Why Is FBI Going After Assata Shakur Now?

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The FBI's recent addition to its Most Wanted Terrorists list has reopened long-dormant wounds from America's racial past. Assata Shakur's (formerly Joanne Chesimard) distinction of being the first woman on the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorists List evokes the triumphant and tragic legacy of the black power movement.

It was during an era whose high point, between the mid-1960s and mid-1970s, witnessed the exhilarating highs of Stokely Carmichael's defiant declaration of "black power" and the street-swaggering bravado of the leather-jacketed Black Panthers, as well as the low points of fratricidal violence among militants. That violence was aided and abetted by illegal surveillance of law-enforcement agencies, most notably the FBI's notorious Counterintelligence Program, or COINTELPRO.

For almost 30 years, Shakur has resided in an undisclosed location in Cuba. She is recognized by its government as a revolutionary fugitive in exile, even as U.S. authorities have sought to extradite her as a cold-blooded cop killer. Shakur's life in Cuba has been marked by a tenuous duality: She is at once venerated by supporters -- including the Cuban government, which contributes to her living expenses -- and increasingly vilified by U.S. officials, who have placed a $2 million bounty on her head.

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