Jomo Joka Omowale papers, 1969-2008

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Omowale, Jomo Joka and Human Rights Archive (Duke University)
Jomo Joka Omowale, born as Cleveland McKinley Davis and also known as Eric Thompson, is a parolee in North Carolina who spent much of his life imprisoned in New York and Virginia. He was a leader of the Attica prison riot in 1971. Collection includes court transcripts, legal papers and correspondence, court documents, photographs, press coverage and clippings, and internal prison policies and procedures from Omowale's many years in various prisons. Cases include armed robbery in Virginia, the Attica riots and subsequent trials, three trials regarding a police shooting in Brooklyn, and a murder of a drug dealer in Virginia. Omowale was convicted in the final case, and his pursuit of parole in Virginia following the elimination of parole in the 1990s is another significant component of the collection. Other materials include prisoner poetry and writings, personal correspondence between Jomo and his family, prisoner poetry, Attica Brothers Legal Defense materials, and court documents regarding a White Panther Party trial in 1970. Also includes hundreds of mugshots from New York. Acquired as part of the Human Rights Archive (Duke University).
25 Linear Feet
Physical description:
Approximately 18,750 items
Material in English
Collection ID:


Scope and content:

Collection includes legal documentation and court transcripts from Omowale's various trials, including Attica-related trials and the subsequent lawsuits brought by the Attica Brothers. Also represented are court cases from his armed robbery conviction in Virginia Beach; his repeated murder trials in New York regarding police shootings (and his lawsuits against New York following his acquittal from those shootings); and his murder conviction in Virginia in 1985. Also included are many materials from his wife and attorney, Elizabeth Gaynes, particularly regarding his legal defense in those trials as well as her attempts to gain his parole in Virginia in the 1990s and 2000s.

Other materials in the collection include personal correspondence between Omowale and Elizabeth Gaynes, as well as correspondence between him and other family members, in particular his daughter, Emani. Other correspondence exists between him and other Attica Brothers, regarding the Attica trials and the lawsuits that followed. Photographs, particularly of mugshots, are another significant component of the collection. The remainder of the materials are prison writings; publicity and press coverage of Jomo Joka Omowale's many court cases; news clippings about him, parole, and other related topics; and miscellaneous documents collected by Omowale during his time in prison.

Acquired as part of Duke University's Human Rights Archive.

Biographical / historical:
Chronology List
Date Event
1942 April 10
Born as son of sharecroppers, Infield, North Carolina. Grew up in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
Married Bobbi Lee Forman. They divorced in 1978.
Jailed for burglary, Princess Ann Jail, Virginia.
Arrested in Virginia for robbery; escaped and went to New York.
Arrested in New York for robbery, sent to Sing Sing Prison.
Transferred to Auburn Prison, New York.
Involved in Black Panther Party in Auburn Prison; transferred to Attica Prison.
1971 September
Involved in Attica Prison riots: Controled the "D" Door. Was shot 6 times when police stormed the prison.
Vincent Doyle took over Omowale defense in Attica trial and appointed Elizabeth Gaynes as counsel.
Omowale accepted "Alfred plea" for time served and was released from New York. He returned to Virginia to complete his sentence there. He then returned to New York to complete his time for his initial sentence, and was paroled in New York.
Governor of New York pardoned Omowale for his involvement in the Attica Prison riots.
Married Elizabeth Gaynes.
1978 April 2
Involved in a shooting in Brooklyn, NY, which ended with the death of two police officers and Dalou, an aquaintance of Davis. Davis was also shot. He was arrested for the murders and was severely beaten en route to the hospital, requiring reconstructive surgery on his face. His vision was permanently impaired.
Omowale was tried 3 times for the murders of the policemen and Dalou. The first 2 trials ended with hung juries, and he was acquitted the third time and released.
Omowale and Gaynes separated. He moved to Virginia Beach, where he was involved (with 2 others) in an attempted robbery of drug dealer Robert Stith. Stith was killed during the robbery. Davis was wounded in the leg. He fled to Washington and then went on to New York.
Omowale was a fugitive on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list. His co-defendents entered guilty pleas.
Omowale was captured and tried for murder and robbery. He was sentenced to prison, to be eligible for parole in 10-11 years.
Repeatedly denied parole under Virginia's law eliminating parole.
Paroled. Moved to North Carolina to live near his children.
Acquisition information:
The Jomo Joka Omowale Papers were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book Manuscript Library as a gift in 2011.
Processing information:

Processed by Meghan Lyon, February 2011

Encoded by Meghan Lyon, February 2011

Materials may not have been ordered and described beyond their original condition.

Accessions in this finding aid: 2011-0026, 2011-0081

Rules or conventions:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard


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Collection is open for research.

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The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to Duke University. For more information, consult the copyright section of the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

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Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], Jomo Joka Omowale Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.