Hubert Gerold Brown was born October 4, 1943 in Baton Rouge, earning the nickname "Rap" as a teenager because of his verbal skills. He attended Southern High School and Southern University in Baton Rouge, spending summers in Washington D.C. with his older brother Ed, a a student at Howard University and member of Howard's Nonviolent Action Group (NAG). In 1964 he stayed in Washington instead of returning for his final year of college, and began working at the United Planning Center, a neighborhood anti-poverty program, and was named chair of NAG although he was not a Howard student.
Through NAG Brown had met several SNCC members, and in 1966 he became SNCC's Alabama Field Organizer, working on voter registration. When Stokely Carmichael resigned from SNCC the next year, Brown replaced him as chairman but left himself in 1966 to join the Black Panther Party as a Minister of Justice.
"I say violence is necessary. It is as American as cherry pie."After speaking at a July 1967 rally in Cambridge, Maryland that resulted in armed confrontations with police and fires that destroyed two city blocks, Brown was charged with inciting to riot and arson. His attorney, William Kunstler, arranged for him to turn himself in to the FBI, and while he was out on bail he was arrested for being in possession of a rifle while flying from Baton Rouge to New York City. The weapons charges were eventually dropped but when the Cambridge courthouse where Brown's arson trial was scheduled to take place was bombed, he disappeared and was placed on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list. He was arrested in New York City in October 1971 on robbery charges and served five years in Attica state prison.
In 2000 he was charged with shooting Sheriff's Deputies Ricky Kinchen and Aldranon English as they were serving him with a warrant for failure to appear for a speeding ticket. Kinchen was killed; English survived and named al-Amin as the shooter. He was found guilty and sentenced to life without parole. Because of his high-profile background, in 2007 he was transferred to ADX Florence supermax prison in Colorado.