How Tupac was Relevant to Native Americans

Before Tupac Shakur was born, his maternal ancestors resisted oppression alongside Native Americans. In the years to follow, Tupac’s life reflected the same resistence. Poverty, oppression, drug epidemic, and violation of civil rights is explored in the book, “Tupac Shakur: The Life and Times of an American Icon”, co-written by Fred L. Johnson III PhD. The relevance between Tupac Shakur and Native Americans is the social problems in inner city black communities and Indian reservation communities. Tupac’s internal message was to help his community overcome disparity.

When he was born in 1971, Afeni first named him Lesane Parish Crooks. She then renamed him Tupac Amaru, who was an Incan Emperor around 1571 to 1572. Johnson points out that he was known for resisting Spanish colonialism and injustices (33). Tupac would revitalize this name and be influenced by Native American stories and his families involvement in fighting for civil rights.

Afeni shared stories with Tupac about the Lumbee Indians in North Carolina. Tupac’s maternal ancestors were influenced to resist against oppression by the Lumbee Indians (Johnson 5). Stories like the Henry Lowery War in 1865, where Henry Lowery and the Lumbee Indians began a seven year campaign of guerilla war against the Confederacy. Another story was about how the Native Americans, Black Americans, and poor White Americans came together to disperse a rally by the Ku Klux Klan in Lumberton, North Carolina in 1958. This began Tupac’s education about the struggles in oppression and poverty.

Since 1976, Lowry’s legend has been presented every summer in the outdoor drama Strike At The Wind in Pembroke. Set during the critical Civil War and Reconstruction years, the play portrays Lowry as a cultural hero who flouts the South’s racialized power structure by fighting for his people’s self-determination and allying with the county’s downtrodden citizens, the blacks and poor whites.


Lowry War

The Lowry War is a notable event in North Carolina history. Led by Henry Berry Lowry (also spelled Henry Berry Lowrie), a Lumbee, whose father and brother were murdered by men of the Confederate Home Guard, a band of American Indian, White and African-American men waged a guerrilla war against the white establishment from 1864 to 1872. He and his gang attained a kind of mythic status.

The “free people of color” in eastern North Carolina were treated differently. In 1861 they were forced to work on Confederate fortifications at Fort Fisher, near Wilmington. Many fled into the forests and swamps to resist such enforced labor by the Confederate Army.

Henry Berry Lowry was one of twelve children in the family of Allen and Mary Lowry. At the start of the Civil War in 1861, the free people of color was viewed as a potential danger to the Confederacy, as it was believed some had earlier fomented slave rebellions. But they were also considered a source for forced labor for Confederate military projects. In Robeson County, the Confederate Home Guard accused some local free blacks of harboring escaped Union prisoners and Confederate deserters, hiding guns, and stealing meat from smokehouses. As elsewhere in the South during the Civil War, the Home Guard supported the Confederacy and maintained law and order at home while the war was being fought. Lowry killed neighbor James P. Barnes, who accused the Lowries of stealing food and harboring escaped Union prisoners of war, on December 21, 1864 and James Brantley “Brant” Harris on January 15, 1865 as a result of ongoing disputes with both men.

With Sherman’s army a few miles from Robeson, the Confederate Home Guard accused Henry Berry Lowry’s father, Allen, and brother William, of various crimes, including illegal possession of firearms. After a hastily prepared kangaroo court trial, Allen and William were convicted and executed on March 3, 1865. For nearly a decade, Henry Berry Lowry conducted raids in southern North Carolina, primarily in Robeson County and against upper-class whites. He became the most hunted outlaw in the state’s history. During the war, Henry Berry Lowry often flouted the authorities who hunted him for over eight years. He murdered the “presumed head” of the local Ku Klux Klan, John Taylor, after which Lowry and many others escaped into the surrounding swamps: a tactic that they would use over and over again and which would prove highly successful at helping them avoid capture.

As the war dragged on, food became scarce as more outliers (including escaped slaves, Confederate deserters, and Union prison escapees) fled to the sanctuary of the swamps. The guerrilla band decided to live off the wealthy class of people instead of the poor. The band raided plantations and distributed food to the poor in Pembroke, North Carolina which was known then as “Scuffletown” or “The Settlement”.

In 1872, Henry Berry Lowry disappeared without a trace. The reward on his head was never collected, and the legend of his actions grew to mythic proportions. In 1874, after the death of Steve Lowry at the hands of bounty hunters, the Lowry War ended. For present-day North Carolinians, Lowry is a controversial figure. He was thought by his defenders to be a hero, and by his critics to be a common criminal.

During the Lowry War, some Southern newspapers portrayed the Lowrys as “Radical Ku Klux,” sometimes in cahoots with the Union League, also known as the “Loyal League,” a Republican organization these papers attempt to portray as the Republican counterpart of the Klan. In an article about the Lowrys, the Wilmington Journal wrote at the time, “the perpetrators of these crimes are Radicals-members of the League—mostly black” An article appearing in Georgia Weekly Telegraph claims, “Lowery, the great chief of the African Ku Klux is the most Loyal man in the South.” (as in loyal to the Union) img_0479img_0464 img_0465The Daily Arkansas Gazette describes the gang’s activities in July 1871:

“In portions of North Carolina, band of negro outlaws—real ku-klux—are murdering the people, robbing stores and houses, and openly defying the authorities. Lowry, their leader, is a well-known Lumbee Indian radical politician. He can be arrested by the Federal officers at any time they please, and yet he is suffered to go at large, and murder white men at his pleasure.”


Haki Kweli Shakur August Third Collective NAPLA NAIM 3-17-52ADM North Carolina Maroons