Today, Joanne Chesimard — better known as Assata Shakur — became the first woman to make the FBI’s list of most wanted terrorists. In 1977, an all-white jury convicted Chesinard of killing a New Jersey state trooper, and she was given a life sentence. A former member of the Black Liberation Army, she escaped from prison in 1979 with the help of fellow activists, including her brother Mutulu Shakur, the rapper Tupac’s stepfather. Chesimard inspired Common’s “Song for Assata,” which in turn inspired conservatives to protest Common’s visit to the White House.
Chesimard's supporters believe that she, like other former members of the Black Panthers Party, was the victim of FBI misconduct through Cointelpro. In the early seventies, she was linked to a string of bank robberies and police killings that prompted a multistate manhunt. Those charges were later dismissed, acquitted, or mistried, but she was wanted for questioning when she, Sundiata Acoli, and Zayd Malik Shakur were pulled over on the New Jersey turnpike for a broken tail light — a confrontation that ended in the shootout that left Trooper Werner Foerster and Zayd Malik Shakur dead.