Ethnicity: African American
Colors: Black, Blue, Red
Symbols: 6-pointed star –[“Star of David”], Roman Numeral III –[symbolizing the Gates],heart w/ wings, tail and horns
Alias(es): Black Disciple Nation (BDN), BDs, Shorty’s Folks, Tray Folks
Money Clicks: Blue 5 Fin Five BDs, Corleons
Previously Known As: Devils Disciples, (Black) Disciple Nation, Black Gangster Disciples
Estimated Membership: 10,000
Founder: King David Barksdale
Current Leader: Freddie Black
Historical Overview: The Black Disciples (BDs) probably originated in about 1959 or 1960 as the Devils Disciples (also spelled Devil’s Disciples, or DDs for short) in the Kenwood neighborhood on the South Side (Knox, 2004). There is a theory that the gang’s base of operation was encompassed by East 49th St, East 53rd St, South Dorchestor Ave, and South Woodlawn Ave and their stronghold was 53rd & Kimbark. Most contend David Barksdale, who would later be known in gang circles as “King David,” started the group. Don Derkey was a co-founder. It is clear that Barksdale was a principle leader of the gang by the turn of the decade. As the years progressed, the DDs spread throughout the city, establishing several branches and more than likely, aligning with some neighborhood clubs. Some sources contend that the Devils Disciples became the Black Disciples in 1963 or 1964, “the Devils Disciples became the Black Disciples” (Perkins, 1991 ).
the Devils Disciples continued to function as an umbrella group or faction within the larger Black Disciple “Nation.” What is known is that from the early-to-late 1960s (and possibly early 1970s), several South Side gangs, would attach the surname “Disciples” to another moniker. A Chicago Tribune article states that the upper echelon & ruling hierarchy retained the name Black Devils Disciples. Also, Barksdale personally presided over the Gonzato Disciples. Some of the Disciple gangs were branches of the original Devils Disciples that opted to adopt a “clique” or neighborhood title to the Disciple surname. Among the “Disciple gangs” were the Boss Pimp Disciples, Dutch Town Disciples, East Side Disciples, Executioner Disciples, Falcon Disciples, Four-Tray Disciples, Gonzato Disciples, Maniac Disciples, Motown Disciples, Renegade Disciples, Royal Disciples, Sircon Disciples, Six-Tray Disciples, West Side Disciples and Woodlawn Disciples. (Emery: pp. 10-12). Even after 1964, the alleged year of the transformation from Devils Disciples to Black Disciples, many of the other Disciple gangs or factions would continue to be identified by their respective moniker in police files and newspaper articles. By the late-1960s, the Disciples also had affiliate groups on the West Side, including the 16th Street Disciples and the Cermak Disciples. As an aside, it is also contended that Barksdale formed an alliance with the Black Soul Brothers, Del Vikings, and (Black) King Cobras, though it is highly unlikely he controlled these mobs. Jerome “Shorty” Freeman was [a] leader of the King Cobras and he would later ascend to height within the BD organization. He became the president of the Gonzato Disciples under Barksdale's coalition.
There are variant claims as to the origin of the Disciples. A Chicago Tribune article claims that the gang originated in the 1950s as the Gents: “In 1967, it became a coalition organization called the Disciple Nation with Barksdale in complete control” (Boyce and Jones, Chicago Tribune, June 22, 1969: p. 4). So if this source is corroborated, then the alliance of Disciples didn’t appear until 1967, which would mean that Barksdale’s Black Disciples functioned for a three or four years before uniting other south side gangs. “King David was really Donise David Barksdale, born May 24, 1947, the seventh child of Charlie and Virginia Barksdale. David Barksdale died on September 2, 1974 at the age of 27, from kidney failure as a result of a rival gang gunshot injury sustained four years earlier. He was buried in Restvale Cemetery” (Knox, 2004). He was a traditional gang leader, being able to rule because of his street smarts and toughness. He was also a skilled boxer. It is rumored that he competed as a golden glove, and during his reign as Disciple chief, he often sparred and worked at a boxing gym. In the 1960s, the Disciples were recipients of the $927,341 anti-poverty grant made to The Woodlawn Organization (TWO), though the Black P. Stones received most of the actual positions of power within the job program. This, besides turf and bravado, was the reason the gangs became such bitter enemies. The war between the Stones and Disciples that emerged in the 60s was one Chicago’s most bloodiest and well documented. In May 1968, Cook County jail Supt. Winston Moore organized a meeting between Black P. Stone leader Jeff Fort and Barksdale at the county. “Moore said he invited Fort [. . .] and Barksdale [. . .] to a conference in his office to end gang violence on the south side” (Chicago Tribune, May 9th, 1968). At the time of the meeting, jury selection was taking place for the trail of Eugene “Bull” Hairston, who at the time exercised control of the Stones along with Fort. Hairston was facing murder charges. Also during the meeting, members of the Disciples and Stones got into an altercation outside the courtroom. The incident was squelched and apparently, nothing became of the proposed peace treaty. That same day, Barksdale informed authorities that the Stones had put a hit on him. Subsequently, three detectives --Richard Peck, Donald Foulkes, and Sidney Clark-- trailed Barksdale in an unmarked squad car to 65th & Union where he was ambushed with gunfire. Though the vehicle had been riddled with bullet holes, neither Barksdale nor the two passengers in his car were injured. Three Stones would be charged with the attempted murder, including Andrew McChristian, who was part of the Stone’s Main 21 governing body. Barksdale would later recant his statements to law enforcement regarding the incident. In May of 1970, McChristian was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder against Barksdale. He reported paid members of the Stones $1.00 a pieace for the hit!
