Former Black Panther, Assata Shakur, now living in exile in Cuba after breaking out of a U.S. prison, is a self-described escaped slave, or maroon. Shakur has adopted this identity to underscore how practices and ideologies developed under slavery continue to structure Black life in the Americas, and how resistance strategies produced by this historical milieu remain salient in critiques of modern U.S. state power. The transnational nature of Shakur’s flight points to the use of borders as a highly effective, yet overlooked, tactic of Black resistance that has both historical and contemporary relevance. For maroons, borders mark hard distinctions in legal systems that slaves have attempted to manipulate in their own interests, even as they simultaneously treat the physical space as porous and permeable. Maroons’ seemingly contradictory treatment of borders as both pathways and protective barriers is reflected in the transnational identity Shakur has crafted in the process of flight. Understanding Shakur as a borderlands maroon invites nuance and a re-imagining of the productive possibilities of ambiguity where she reviles U.S. policy while missing African American culture, and where she praises Revolutionary Cuban policy even as her diasporic identification with Cuba’s Black population and culture contests Cuba’s official colorblind racial ideology of mestizaje. Shakur’s maroon identity is a powerful denunciation of the imagined divisions of African subjects in the Americas along national lines, while illuminating the trajectory of traditional Black resistance strategies that have produced and employed counter-hegemonic readings of American national boundaries in the pursuit of freedom.

First Advisor

John Lear

Degree Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts in History

Date of Award

Fall 12-18-2015