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.