In September 1968, Booker Ransom, the leader of the East Side Disciples, was killed by Black P. Stone LeRoy Hairston. LeRoy was the younger brother of Black P. Stones co-founder, Eugene Hairston. Mingo Shread would succeed him as the leader of the East Side D’s by 1969. At this time, Orthis Commander led the West Side Disciples. The East Side Disciples and West Side Disciples were two of the more larger, prominent factions of Barksdale’s gang.
The Stones and Disciples continued to gun each other down in 1968 until another peace treaty took place on July 20th. The meeting took place in the Midway Plaisance (a strip of foliage and grassland paralleled by two east/west streets on either side) near the corner of 59th & Dorchester next to the University of Chicago. Though there had been several announcements of peace between the Stones and Disciples throughout the 1960s, this particular one is famed for the sheer number of gang members who turned out. An estimated two-hundred (200) gang members attended the meeting, which culminated with a unity march through Woodlawn (Chicago Tribune, July 21st, pg. A9). However, this peace treaty didn’t last long either. On June 7th, 1970, Barksdale was shot in the abdomen as he exited a tavern at 848 West 69th Street. This wound would prove to be fatal as Barksdale later died in 1974 due to complications he suffered from the gunshot. The Blackstones of course were credited with the shooting.
The Stones were not the only enemy the Disciples had to contend with. They fought several other groups such as the Double Six Kings and Satan Lovers but principally, the Gangsters. The Disciples and Gangsters were involved in a heated battle for control of Englewood in the late-1960s. In October 1968, two “Devils Disciples” members were reported in “true bills” by a grand jury for the shooting of Larry Hoover, then 18, the previous month. The Disciple members were James Highsmith and Leonard Longstreet. Hoover was the president of the Supreme Gangsters. In April 1969, Nicholas Dorenzo, a former high-ranking Disciple, was shot. Dorenzo oversaw a $6,500-a-year federal anti-poverty project, but had testified about the misuse of those funds to a Senate subcommittee hearing. His assassination attempt was more than likely issued by the Disciple leadership. Barksdale aligned his gang with Hoover’s Gangster Nation coalition, which consisted of several confederate gangs under his control. This new entity would be known as the Black Gangster Disciples (BGDs). The merger between Barksdale’s and Hoover’s organizations may have occurred in 1969 (Emery, p. 14). In the Gangster Nation, there were the following gangs: Imperial Gangsters, African Sniper Gangsters, Raven Gangsters, High Supreme Gangsters, Russian Gangsters, Maniac Gangsters, Mafia Gangsters, 75th Street Syndicate Gangsters, Outlaw Gangsters, 95th Street Supreme Gangsters, the Dells Gangsters, West Side Supreme Gangsters, Racketeer Gangsters, East Side Syndicate Gangsters, Gent-Town Gangsters, and the Black Pimp Gangsters of the West Side.
In 1972, younger brother to David’s, 12-year old Eugene Barksdale, was kidnapped from Residential School for Boys. There is no indication as to who was responsible for the act.
