TRENTON, N.J. -- The autobiography of fugitive Joanne Chesimard, known as the "soul" of the Black Liberation Army, has been released to bookstores despite efforts to prevent her from collecting royalties, her publisher said Tuesday.
"Assata, an Autobiography," written in Cuba by Chesimard, who later took the name Assata Shakur, had a prepublication press order of 19,000 copies. Another 10,000 are on order, said Lawrence Hill, president of Lawrence Hill & Co. in Westport, Conn.
In the 274-page paperback, Shakur describes herself as a victim of racial prejudice who grew up in New York and in the South, became involved in revolutionary activities in college and joined the Black Panthers in Harlem.
She contends she was targeted by the FBI's counterintelligence program of the late 1960s and 1970s because of her association with the Panthers, and that she was falsely charged with involvement in bank robberies and murders.
She later left the Panthers, joined a revolutionary movement known as the Black Liberation Army and became known as the "soul" of the BLA.
Shakur was convicted in March 1977 of killing Trooper Werner Foester after he and other troopers stopped a car on the New Jersey Turnpike carrying her and two male companions in May 1973. At the time, she was wanted in a series of crimes. She was later cleared of involvement in those crimes.
She escaped from the New Jersey State Corrections Institute for Women in November 1979 and revealed late last year, in announcing the publication of the autobiography, that she has been living in Cuba under a grant of political asylum.
Hill said the first printing of 9,000 books was distributed two weeks ago and a second run of 10,000 is due Jan. 22. The official date of publication is Jan. 15, he said.
Another order of 10,000 books is pending, and Hill said he expects to sell about 50,000 copies eventually. "It's selling at a very rapid pace," he said.
The New Jersey attorney general's office is continuing its efforts to prevent Shakur from receiving royalties on the book, which Hill estimates at about 7 percent of the $9.95 per copy cover price.
The state is attempting to use its "Son of Sam" law, which prevents convicts from receiving profits on books or movies detailing their crimes, said Kenneth W. Welch, chairman of the state's Violent Crimes Compensation Board.
But Welch said the state has been thwarted because Hill had the book published initially by a publishing house in England, apparently circumventing the law.
Welch said the attorney general's office has not been able to obtain contracts concerning the book's domestic publication and has not even received a response from Hill to his requests for a copy of the book.