Organized in 1967, the Malcolm X Society stepped into the national spotlight March 30-31, 1968, when it sponsored the National Black Government Conference at the Central United Christian Church in Detroit, Michigan. Attended by a few hundred people, the conference announced the formation of the Republic of New Africa (RNA), which was to be composed of Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina. Conference participants also drafted a constitution and a declaration of independence. To fund the RNA, organizers planned to negotiate with the United States for reparations and for status under the Geneva Convention. Gaidi Obadele-formerly Milton Henry, an attorney whose politics were shaped by his travels with Malcolm X through Africa-reported that attendees voted to renounce their American citizenship and selected Robert F. Williams, an American fugitive living in China, as the RNA's president. Although there was no official government response to the RNA's call for negotiations, it soon became clear that federal agents were watching the group. In the meantime, RNA strategists planned for a key land purchase in Mississippi and the inevitability of armed struggle.
Over the next few years, a series of events brought the RNA fully into the American conscience. On March 29, 1969, police raided the Detroit New Bethel Baptist Church, site of the second annual RNA conference. According to an RNA report, when a police officer was killed and another wounded in an attempt to assassinate Gaidi Obadele, the Detroit police fired on conference participants with nearly a thousand rounds of ammunition. During the raid, four RNA members were wounded and well over a hundred arrested. Eventually, all RNA members were released from prison, and the three charged with murdering the police officer were acquitted. Two years later, the RNA attempted to purchase twenty acres of land in Mississippi, which it planned to name El Malik in honor of Malcolm X and use as a base for its operations. The RNA's attempt failed, reportedly due to FBI interference. Despite its failure, the RNA gained public support from a variety of quarters, particularly proponents of black nationalism. On August 17, 1971, when police raided the RNA in Jackson, Mississippi, a police officer was killed, resulting in another well-publicized trial. Eleven RNA members were arrested and imprisoned on a variety of charges, ranging from murder to sedition against the state of Mississippi. Among the “RNA-11” was President Imari Obadele, the former Richard Henry, Gaidi Obadele's brother. Three other RNA members made the news when they hijacked a plane to Cuba after killing a New Mexico police officer who had pulled them over on their way to the Jackson debacle.
After leaving prison in 1980, Imari Obdale received a Ph.D. in political science from Temple University in 1985. Obadele has accepted a number of college teaching positions and continues to advocate black nationalism in his writings such as Free the Land! The True Story of the RNA-11 in Mississippi and the Continuing Struggle to Establish an Independent Black Nation in Five States of the Deep South (1984). Although the imprisonment and loss of many RNA leaders depleted the ranks and power of the Malcolm X Society, the groups work and the well-publicized RNA struggles it helped produce remain a potent historical symbol of black nationalism.
Malcolm X Society