In 1974, King David died of complications from a bullet wound he suffered years earlier. Afterwards, in 1978, the Black Gangster Disciples splintered, leaving Freeman in charge of the Black Disciples and Hoover in charge of the Black Gangster Disciples. Both gang nonetheless joined the Folks alliance. The Black Gangsters broke away from the BGDs in the 1978 also.
In the 1980s, the BDs began to feud with the BGDs over drug turf. In the Robert Taylor Homes, the BDs were able to rest away two buildings on 45th and Federal, while the GDs controlled five buildings from 43rd to 44th, Federal to State. Nightly gunfire was exchanged until a truce was called. In 1990, Freeman was convicted of narcotics distribution and sentenced to 28 years in prison. His last residence was Tamms Maximum Security prison until he was released on parole in March 2005. Freeman insisted to law enforcement officials that he had stepped down from his leadership position, which probably was done as a means to win him parole In the early 1990s, a bloody war erupted in Englewood pitting the Black Disciples against the BGDs. After this war, the BGDs dropped the “B” from their insignia to further distance themselves from the Black Disciples. This may have also been the time when BDs began to publicly drop the pitchforks and “throw up the trays” in their hand-signs. Around 1994, the BDs were able to “flip” two major GD sets in the “Low End” section of the city’s southside: the 5th Ward and New Town. 5th Ward had long been GD turf, located in the vicinity of 46th street and Evans Avenue. New Town was the entire Madden Park Homes housing project, including three high-rise buildings on 37th and 38th and Ellis. Prior to the flipping, the leaders of the Madden Park Homes GDs, “Chuck” and “Rimrod” were killed by the Darrow Homes and/or Ida B. Wells Gangster Disciples. A Board Member who controlled the entire Low End was said to have gone into the Madden Park Homes and disrespect Chuck, who probably owed him drug money. This prompted the set to switch alliance to the BDs.
Two famed incidents involving the BDs and youth occurred in the early 90's. The first was when a youth named Dantrell was killed by a sniper's bullet in the Cabrini Green houising project in 1992. The youth was a nephew of BD chiefton, Shorty Freeman, and his execution sparked outrage throughout the city and prompted the black gangs to appear in interviews announcing a truce, which was short lived and mainly served as a publicity stunt geared to steer public pressure away them. The second incident was when in 1994, 11-year-old Robert “Yummy” Sandifer, a member of the Black Disciples street gang in Chicago's Roseland neighborhood, shot and killed 14-year-old Shavon Dean and wounded two other children. Sandifer himself then disappeared. An intensive police search for Sandifer ensued until Sandifer's body was found under a viaduct at 108th Street and Dauphin Avenue shortly after midnight on September 1. He had been shot twice in the back of the head by members of his own gang due to attention the attention the Dean murder garnered, which prompted police pressure on BD strongholds.
"In 2000, Freeman stepped down from gang activity, leaving Marvel “King Vel” Thompson as “a” leader of the BDN. There was actually some contention between Vel's group and anotehr faction loyal to Freeman, as the later group considered Vel to be moer or less an "appointed king" or "supreme minister." King Vel then allegedly started the Blue Fin Black Disciples. Under his leadership, several southside BD sets broke away from the “nation.” These particular BDs are said to identify to the left, ride under a blue five-pointed star, and have a working relationship with the Mickey Cobras thus making them People in actuality. In fact, some members opt to “ride with” the Stones while incarcerated. They are considered renegade by other BD chapters. There is a theory which suggests the Blue Five BDs actually started in the various high schools, and was never an "organized faction" but more or less, a clique. Nevertheless, many Blue Fin BDs worked for Vel, which brought about the theory that he authorized their development. (This information is still in the process of being corroberated). In any event, recent sourced indicate most of the Blue 5's have reunited within the BDN or decided to ride under a concept known as "Barnone," which is basically renengade,but without the "blue five pointed star" manifesto/symbol. In February 2006, 43 members of the Black Disciple street gang charged with drug conspiracy were convicted in federal court. These particular BDs were controlled by Marvell Thompson. There main stronghold was the Randolph Towers high rise project building, dubbed the “Calumet Building.”
