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Roy Innis, National Chairman Congress of Racial Equality.

Roy Emile Alfredo Innis (born June 6, 1934, in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands) has been National Chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality (also known as CORE) since his election to the position in 1968.

One of his sons, Niger Innis also serves the Congress of Racial Equality as its National Spokesman.


Early life

In 1946 Innis moved with his mother from the U.S. Virgin Islands to New York City, where he graduated from Stuyvesant High School in 1952.[1] At age 16, Innis joined the U.S. Army, and at age 18 he received an honorable discharge. He entered a four-year program in chemistry at the City College of New York. He subsequently held positions as a research chemist at Vick Chemical Company and Montefiore Hospital.[2]

Early civil rights years

Innis joined CORE’s Harlem chapter in 1963. In 1964 he was elected Chairman of the chapter’s education committee and advocated community-controlled education and black empowerment. In 1965, he was elected Chairman of Harlem CORE, after which he campaigned for the establishment of an independent Board of Education for Harlem.

In the spring of 1967, Innis was appointed the first resident fellow at the Metropolitan Applied Research Center (MARC), headed by Dr. Kenneth Clark. In the summer of 1967, he was elected Second National Vice-Chairman of CORE. Also in 1967, Innis became the first Executive Director of the Harlem Commonwealth Council (HCC), an investment corporation whose long-term goal was to create independence and stability in Harlem. During the same period, he was the co-editor and founder of the Manhattan Tribune Newspaper.


Innis was elected National Chairman of CORE in 1968, and has held the position ever since. Initially Innis, headed the organization in a strong campaign of Black Nationalism. However, he subsequently became prominent as a conservative activist. CORE supported the presidential candidacy of Richard Nixon in 1968 and 1972. Since taking over CORE, the organization's politics have moved sharply to the right. Mother Jones magazine said of the modern organization that it "is better known among real civil rights groups for renting out its historic name to any corporation in need of a black front person. The group has taken money from the payday-lending industry, chemical giant (and original DDT manufacturer) Monsanto, and ExxonMobil."[3] CORE's original leader James L. Farmer, Jr. said in 1993 that CORE "has no functioning chapters; it holds no conventions, no elections, no meetings, sets no policies, has no social programs and does no fund-raising. In my opinion, CORE is fraudulent." [4] Regarding his leadership of the organization, Innis has been characterized as "a shill for industry and a raging neocon."[5]

Black nationalism

Innis drafted the Community Self-Determination Act of 1968 and garnered bipartisan sponsorship of this bill by one-third of the U.S. Senate and over 50 congressmen. This was the first time in U.S. history that a bill drafted by a black organization was introduced into the United States Congress.

In the debate over school integration, Innis offered an alternative plan consisting of community control of educational institutions. As part of this effort, in October 1970, CORE filed an amicus curiae brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in connection with Swann vs the Charlotte Mackleburg Board of Education.

Innis and a CORE delegation toured seven African countries in 1971. He met with several heads of state, including Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta, Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere, Liberia’s William Tolbert and Uganda's Idi Amin, who was awarded a life membership of CORE [6]. In 1973 he became the first American to attend the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in an official capacity.

In 1973 Innis participated in a televised debate with Nobel-winning physicist William Shockley on the topic of black genetic inferiority.

Criminal justice

Innis has long been active in criminal justice matters, including debate over gun control and the Second Amendment. He is a current board member of the National Rifle Association.[7][8]

A supporter of victims' rights, he has been involved in cases such as: the "subway gunman," Bernhard Goetz; "subway token booth clerk", James Grimes; the "candyman good Samaritan", Andy Fredericks; the "black Bernie Goetz", Austin Weeks; and the accused "remember me subway shooter" Clemente Jackson. Some of his activities include: investigating the Tawana Brawley case, defending the infamous Howard Beach boys who were later sentenced to jail for their 1986 racially-motivated attack; overseeing and participating in a citizen’s anti-drug campaign, "One Street At A Time".[citation needed]

Innis has lost two of his sons to criminal gun violence. His first son, Roy Innis, Jr., at the age of 13 in 1968. His next oldest son Alexander, 26, was shot and slain in 1982.[9]


He was noted for starting two televised scuffles in 1988, one on Geraldo against white supremacists, particularly Tom Metzger's son John, and another on The Morton Downey Jr. Show against Reverend Al Sharpton, when Sharpton was pushed over in his chair by Innis.

Political campaigns

In 1986 Innis challenged incumbent Major Owens in the Democratic primary for the 12th Congressional District, representing Brooklyn. He was defeated by a three-to-one margin.

In the 1993 New York City Democratic Party mayoral primary, Innis challenged incumbent David Dinkins, the first African-American to hold the office. Given his conservative positions on the issues, he explained that "the Democratic Party is the only game in town. It's unfortunate that we have a corrupt one-party, one ideology system in New York City, and I'd like to change that. But being a Democrat doesn't mean you have to be a fool." During his own campaign, Innis also appeared at fundraising events for the Republican candidate Rudolph Giuliani. Innis received 25% of the vote in the four-way race with his highest totals came in white areas and his lowest in black Assembly districts. Dinkins lost to Giuliani in the general election.

In February 1994, his son Niger, who ran his primary campaign, suggested that Innis would also challenge incumbent governor Mario Cuomo in the Democratic primary.

In 1998, Innis joined the Libertarian Party and gave serious consideration to running for Governor of New York as the party's candidate that year. He ultimately decided against running, citing time restrictions related to his duties with CORE . [10]

Innis served as New York State Chair in Alan Keyes's 2000 presidential campaign.[11]

Innis is noted for his endorsement of perennial presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche.[12]


  1. ^ Hicks, Jonathan (1993-05-25). "Innis Campaign for Mayor: A Quixotic Quest?". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-11-02. 
  2. ^ "Roy Innis". Retrieved 2007-11-02. 
  3. ^ Mencimer, Stephanie Mencimer (2009-11-10). "Tea Partiers' Next Target: The Climate Bill". Mother Jones. Retrieved 2009-11-10. 
  4. ^,charles,43542,1.html
  5. ^ Gutstein, Donald (November 24, 2009). Not a Conspiracy Theory: How Business Propaganda Hijacks Democracy. Key Porter Books. ISBN 1554701910. . Relevant section excepted at: Gutstein, Donald (January 22, 2010). "Inside the DDT Propaganda Machine". The Tyee. Retrieved 22 January 2010. 
  6. ^ "Mayoral Race Is Overshadowed In New York Primary Tomorrow - New York Times". Retrieved 2007-12-13. 
  7. ^ "'Ricochet' Goes Behind Scenes of Gun Lobby". National Public Radio. 2007-11-15. Retrieved 2007-11-15. 
  8. ^ Roy Innis re-elected to NRA Board
  9. ^ "THE CITY; 2d Innis Son Slain". New York Times. 1982-02-23. Retrieved 2007-11-02. 
  10. ^ "Innis passes on NY governor's run; mulls New York mayor race in 2001". May 1998. Retrieved 2007-11-02. 
  11. ^ "Roy & Niger Innis Endorse Alan Keyes for President of the United States.". Press release. 2000-02-11. 
  12. ^ Roy Innis." Civil Rights in the United States. 2 vols. Macmillan Reference USA, 2000. Reproduced in History Resource Center. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale. accessdate: 2009-10-13

External links



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