Emerging from a lineage of revolutionaries, Tupac Shakur would become one of hip hop’s most iconic and enduring rappers, with his name embodying the spirit of resistance and the fight against oppression.
Born on June 16, 1971, in the East Harlem section of Upper Manhattan, New York City, Pac was named after Tupac Amaru II, an 18th-century political leader in Peru who was executed after leading an indigenous uprising against Spanish oppression. The choice of name is hardly surprising, given the Shakur family’s deep-rooted involvement in the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army.
“I wanted him to have the name of revolutionary, indigenous people in the world,” Afeni Shakur once said. I wanted him to know he was part of a world culture and not just from a neighborhood.”
As an active member of the Black Panther Party in New York during the late 1960s and early 1970s, Afeni faced trial as part of the infamous Panther 21 case, where she was acquitted of over 150 charges just a month before giving birth to her son. The rapper’s biological father, Billy Garland, was also involved in the Black Panther movement. The family’s connection to the Black Panthers extended beyond his parents, with several family members serving time in prison for their revolutionary activities.
Pac’s upbringing in a family with such strong ties to the Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army undoubtedly influenced his music and activism. From a young age, he was exposed to the fight against racial and social injustice, which would later become central themes in his art. As a rapper, 2Pac often addressed issues such as police brutality, racism, and poverty, echoing the revolutionary spirit of Tupac Amaru II and his own family’s activism.