Michael Tabor, Black Panther Who Fled to Algeria, Dies at 63
By DENNIS HEVESI
Published: October 23, 2010
Michael Tabor, one of 13 Black Panther Party members acquitted in
1971 of conspiring to bomb public buildings and murder police
officers in New York City, died on Oct. 17 in Lusaka, Zambia. He was 63.
The cause was complications of several strokes, said Melvin McCray, a
friend and an adjunct professor at the Columbia University Graduate
School of Journalism who was producing a documentary about Mr. Tabor.
On May 13, 1971, Mr. Tabor and his co-defendants were found not
guilty of all charges of planning to bomb department stores, police
stations, train stations and the New York Botanical Garden in the
Bronx and to murder police officers. Mr. Tabor, a captain in the New
York branch of the Panthers, was not in State Supreme Court in
Manhattan when the verdict was read. He and another defendant,
Richard Moore, had fled to Algeria four months into the eight-month
trial one of the longest in New York history.
The prosecution's case rested largely on the testimony of three
undercover agents who said they had heard the defendants plan the
bombings and killings and had attended classes where they were taught
to shoot weapons and make bombs. In a verdict that came after two
hours of deliberation, the jury foreman said, "Not guilty" 156 times.
The flight of Mr. Tabor and Mr. Moore came at a time of strife
between the East and West Coast factions of the Panther Party. Huey
P. Newton, its supreme commander, denounced the two men for
abandoning their co-defendants. Mr. Tabor said they had left out of
fear for their lives, not because of the trial.
"I am overjoyed that the brothers are free," he said from Algiers. "I
always said that the case was an attempted railroad and that the
defendants' rights were flagrantly violated."
For a time, he and Mr. Moore were guests of the Algerian government,
Mr. McCray said, but they were eventually expelled. Mr. Tabor and his
first wife, Connie Mathews, who had been the party's international
coordinator, moved to Zambia in 1972. Mr. Tabor became a writer on
politics and culture for numerous publications and a radio host in
Zambia. "The old guard of African liberation movements respected him
as a freedom fighter," Mr. McCray said.
Born in Harlem on Dec. 13, 1946, Michael Aloysius Tabor was one of
two children of Grace and Michael Tabor Sr. He joined the Panther
Party when he was 19 and went by the name of a 19th-century Zulu
Mr. Tabor, whose first wife died, is survived by his second wife, the
former Priscilla Matanda; his sister, Lorraine Tabor; a daughter; and
"I often asked him if he would be interested in returning to the
United States," Mr. McCray said, "but he adamantly said he would
remain in Africa."
Michael Tabor, Former Panther, Dies
By Melvin McCray
October 19th, 2010
Michael Aloysius Tabor, a former member of the New York Chapter of
the Black Panther Party, died on Sunday, October 17, 2010, in Lusaka,
Zambia, according to his wife, Priscilla Matanda Tabor.
For the past two years he had been suffering from a protracted
illness. Tabor was born in Harlem on December 13, 1946, to Grace
Hunter and Michael Tabor, Sr. He attended the St. Aloysius Roman
Catholic School on West 132nd Street.
Tabor joined the Black Panther Party in 1969 and took the name
Cetewayo, a 19th century Zulu king. It was during that time that he
wrote an insightful pamphlet on drug addiction called "Capitalism
Plus Dope Equals Genocide." According to former members, Tabor was
one of the more well known of the spokespersons for the Panther Party
and was admired for his deep baritone voice and charismatic personality.
He was among a group of 21members of the New York Chapter of the
Panthers that was indicted in April of 1969 for conspiracy to commit
coordinated attacks on New York City Police precincts and department
stores. In February of 1971, while out on bail, Tabor flew to
Algiers, Algeria in fear of his life due to internal conflicts that
were developing within the Black Panther Party. Several months later
all 21 defendants were acquitted of all charges.
Tabor arrived in Algiers with his new wife, fellow Black Panther
Party member Connie Mathews, who had been the group's International
Coordinator. They became part of the International Section of the
Black Party led by Eldridge Cleaver. For a time, the Panthers were
guests of the Algerian Government, but were eventually expelled from
In 1972 Tabor moved to Lusaka, Zambia, on a writing assignment for
the Paris-based Africa-Asia magazine in order to cover the African
liberation movements based there. He would remain in Lusaka for the
next 38 years. After the death of his wife, Connie Mathews, he
married Zambian national, Priscilla Matanda. Tabor became a popular
and respected figure in Lusaka and continued writing on politics and
culture for various publications. His distinctive voice allowed him
to transition into radio and for many years he hosted programs that
featured jazz, African and world music on several Lusaka radio stations.
His health deteriorated over the last two years after suffering a
series of strokes in summer of 2008. Tabor is survived by his wife,
Priscilla Matanda Tabor, daughter, Che Tabor Raye, sons, Carlos
Tabor, Michael Ahmad Tabor, Michael Chikwe Tabor, and cousin, Invera Tabor.
Funds are being raised to send Cetewayo's 17-year-old son, Michael
Chikwe Tabor, back home to Zambia to reunite with his family and
mourn the loss of his father. Donations and letters of condolence can
be set to: Malcolm X Commemoration Committee, P.O. Box 380-122,
Brooklyn, New York 11238.