Black Is: A Moment In Our History

John Africa and the MOVE Organization

Featured, History & Politics

John Africa was a founder of MOVE, a Philadelphia-based black liberation group prominent in the United States in the early 1970s.  He was born Vincent Leaphart on July 26, 1931 in the Mantua neighborhood of West Philadelphia. Leaphart’s mother died when he was young and he blamed the hospital where she was being treated for her death. Leaphart served in the Korean War, from which he derived an early hatred of the American class system and what he perceived as its ties to race. He adopted the name “John Africa” because of his ethnic origin as an African-American, and because he believed Africa to be the place where life originated.

Africa later met Donald Glassey, a social worker from the University of Pennsylvania, with whom he began to collaborate. Africa was functionally illiterate, so Glassey wrote down Africa’s ideas. Glassey’s notes would eventually become a document called The Guideline.

John founded the MOVE or the MOVE Organization, a Philadelphia-based black liberation group. MOVE was described by CNN as “a loose-knit, mostly black group whose members all adopted the surname Africa, advocated a “back-to-nature” lifestyle and preached against technology.” The group lives communally and frequently engages in public demonstrations related to several issues.

Since the 1970s, their activities have drawn the attention of the Philadelphia Police Department. A major incident occurred in 1978, when the police raided their Powelton Village home. This raid resulted in the death of one police officer and the imprisonment of nine group members, now known as “The MOVE 9.” After this, the group relocated further west to a house on Osage Ave.

In 1985, the group made national news when police dropped a bomb on the Osage house from a helicopter in an attempt to end an armed standoff. The explosion ignited a fire in which 11 people died, including five children and the group’s leader, John Africa. Only two occupants survived, Ramona, an adult and Birdie, a child. In addition, 60 homes were destroyed.

Source: onamove

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