The black liberation group MOVE was founded in 1972 in the American city of Philadelphia. He combined a wide range of ideologies, including environmentalism, animal rights, and the end of capitalism. The group’s activities were closely watched by law enforcement, sometimes leading to an armed confrontation. Tensions peaked on May 13, 1985, when Philadelphia police bombed MOVE’s home and killed 11 blacks. Despite two grand jury investigations and a civil lawsuit, no one was criminally charged for the bombing. More than 35 years later, FRANCE 24 correspondents returned to Philadelphia to revisit the day the city bombed its own citizens.
Often labeled as a cult, MOVE was founded by Vincent Leaphart, who changed his name to John Africa, a nod to the continent “where life began.” The surname Africa was adopted by all MOVE members, who lived in a community setting in a West Philadelphia home. The 1985 bombing killed six adults, including John Africa, and five children. The fire that followed destroyed dozens of other houses, leaving hundreds homeless.
In November 2020, the Philadelphia city council formally apologized for the bombing, acknowledging the “immeasurable and lasting damage” it caused and establishing an annual remembrance day. But while the MOVE bombing lives on through Philadelphia residents, it remains largely forgotten in America’s collective memory.