Vincent Leaphart was born July 26, 1931 in the Mantua neighborhood in West Philadelphia. When Vincent was in his teens, his mother died and Vincent placed blame on the hospital that treated her. Shortly after that tragic event, Vincent joined the army as a foot soldier in the Korean War. Both events had an enormous contribution to Vincent’s resentment towards American Society (Dickson 14).
Towards the end of the 1970s, Vincent Leaphart began to call himself John Africa. Vincent’s new name was not only a symbol of his African roots but also stood for his belief that Africa was the source of all life. Vincent Leaphart, now known as John Africa, had many philosophies concerning society. John Africa’s philosophies and beliefs fascinated a social worker from the University of Pennsylvania named Donald Glassey, who offered to write them down. John Africa’s beliefs became a three hundred page manuscript formally known as, “The Guidelines” (Philadelphia and the Move Bombing).“The Guidelines” became the official way of life for John Africa and his followers, who were referred to originally as the “Christian Movement for Life,” followed by “The Movement,” and finally MOVE.
According to John Africa, “We [MOVE Members] believe in natural law, the government of self.” To be more specific, MOVE members believe that if nature does not need police, armies, or court systems, neither does society. True law should be self-explanatory and should come natural. For example, “When you see something getting too close to your eye, you will blink, whether you are a German Shepherd or a Supreme Court Justice,” (John Africa’s Movement). With this said, the MOVE members believed in living a natural way of life much like animals because it separated them from the corrupt society in which they believe they lived.
MOVE wanted to live the way nature intended them to live: without electricity, eating only raw foods, defecating outdoors, and without the use of birth control. Basically MOVE wanted to detach and isolate from the immoral and unjust way of modern society. This was hard for MOVE to do because most members lived in the Philadelphia row homes in West Philadelphia, including row homes on North 3rd street and on Osage Avenue. The natural way of life did not sit well with the neighbors and the health department. Many neighbors would complain about rat infestation, odor, garbage, and housing violations. Neighbors also were concerned because MOVE did not send their children to school; they believed that, “The Guidelines”, provided them with the education necessary for life. Most of these complaints were made directly to MOVE as well as to police and city officials (Assefa 22).
MOVE members would defend themselves by comparing their lifestyle to those of their neighbors. Susan Cox, a MOVE member, said “They would smoke marijuana about half the night. They would snort cocaine. They would play loud, loud music. They would fight. MOVE...