The vision for this country was first promulgated by the Malcolm X Society on March 31, 1968, at a Black Government Conference held in Detroit, Michigan. The conference participants drafted a constitution and declaration of independence. Its proponents lay claim to five Southern states: Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina; and to the black-majority counties adjacent to this area in Arkansas, Texas, North Carolina, Tennessee and Florida.
The Black Government Conference was convened by the Malcolm X Society and the Group on Advanced Leadership (GOAL), two influential Detroit-based black organizations with broad followings. The attendees produced a Declaration of Independence (signed by 100 conferees out of approximately 500), a constitution, and the framework for a provisional government. Robert F. Williams, a controversial human rights advocate then living in exile in China, was chosen as the first president of the provisional government; attorney Milton Henry (a student of Malcolm X's teachings) was named first vice president; and Betty Shabazz, widow of Malcolm X, served as second vice president.
The Provisional Government of the Republic of New Afrika (PG-RNA) advocated/advocates a form of cooperative economics through the building of New Communities—named after the Ujamaa concept promoted by Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere. It proposed militant self-defense through the building of local people's militias and a standing army to be called the Black Legion; and the building of racially based organizations to champion the right of self-determination for people of black African descent.
The organization was involved in numerous controversial issues. For example, it attempted to assist Oceanhill-Brownsville area in Brooklyn to secede from the United States during the 1968 conflict over control of public schools. Additionally, it was involved with shootouts at New Bethel Baptist Church in 1969 (during the one-year anniversary of the founding) and another in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1971. (It had announced that the capital of the Republic would be in Hinds County, Mississippi, located on a member's farm.) In the confrontations, law-enforcement officials were killed and injured. Organization members were prosecuted for the crimes.
The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) listed the Republic of New Afrika as a seditious group due to its advocacy of secession. It conducted raids on its meetings, which led to violent confrontations. It repeatedly arrested and prosecuted certain RNA leaders noted above. The group was a target of the COINTELPRO operation by the FBI, as well as Red Squad activities of Michigan State Police and the Detroit Police Department, among other cities.