Backgrounder on Imam Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin (H. Rap Brown)

Maury Salakhan

Posted Oct 20, 2005      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
Bookmark and Share

Backgrounder on Imam Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin (H. Rap Brown)

compiled by Maury Salakhan

Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, born as Hubert Gerold Brown and most famously known as H. Rap Brown, was born the son of Eddie C. Brown, an oil company worker, and Thelma (Warren) Brown in Baton Rouge, La., Oct. 4, 1943.  He attended Southern University, 1960-64, and is currently the Leader of the Community Mosque of Atlanta; owner, the Community Store.  He is married to Karima, a lawyer, and has two children, Ali and Kairi. 

Background: Black activist and social commentator of the 1960s who became widely known as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee

Famous quote: “Violence is as American as cherry pie”


Autobiography, Die Nigger Die (Dial Press, 1969) recounts how he developed a keen sense of the lowly status of blacks while growing up in Louisiana.  Rallied the support of angry African-Americans against the white establishment in the late 1960s by openly supporting acts of violence. Became an organizer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in Alabama in 1966. Named minister of justice for the Black Panther Party in 1968. Accused in 1967 of instigating arson and riots in Cambridge, Md. “I hope they pick Brown up soon, put him away and throw away the key,” said then-Gov. Spiro Agnew. Disappeared before he could go to trial on the Cambridge charges and made the FBI’s most-wanted list, but resurfaced near the scene of a holdup and shootout in New York City in 1971. Served five years in prison on robbery charges. Converted to Islam while in prison and began using the name Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin.

Paroled from prison in 1976, he moved to Atlanta, opened a small grocery and community store and became the leader of the Atlanta Community Mosque. Neighbors said the former activist worked hard to keep drugs and prostitution out of the area. Accused in 1995 of aggravated assault after a man claimed he was shot by Al-Amin. The man later recanted and said he was pressured by authorities to identify Al-Amin as the shooter.

“I don’t miss the ‘60s,” he told an interviewer from The Washington Post in 1978.

Sources: Staff and published reports; Contemporary Black Biography, Who’s Who Among African Americans, all by Gale Research Inc.


H. Rap Brown (born October 4, 1943) came to prominence in the 1960s as a civil rights worker, black activist, and the Justice Minister of the Black Panther Party. He is perhaps most famous for his proclamation during that period that “violence is as American as cherry pie”, as well as once stating that “If America don’t come around, we’re gonna’ burn it down”.

Brown was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana as Hubert Gerold Brown, and now goes by the name Jamil Abdullah al-Amin.

His activism in the civil rights movement included involvement with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), of which he was named chairman in 1967. That same year, he was arrested in Cambridge, Maryland, and charged with “inciting to riot” as a result of a fiery speech he gave there. He left the SNCC and joined the Black Panthers in 1968.

He appeared on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List after avoiding trial on charges of inciting riot and of carrying a gun across state lines. He was arrested after a shoot-out in 1971 in New York.

He spent five years (1971-1976) in the Attica Prison after a robbery conviction. While in prison, Brown converted to Islam and changed his name to Jamil Abdullah al-Amin. After his release, he opened a grocery store in Atlanta, Georgia and became a Muslim spiritual leader, preaching against drugs and gambling. He also became leader of the National Ummah, one of America’s largest black Muslim groups.

In 2002, he was found guilty of killing Ricky Leon Kinchen, a Fulton County, Georgia sheriff’s deputy, and wounding another officer in a gunbattle at his store. Ironically, both officers were black [1]. He was sentenced to life imprisonment.

From Wikipedia at

A Fact Sheet on Imam Jamil Al-Amin

Imam Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin was born Hubert Gerold Brown, the youngest of three children, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on October 4, 1943. He acquired the nickname “Rap” from the streets (growing up) as a result of his impressive dexterity with language, combining keen intellect with blunt coarseness.

He attended Southern University from 1960-64. In 1964, he moved to Washington, DC, and became politically involved in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). In May 1967, at the age of 23, H. Rap Brown was elected chairman of SNCC, succeeding Stokely Carmichael.

