his transition at the age of 91 and must be honored for his heroic leadership and sacrificial acts during the famously now called new Bethel incident).
The other was the passionate demand for justice, human rights and freedom by some of the most articulate, non assuming, scientific analysis of brothers Gaidi and Imari Henry. I’m sure that their style impacted the dynamic speaking and leadership of Chokwe Lumumba. So we did have amongst these great elders, great men and women mentors that we honored. There came a time when those leaders disagreed tactically, as to where we must concentrate our forces. To stay in the north and build a rear guard, or to move our forces south to make a base. Both tactically had merit; sitting across the table staring into Chokwe’s eyes we knew what we were going to do.
We followed the tradition of the Gullar’s, Geeche’s and Seminoles. With some regret, we left the leaders pushing for the north strategy and went into the south. The United States armed forces attacked the Republic of New Africa headquarters in Jackson, Mississippi. Again, our New African security forces heroically defended the lives and property of the people. The struggle waged in the south and the repression in the north intensified the need for legal representation. As it became a priority, Chokwe tightened up on his academics and passed the bar exam, and continued to wage battle for our freedom fighters behind enemy lines.
I was convicted of freeing fellow freedom fighters, POWs, and comrades and developing an underground railroad to that same end. I and Chokwe’s interdependency and commitment manifested after my capture; I selected him as my attorney. My comrade a New African, he and I waging heroic efforts in court for my freedom. In our life of struggle nothing is easy; we disagree, we make up and learn from the lessons and move ahead. Our intent was never in question (he had no tolerance for court room bullshit, he was disbarred in two states and won back both decisions on principle). As an attorney, the courtroom was too constrictive for our brother Chokwe; the false forms of pomp and circumstances graded him, the contradictions too repressive for his fighting spirit. The judges hated him, the juries questioned him, but his clients loved and adored him. But if truth be told every time he came in the court in the 8o’s with that circa 1965 dashiki on, I use to put my head in my hands and use to say “oh Allah, don’t hold the dashiki against me”(*_~). It must be a Shakur thing, because my son Tupac felt the same exact way when Chokwe came in to court defending him many years later in one of those same dashikis.
It was a smile in my heart that i was so proud of; I am so proud of my brother who stuck to the plan. Everything he did was to enhance the predictability of the New African ideology, to provide our people an opportunity to decide if self determination was of the best course for us. We were all engaged in his effort to become the mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, and proud of his victory. His strategy was something that was not new to us; it was the directions that we had received back in the 70′s to go south, organize with people and use city government to elect sheriff’s and mayors so that we could provide an example of New African government ship that could set a paradigm, to provide a choice for our people and open arms for all people to chose. To that end, mayor Chokwe Lumumba is our hero, not for one great act but the years of consistent grinds against all obstacles, to see the plan through to the end, through a shining example. He will be missed dearly, but his footsteps will be seen along the sand to free the land. See you in the whirlwind; give all the New African’s our regards. We salute you and honor you. Like I mentioned in the very beginning, you are one of the best of us.
Dr. Mutulu Shakur