Jackson Mayor, prominent attorney and former human rights activist, Chokwe Lumumba died Tuesday after city officials say he was admitted to St. Dominic Hospital for chest pains. Jackson City Council president, Charles Tillman, was sworn in as acting mayor following Lumumba’s death and Lumumba’s friends and family say they were surprised by his passing. Lumumba was 66-years-old and a cause of death has not yet been released.
Lumumba was born in Detroit as Edwin Taliaferro and changed his name in 1969. He says he found the inspiration for his name from an African tribe that resisted slavery and from the African independence leader Patrice Lumumba.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo, Mich. Lumumba later finished first in his law school freshman class before graduating cum laude from Wayne State University Law School. He is licensed in both Mississippi and Michigan.
He moved to Jackson, Miss. in 1971 where he grew as a human rights activist and earned his degree in law. Lumumba is also known for his past work with Black nationalists groups and the Black Panthers.
In 2011, Lumumba made notable strides in Mississippi for his legal representation of the Scott sisters. The Scott sisters, Jamie and Gladys are two Mississippi women sentenced to double life in prison for an incident that resulted in $11 being stolen and no one getting hurt. The sisters served 16 years of their time when then Governor Hale Barbour suspended their sentences.
This case, along with others in the South, brought public attention to the issue of Governors advancing justice through clemency powers. It highlighted the struggle that organizations such as the NAACP has been fighting through. To get more governors and presidents to utilize their clemency powers to free those so deserve it is a historical and ongoing battle
In June of 2013 Chokwe Lumumba won Jackson, general election for Mayor in Jackson, Mississippi; receiving 87% of votes. To compete in the general elections, Lumumba defeated Jackson’s first black mayor, Harvey Johnson in the democratic primary.
At his victory party, African drummers played outside of the hotel where Lumumba and his campaign team celebrated. A New Orleans-style brass band was also at the festivities. People at the party chanted, “The people divided will never be defeated.”
After receiving the news of his election Lumumba said, “I want to thank all the voters who came out to give us this mandate,” Lumumba said to the crowd. “That’s a mandate for change–a mandate for positive change. It’s not a mandate for craziness or a mandate for being mad at someone. It’s not a mandate to take vengeance against someone. What it is, is a mandate to build Jackson to a positive level of change. It’s a God-given mandate.”