The Move Organization

By: Ryan Boyer
Fig.1 The 9 members placed on trial

Move organization is a group of Philadelphia based revolutionaries that was formed in 1972 by a man named John Africa in Philadelphia. The purpose of starting this group was to separate them from the outside world’s law and way of living. The Move organization believed that man-made laws are unnatural and are not the correct rules to live by. This group was marked as a threat to the Philadelphia police force, so they began getting into constant violent altercations with the mayor of Philadelphia. In result of these violent altercations, 9 members of the Move group were unfairly tried, each faced sentences of 30 to 100 years for a crime they did not commit. In this essay I will be discussing the issue of Integration vs. Separation. To support my thesis, “The Philadelphia Judicial System showed The Move organization injustice because they were separatist and did not live by the laws of the government." I will address the questions “Why did the Move group decided to choose separation as opposed to integration?” “Why did the Philadelphia Police department get involved?” and lastly “Why did the members of the Move group receive sentences for 30 to 100 years in prison for self- defense?”

The Move group is an organization based under the teachings of a man named John Africa. His sole purpose in founding this organization was to separate and emancipate themselves from every problem in the world such as oppression, laws, drugs, unemployment, etc. The Move organization decided to start a headquarters in West Philadelphia inside of house in Powelton Village. John Africa’s purpose of moving the group into this headquarters was to make their own way of life in that home instead of living by worldly standards. They were a totally self-reliant group who made their own food, clothing, etc. This was a huge trait of separatism because of their views on the world and how they went about doing what they thought was right which was by separating themselves from the outside world. John Africa chose separation as opposed to integration because he thought integration would lead to chaos, which was not the natural way to live according to the Move organization.

Neighbors of this organization marked the Move group as a public nuisance and the police department stepped in and started investigating the Move groups’ lifestyle. This angered the Move group and soon they started standing up to police officers, which resulted in many violent altercations. This violence led to police brutality against Move men, women, and children. These acts were clearly an injustice against a group trying to express their rights given in the constitutional amendments, which are freedom of speech, petition, and press. I believe that the police commission of Philadelphia should have attacked this issue in a different manner such as letting the Move members practice their beliefs as long as they did not disturb anyone in their neighborhood. Many people around this time inferred that these were signs of racism since Move was a predominantly African American organization that stood against rules made up in the constitution.

On August 8th, 1978 hundreds of police officers and firemen surrounded the Move headquarters with warrants for search and arrests. When Move members did not cooperate with the orders of the police department, gunshots were fired and there was a battle between the police and Move members. Several Move members were injured and arrested. In the aftermath of the arrest and brutality, 9 Move members remained but they stayed in the basement to avoid any more trouble. These 9 members were later blamed for the death of an officer who was shot in the back by an unidentified shooter. These 9 members were unfairly accused and this resulted in many protests against the Pennsylvania judicial system and also the Philadelphia Police department. This was an act of inequality and brutality against a group that practiced separatism in order to integrate with anyone who was willing to live according to John Africa’s methods. The Guinness Book of World Records worked with police by marking Move as a criminal cult that committed a mass murder. This was an act to cover up the fact that the courtroom did not have evidence of the murder of officer James Ramp and to also make the public believe that Move was guilty and deserved these undeserving sentences. I believe that the officers that participated in this court hearing should have been sentenced for the assault of 12 Move adults and Murder of 11 Move children. This was an extreme act of dishonor by the judicial system and police commission, which is meant to uphold justice.
Fig.2 Move member surrendering to police

In conclusion this topic is similar to many topics in African American history from almost every generation. An African American person or group gets unfairly tried in many other cases such as The Dred Scott Decision, The Scottsboro Boys, The Jena 6 case, and my topic Move. Move was also different than many of these case because this group was a trying to emancipate themselves from America’s laws as well as the world’s laws will these other incidents were people or groups who fought to have these laws and rights that where man made. These instances go along with supporting my thesis just at different steps in African American history. As a result of this incident and my research I came to my critical conclusion that the Philadelphia Judicial System showed The Move Organization injustice because they were separatist and did not live by the laws of the government.


Angle Three Associates, (1998-2006). Guinness World Records Mislabels Move Organization Murders as Mass Suicide. Retrieved May 22, 2008, from Web site:

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Walker, A. (1986, January 7). Nobody was Supposed to Survive .Retrieved May 13, 2008, from Web site: