The Black Disciple Gangster Nation (BDGN) is a gang that was formed in the south side of Chicago in 1960 when two rival gangs, the Black Disciple Nation (led by David Barksdale) and the Gangster Nation (led by Larry Hoover) combined to become one group under co-leadership. The decision to merge the two gangs came from a fear that gang warfare would decimate the black youth of the region.
The Black Disciple Gangster Nation re-created themselves as a business organization opening community centers and offering jobs to local people. Reverend Jesse Jackson was a frequent visitor who encouraged BGDN and other gangs to be politically active in demanding job opportunities in the construction industry and to foster accountability from local businesses.
The Black Disciple Gangster Nation changed from a community organization back into a gang with an influx of drugs into the area. Experts theorize that flooding the market with drugs was intentional by politicians to imprison community-oriented blacks and hippies to suppress any dissent and prevent them from voting.
David Barksdale continued to try and improve the Englewood neighborhood, while Larry Hoover put out a hit on a man who was subsequently shot in the head multiple times. Barksdale died in 1974 of complications from internal damage suffered in a shooting. Hoover got arrested and went to prison and continued to run the gang from behind bars.
Larry Hoover made a statement in the 1990s claiming that he had put his violent past behind him and that “GD” now meant Growth and Development, not Gangster Disciples. Many were skeptical, including the Chicago Tribune. The newspaper, however, acknowledged the power of Hoover’s political activism to combat systemic racism, which then included a political action committee dubbed V.O.T.E.
Larry Hoover was given another life sentence in 1993 after federal officials wiretapped him in prison and charged him with drugs, extortion and running a 30,000-member criminal enterprise from behind bars. The DEA labeled Hoover’s conviction as the “beginning of the end” for the Black Disciples Gangster Nation.
Rapper Kanye West appealed to President Donald Trump in 2018 for Hoover’s release. He was accompanied to the Oval Office by Hoover’s attorney, who explained that Hoover is being held in the Colorado Supermax prison alongside killers for “economic crimes” and that he was unfairly targeted because he was gaining political power from the Chicago community.
The Black Disciples Gangster Nation colors are blue and black, and they use a Star of David-like tattoo with tridents protruding from the upper angles as their symbol.
The Black Disciples Gangster Nation initiate new members with beat-downs by fellow gang members, murders, and other violent crimes.
The Black Disciples Gangster Nation is one of the primary drug-dealing organizations in the Midwest, selling up to $100 million in drugs per year.
The Black Disciple Gangster Nation was responsible for the death of Army sergeant Juwan Williams during a brutal initiation beating that included kicks to the head. Eight fellow soldiers were tried in connection with the death. The F.B.I. released a report in 2011 that revealed that at least 53 gangs are represented in the military, particularly the branches of the Army.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms says the Black Disciple Gangster Nation remains strong, with 30,000 members around Chicago and in 30 other states. Many were recruited while in prison.
Several Black Disciple Gangster Nation members were sentenced to prison in 2014, for shooting up an apartment complex in Memphis in retaliation for intimidating a member.
Twenty-two members of the Black Disciple Gangster Nation received indictments for murder in 2016 including one county police officer who warned gang members about police raids and acted as a hitman.