In July 1967, he addressed a civil rights rally in Cambridge, Md., a small town on the eastern shore. Brown arrived late, and from the hood of a car gave a customary fiery address (later described by authorities as, “inciting the people to riot.”). After he spoke, a young woman requested an escort home. As Brown and two others escorted her up the street, assailants opened fire on them from bushes nearby. (Years later, reflecting upon that incident, Imam Al-Amin would remark, “We found out later the gunmen were black policemen.”) After the shooting there was a lot of commotion in the streets which quickly escalated into a riot.

Two days after the explosion in Cambridge, Brown was arrested by FBI agents at Washington, DC’s, National Airport and charged with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. Three weeks later, the State of Maryland charged him with inciting a riot.

By 1968, much of SNCC’s leadership had merged into the Black Panther Party for self defense, which had been organized in Oakland, California, by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale; Brown would become the organization’s Minister of Justice.

In 1969 Brown’s first book was published entitled, Die Nigger Die! (publ., Dial Press). The central premise of this book can be found in the following excerpt: “I lived near Louisiana State University, and I could see this big fine school with modern buildings and it was for whites. Then there was Southern University, which was about to fall in and that was for the niggers. And when I compared the two, the message that the white man was trying to get across was obvious…Die Nigger Die.”

Brown went underground before trial on the Cambridge (Md.) charges and made the FBI’s most-wanted list; he resurfaced near the scene of a holdup (a bar) and shootout in New York City in 1971. Consequent to this, he would serve five years in prison. In prison he would embrace Islam, and begin his transformation from H. Rap Brown to Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin.

A New Focus in Life

Paroled from prison in 1976, he moved to Atlanta, Georgia, opened a community store and became the Imam (leader) of the Atlanta Community Mosque.

While H. Rap Brown was known for his fiery rhetoric and in your face confrontation, Jamil Al-Amin was known as a quiet, mild-mannered, stabilizing force in Atlanta’s West End community. In the words of 73 year old Hattie Stegall, “I never saw him angry. When someone would die in my family, he would come by and offer his hand. And when the Muslim children would fight my grandchildren, he would make them come to me and apologize.”

Imam Jamil would grow to lead a national community of Muslims, with members scattered around the US and Caribbean.

When Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin moved into Atlanta’s West End, it was reportedly a crime ridden section of the city known for prostitution and drug proliferation. Under Imam Al-Amin’s leadership, Muslims led a renaissance which has resulted in the West End becoming a source of pride for the city of Atlanta. Despite this, however, the Imam’s past coupled with his [Islamic] ori entation would serve as a lightning rod for additional struggle.

On August 7, 1995, Imam Jamil Al-Amin was arrested in connection with the July shooting of a young man who was pressured by authorities into identifying Al-Amin as his assailant. Even members of Atlanta’s Police Department openly expressed amazement when agents of the FBI, the FBI’s Domestic Counterterrorism Task Force and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms became involved in a case that the police themselves described as “a routine aggravated assault.” The charges were later proved unfounded and dropped.

A few months ago, Al-Amin was stopped by police and charged with possessing stolen goods (an auto), driving without insurance, and impersonating an officer. He borrowed the car from a friend of his who operated a car lot, and who later (or so it was thought) resolved the issue of it being a stolen auto, operated without insurance. The badge that police discovered - in the process of checking his wallet for identification - was given to him by the mayor of the town of Whitehall, Al., where Imam Jamil (along with members of his community) initiated a community project. He was made an honorary member of the town’s police force; and the mayor of the town confirmed this in a letter to Georgian authorities.

Instead of dropping the charges, in light of these mitigating circumstances, the prosecutor notified Al-Amin’s attorney that his office intended to pursue charges, with the caveat that a deal could be worked out where Imam Al-Amin would “only spend six months” in jail. Imam Al-Amin’s position was that he did nothing wrong, and so he rejected the “deal.” When the trial date came around, Imam Al-Amin refused to cooperate (show up); as a consequence a bench warrant was issued for his arrest.

