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Lorenzo Kom’boa Ervin  was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1947. He was only 12 years old when he joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and he participated in the sit-in protest in Chattanooga in order to help the end of racial segregation in the United States. 

Lorenzo Kom’boa Ervin

He was then drafted to serve the American army in Vietnam for two years becoming an anti-war activist. In 1967 he decided to join the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, fighting American imperialism and pursuing the cause of the anti-war movement. Right after this politic commitment he joined the Afro-American struggle for rights joining the Black Panther Party.

In 1969 he’s been accused to allegedly organize the murder of a Ku Klux Klan leader (what was wrong with that?), the killing, anyway, never took place. In order to try to escape prosecution, Ervin hijacked a plane to Cuba. He spent sometime there and then he moved to Czechoslovakia. This trip he did visiting socialist countries made him disillusioned with state socialism. During 1970, after several unsuccessful attempt the USA Government was able to extradited Ervin. So he has been brought to U.S. to face trial. They sentenced him to life imprisonment. During his detention he started to read several anarchist books and he was more and more attracted to this doctrine.

Anarchist Black Cross Logo

The Anarchist Black Cross became interested to his case and started giving him support, working to try to free Ervin, considered to be a political prisoner, with a strong and pushing campaign. Lorenzo wrote several pamphlets while in prison, among them: “Anarchism and the Black Revolution” surely his best seller and more known book of all time. After spending 15 years in prison the international legal campaign eventually had success and succeed to free him. He returned to Chattanooga where he was immediately involved in the fight for civil rights. He first joined an organization called Concerned Citizens for Justice that was fighting against police brutality and was struggling against all Ku Klux Klan methods and policies. 

Lorenzo during a speech

In 1987 Ervin was an important asset in a class action in which his organization was fighting a lawsuit for civil rights and the restructuring of the Chattanooga government in which they aimed to elect several black city council member to reasonably represent the black community.

In 1997 Lorenzo was invited to Australia by local Anarchist group “Angry People”.  As soon as he landed in Sidney, he had to face the opposition to his visit by several politics, from Immigration Minister Amanda Stone to Prime Minister Howard. 

John Howard

To raise the issue against his visit the far-right organization Australians Against Further Immigration organized a shameful campaign that compared Lorenzo to a terrorist and a gun runner. Head of Government, John Howard was reported as horrified to learn that Kom’Boa Ervin had been granted a visa and was visiting Australia. Immigration officials started an urgent investigation, detaining Ervin in Brisbane. His visa was cancelled on the grounds that he was not of good character. This was so evidently false they couldn’t prove other way. Mr Ervin had visited 20 countries on lecture tours since his release from prison in 1983, and he had no problem at all in any country, under any government, while talking of any issue he was asked to speak about. His imprisonment was taken to the High Court of Australia. Chief of Justice Gerard Brennan had to restored Ervin’s visa and had to order his immediate release from prison. His visa was already been approved by Australia state through an electronic lodgment system in Los Angeles and Ervin did not appear to have been accorded natural justice, as well as chiding the Government’s lawyers for suggesting he had no power to hear the case. All legal costs of the lawsuit were settled against the Federal Australian Government. Ervin officially asked Mr Howard to apologize. He never did. His detainment stimulated international protests that included pickets of Australian embassies and consulates in South Africa, Greece, Italy, UK and of course the US. 

Australian Aborigenal Flag 

After 4 days in prison, following his release, Ervin attended NAIDOC celebrations in Musgrave Park, West End, as a guest of the Murri people (Indigenous Australians from Queensland), and there he gave a brief speech.  He then continued his speaking tour, while Immigration officials prepared further questions for him to answer.  After that meeting, Ervin attempted to visit  in Cessnock Jail Australian Black Panther movement activist, Denis Walker,but he was denied access by police and warders. The government actions were generally generating more attention and publicity for Ervin, and many more people attended his speaking tour. Ervin had to leave Australia on July 24 1997, claiming that Immigration officials had threatened to deport him if he stayed any longer. After his visit Australia’s Immigration alert systems toughened and its visa screening procedures became far more stringent.

More recently, On April 26, in 2008, Ervin and his wife organized a march and rally in Nashville, Tennessee to protest the deaths of two youths in State facilities, including the Chad Center. In fact since 2006  Lorenzo and his wife live in Nashville keeping to fight, with all his strength and energy, for civil rights of the black community and for the spread of the Anarchism cause.

In-Depth Infos:



Black Anarchism

Anarchy and Chaos in Black Communities  

Ashanti Alston on Pacific Street Films Anarchism Revisited