Lumumba was born in Detroit as Edwin Taliaferro, and changed his name in 1969, when he was in his early 20s. He said he took his new first name from an African tribe that resisted slavery centuries ago and his last name from African independence leader Patrice Lumumba. He moved to Jackson in 1971 as a human rights activist. He went to law school in Michigan in the mid-1970s and returned to Jackson in 1988.
During an April 30 debate, Lumumba carefully pronounced his name for the audience and said: “That’s an African name. Like Barack Obama. It’s not a Muslim name. … I’ve been a Christian all my life.”
As an attorney, Lumumba has represented Tupac Shakur in several cases, including one in which the rapper was cleared of aggravated assault charges in the shootings of two off-duty police officers who were in Atlanta but from another city. Shakur died in 1996.
Lumumba persuaded then-Gov. Haley Barbour to release Jamie and Gladys Scott from prison in Mississippi in early 2011. The sisters served nearly 16 years for an armed robbery they said they didn’t commit. Barbour, a Republican, was considering a run for the presidency at the time.
Lumumba also said on the City Council website that he helped defend “former Black Panther heroine Assata Shakur,” an aunt of Tupac Shakur. He represented her in 1977 in a murder case that was dismissed in New York, according to Lumumba’s biography for a 2012 human rights conference. Also in 1977, Assata Shakur was sentenced to life in prison for the 1973 killing of a New Jersey state trooper. Lumumba said he was not involved in that case.
Lumumba will face 3 independent candidates in the June 4 general election.