Reflections on County Supervisor’s Claim that late Mayor of Jackson Mississippi was Murdered

Mississippi’s Hinds County Supervisor, Kenny Stokes says he believes former Jackson mayor, Chokwe Lumumba was killed.

Two days after  Lumumba’s death, the county supervisor publicly demanded that doctors carry out a thorough autopsy to determine the cause of his death. Lumumba was an advocate of the creation of an independent black-majority nation in the US South. As a political activist, he also campaigned to pressure US authorities to pay billions of dollars to African Americans as reparations for their ancestors’ enslavement and subsequent subjugation. Considering that Mississippi is the US state with the highest percentage of African Americans in its population, a successful tenure as mayor of the state’s largest city could have realistically paved the way for a Lumumba candidacy for Governor of Mississippi. It is within this context that Stokes’ call for Lumumba’s death to be re-examined is quite intriguing.

The potential impact on Black politics, and the psyche of African Americans, of an African American Black nationalist and revolutionary serving as governor of a state in the deep South can’t be underestimated. Furthermore, Lumumba’s death came at precisely the time when he was emerging as a successful mayor.  Shortly before his death, he had surprised many by successfully pushing through a sales tax hike to fix the city’s infrastructure. That sales tax increase passed with a staggering 90 percent of the vote.  Ravi Perry, a professor of political science at Mississippi State University, says that Lumumba had a noticeable effect on the city’s politics. He “was more hands-on, more grassroots”.  He brought some of his activist organizing principles with him to City Hall. “He, for instance, got elected because his people’s forums — which he had every three months as a councilman — were so popular,”  Perry compared Lumumba to Harold Washington, Chicago’s first African American mayor. Like Washington, Perry said, Lumumba didn’t shy away from talking about race, but he managed to win converts and allies to his practical governing approach. Washington’s death during his first term as Mayor of Chicago  also raised questions within the African American community, a community which has seen its most promising leaders assassinated. In another strange twist, Frank Melton, another former  African American mayor of Jackson went into that same hospital a few years earlier. He also came out dead.