Who is Mumia Abu-Jamal?

Mumia Abu-Jamal was a radio journalist in Philadelphia, known as "the voice of the voiceless" during the years of Mayor Frank Rizzo. He was the recipient of a Major Armstrong Award for radio journalism, and was named one of Philadelphia’s "people to watch" in 1981by Philadelphia magazine. He was president of the Association of Black Journalists in Philadelphia, and he had no prior criminal record.

In December of 1981, Mumia was shot by a Philadelphia cop and almost died when he intervened in a street incident where his own brother was being beaten by that same cop. The police officer was also shot and killed, and witnesses saw other men run from the scene. Yet when police arrived, they beat the wounded Mumia before taking him to the hospital, and he was immediately charged with murder.

Mumia’s brother and another key eyewitness were later harassed by police and driven out of town. Other witnesses changed their stories to implicate Mumia and were rewarded. The dead officer was holding the driver’s license application of a third man. But it was Mumia that the police wanted.

Mumia had been a member of the Black Panther Party, and later a supporter of the MOVE organization. He was a leading critic of police violence against the minority communities of Philadelphia, practices that led to an unprecedented suit filed by the United States Department of Justice seeking to end the notorious brutality of the Philadelphia police. The FBI and Philadelphia police amassed hundreds of pages of surveillance files on Mumia, beginning when he was 15 years old, for outspoken opposition to racism and police brutality.

When people began to question the charging of Mumia, the police put forward the absurd story – two months after the incident – that Mumia hat "confessed" in the hospital emergency room, and they had simply forgotten to mention it at the time or write it in their reports. The written reports and the emergency room doctor say this never happened.

Mumia was then barred from most of his own trial for protesting an unprepared court-appointed attorney who was later disbarred. Eleven preemptory challenges were used to knock almost all Blacks off the jury. Vital evidence was withheld from the defense, and part of the fatal bullet has "disappeared" from the police files.

The political motivation of the prosecution was made clear when the prosecutor argued for the death penalty by reading revolutionary quotations from a published interview with Mumia from ten years earlier.

In the recent hearings for a new trial, a witness used against Mumia in his first trial came forward to say that she lied under police coercion. In retaliation, she was arrested in the courtroom as she stepped off the witness stand on an old warrant from another state.

Now the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled unanimously against every issue raised in Mumia’s appeal and against a new and fair trial. This takes place in the wake of massive police scandals in Philadelphia, where dozens of people have now been released from jail because they were originally convicted on the basis of phony evidence fabricated by the police.

For the last 17 years Mumia has been locked alone in a cell 23 hours a day, denied contact visits with his family. His confidential legal mail has been opened and reproduced by prison authorities. He was put into punitive detention for writing his book Live From Death Row, which is in its sixth printing by Addison-Wesley. Recently the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals found this punishment to be unconstitutional and that prison officials had yielded to pressure from the Fraternal Order of Police. However, journalists are still prohibited from filming or recording interviews with him. As Jamal has put it, "They don’t just want my death, they want my silence."

Reprinted from the R&R Resource Book on the Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal


Agitate, Agitate, Agitate

10 Things You Can Do To Help Free Mumia


  1. Contact International Concerned Friends and Family of Mumia Abu-Jamal P.O. Box 19709, Philadelphia, PA 19143, Tel (215) 476-7551; E-mail: [email protected];http://www.Mumia.org. December 9th marks the 17th year of Mumia’s imprisonment.
  2. Contribute to Mumia Abu-Jamal’s Legal Defense Fund. Send a check or money order payable to Black United Fund/Mumia Abu-Jamal/LDF and mail to Black United Fund, 2227 N. Broad St., Philadelphia, PA 19132-4502
  3. Call, write or fax the Pennsylvania Governor to demand a new and fair trial for Mumia & No Death Warrant. Tom Ridge, Main Capitol Building, Rm 225, Harrisburg, PA 17120. [email protected] PA.U. Tel (717) 787-2500; Fax (717) 772-8284, or (717) 783-1198.
  4. Call or write Chief Justice P. Flaherty to demand a new and fair trial for Mumia! Supreme Court of PA, Six Gateway Center, Suite 6161, 11 Stanwix St. Pittsburgh, PA 15222, Tel (412) 565-5525. In session: PA Supreme Court Philadelphia, Rm 560 City Hall, 19107. Tel (215) 560-6365.
  5. Call of fax National Public Radio (NPR) affiliates and all radio stations and tell them that you want to hear Mumia’s insightful commentaries. NPR (800) 235-1212; Fax (202) 414-3025; x3329; President/CE Peter Jablow.
  6. Contact Prison Warden Philip L. Johnson and let him know you are aware of Mumia’s case and the horrific human rights violations at SCI Greene. 1030 East Roy Furman Highway, Waynesburg, PA 15370. Tel (412) 852-2902.
  7. Write Mumia and let him know that you care and you will struggle with him for justice. Mumia Abu-Jamal, AM 8335, 1040 East Roy Furman Hwy, Waynesburg, PA 15370
  8. Call 1-800-VISIT-PA to say you won’t visit Pennsylvania or support Pennsylvania corporations until Mumia has received a new trial and all executions are halted.
  9. Counter media disinformation by confronting the networks, writers, and broadcasters who publish lies and police propaganda. Read and listen to Mumia’s books and radio essays: Live From Death Row; From Death Row This is Mumia Abu-Jamal (CD’s and Tapes); Death Blossoms; and Race For Justice. See the brilliant fast paced film "Mumia Abu-Jamal: A Case for Reasonable Doubt?" available at your local video store distributed by Fox Lorber. Also available from Prison Radio/Quixote[email protected]. (415) 648-4505.
  10. Pass a moratorium on Executions resolution contact Equal Justice USA (301) 699-0042. [email protected].