American Exiles in East Africa (Part 2)

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Pete O’Neal was a street hustler and small-time pimp who gave up crime to fight oppression, founding the Kansas City chapter of the Black Panther Party. Charlotte Hill was a high-school student who gave up a college scholarship to join the Panthers and do community service. Their love affair seemed charmed. But, after O’Neal was convicted, in 1970, on a firearms charge that he considered trumped up, he jumped bail and the couple fled the United States. Since then, O’Neal has never been able to return. After spending time in Sweden and then Algeria, the couple moved to Tanzania, where President Julius Nyerere was welcoming people of the African diaspora to join in the nation-building that followed decolonization. In a village called Imbasseni, not far from Mount Kilimanjaro, Pete and Charlotte O’Neal resumed the community service that had brought them together as Panthers. They founded the United African Alliance Community Center, a combination children’s home, school, library, and Y.M.C.A.—work that they might never have been able to accomplish in their home country. As well documented as the nineteen-sixties were, the staff writer Jelani Cobb notes, the stories of radicals forced into exile are hardly known. The producer KalaLea reports from Tanzania. (Part 2 of a two-part story.)

Tshidi Matale, Kiva, and L. D. Brown contributed music for this story.

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