On Thursday, March 16, as Muslims around the world were in the process of celebrating the most important holiday in the Muslim calender (Eid ul-Adha), two sheriff deputies attempted to serve a warrant that was reportedly issued months earlier. One deputy was killed, the other injured; Imam Jamil Al-Amin was accused of being the assailant, and became a fugitive until his arrest on Monday, March 20th, in the State of Alabama by federal authorities.

On Tuesday, March 21, a press conference, sponsored by a number of national Muslim organizations, was held at the offices of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in Washington, DC. A prepared statement read in part: “We are not here today to judge the guilt or innocence of any party to this tragic series of events. Just as we do not prejudge, we ask that others wait until all the facts are known. In America, as in Islam, anyone accused of a crime is innocent until proven guilty… Finally, we make note of a past incident in which Imam Jamil was apparently falsely accused of a similar, though far less serious crime. At that time, the alleged victim recanted and claimed that he was pressured by the authorities to name Imam Jamil as the perpetrator.”

Final Thoughts

For more than two decades, Imam Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin has been one of the most respected leaders in the U.S., a man whose prominence transcends the Muslim community in America. From his years of involvement in the struggle for change in America during the 60s and 70s as H “Rap” Brown - first with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and later with the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense - to his embrace of Islam and transition to Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin in 1976, he has been committed to the struggle for justice and the liberation of the oppressed.

The media and law enforcement community has consistently portrayed him as a violence prone “Black Panther” (regurgitating a quote which, unfortunately, still holds true: “Violence is as American as cherry pie.”). No doubt, when the time for Imam Jamil’s trial comes around, we will hear repeated references to his Black Panther past - as was the case in the trial of the award-winning journalist (on death row in Pennsylvania) Mumia Abu-Jamal.

An excerpt, however, from Imam Jamil Al-Amin’s last book (Revolution: By The Book, publ., 1993 by Writer’s Inc.), is a far more representative reflection of the man he is today. In it he writes:

“It is criminal that, in the 1990s, we still approach struggle [by] sloganeering…saying, ‘by any means necessary,’ as if that’s a program. Or, ‘we shall overcome,’ as if that’s a program. Slogans are not programs. We must define the means which will bring about change. This can be found in [what] Allah has brought for us in the Qur’an and in the example of the Prophet (pbuh). Our revolution must be according to what Almighty God revealed.”

“The struggle is an ongoing process…When the first slave rebelled against being a slave, he gave an alternative to slavery that has been built upon until now. That’s struggle; and there have been many movements in the struggle - the abolitionist movement, the antislavery movement, the civil rights movement…but, the struggle still goes on.”

“The mission of a believer in Islam is totally different from coexisting or being a part of the system. The prevailing morals are wrong. Their ethics are wrong. Western philosophy has reduced man to food, clothing, shelter, and the sex drive, which means he doesn’t have a spirit. Successful struggle requires a Divine program. Allah (God) has provided that program.”

This is the Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin that the opinion shapers want to keep hidden! This is the Jamil Al-Amin that threatens the status quo!

In an article recently published in the National Review (February 21, 2000, pp.40-41), noted commentator Daniel Pipes takes aim at a number of American-born Muslims whom he considers a threat to the “American way of life.” He observes: “...the one time radical H. Rap Brown, now known as Jamil Al-Amin, declares, ‘When we begin to look critically at the Constitution of the United States…we see that in its main essence it is diametrically opposed to what Allah has commanded.’”

In the land of “freedom of speech, conscience and religion,” this influential voice in the Western socio-political construct advises his readers on the necessary course of action: “The first priority is for journalists, intellectuals, clergy, and academic specialists to awaken Americans to this still-incipient but rapidly growing problem…”

If there has been a conspiracy to neutralize Imam Jamil Al-Amin (and others like him), could this line of thinking be at the heart of it?

prepared by: El-Hajj Mauri’ Saalakhan - THE PEACE AND JUSTICE FOUNDATION
- source


An Interview with Attorney Karima Al-Amin, Wife of Imam Jamil Al-Amin

Former Black Panther Jamil Al-Amin sentenced to life in prison