Hierarchal Organization The Black Disciples have two separate leadership structures, one for the streets and one for the prison system. For the streets, ranking positions include “kings,” “dons,” “board of directors or bm’s,” “ministers,” “co-ministers,” “first demetrius,” “enforcers,” and “soldiers.” “Each set or dynasty also has the following temporary positions of rank that exist underneath the First Demetrius: (1) chief of violations, (2) chief of security, and (3) assistant chief of security. These positions may rotate periodically, because the labor is basically unrewarded (the responsibility outweighs the authority and economic benefits)” (Knox, 2002). For the prisons, the ranks include, “directors,” “cell house directors,” “security,” “treasurers,” “co-ministers,” and “soldiers.” (Chicago Crime Commission, 2002 and Knox). The BD chiefton, Jerome "Shorty" Freeman was sentenced to 4 years in Stateville prison for armed robbery in 1978. It was at this time that he decided to splinter a his own nation away from Larry Hoover's Black Gangster Disciples and in so doing, reform the Black Disciple Nation. Presumably, Shorty felt slighted as being confined in prison allowed him to get a first hand glimpse of Hoover's power, and his subserviant status. Once relased he built the BD empire and cemented his legacy as "King" of the nation, equating his status to that of David Barksdale. Freeman was incarcerated again on drug charges in 1990, and received a 28-year sentence. However, as early as 1991, a new BD chiefton was claming his supremacy on the streets. In a meeting at what was then considered the "headquarters" for the gang (the area of 60th & Normal), Marvell Thompson proclaimed that he was the new king of the Nation, and all members were to follow his orders. Of course, there was still a group loyal to Shorty who disavowed Thompson, and incidents of conflict arised between the groups in the early 1990's. In 2004, a joint federal and local investigation culminated in the arrests of Marvell “King Vell” Thompson and several of his subordinates in Operation Marvel-less. Thompson ‘s main base of operation was the Calumet Building, in which drug dealers searched people who entered the building and at times, secured the building with rooftop snipers. While law enforcement identified Thompson as “king of the BDs” and while he may have even appropriated this title to himself, according to sources, most BDs saw him as “supreme minister” and not “king.” Also, according to street sources, the BDs still honor “King Shorty” Jerome Freeman as supreme chief of the gang, though he reportedly told law enforcement that he stepped down from his leadership position (c2001). Other high-ranking BDs are Melvin Herbert “chairman of the board,” Arthur Robinson, “board member”, who is serving a term in USP McCreary until 2020, Varney "Twin" Voker and Corey Evans, "board members," serving federal time, Albert Span, a reputed “king”, who is serving a life sentence in federal prison, and Donnell “Scan” Jehan a reputed “king” and a fugitive from justice (CCC 2002). Jehan, a reputed ”king” in the organization, Leasean Ford, and Finnie Hawkins were fugitives at the time of the arrests and made America’s Most Wanted. Hawkins and Ford were later captured while Jehan remained at large. The BDs were in the process of restructuring, in which three kings were to lead the nation with Thompson, Jehan, and Span, each having their own chapters and sphere of influence within the organization.
Bases of Operation: The Black Disciples have about 10,000 members nationwide (throughout the United States), both in prison and on the streets. They are heavily concentrated in Englewood and Park Manor. In Englewood, the gang has several sets along South Normal Blvd, South Halsted Avenue and South Marshfield Avenue, and have territory from West 59th Street to West 73rd street, Halsted to the Dan Ryan Expressway. In The Park Manor/Washington Park area, the gang controlled the Randolph Towers housing project building, known as the “Calumet Building”, which was demolisehd a few years ago. They also have the Parkway Gardens Apartments along with “sets” or “tips” located along South Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive from 59th street to 79th street. They also have a heavy presence in the Altgeld Gardens housing project, and Fernwood, Roseland, Morgan Park and West Pullman in the “Wild 100’s.” Additionally, the gang has spheres of influence in Beverly, Brainerd, Chatham-Avalon, Jackson Park, Gresham, and South Shore. They also have an influence in suburbs such as Calumet Heights, Maywood, and Waukegan, and other states such as Georgia, Alabama, Wisconsin, and Indiana.
Method of Operation/Culture: The Black Disciples hold annual picnics at Ogden Park near 63rd and Racine of the 24th or 25th of May. The gang is also known for throwing block parties in Roseland and Altgeld Gardens. Members refer to each other as “folks” or “tray folks.” When a new recruit is officially recruited into the gang he is “blessed” or “plugged in.” Most times, this is only requires a BD of rank to place three fingers (the trays) on the head of the new recruit. Some BD mottos are “trays for days,” “B-D-N,” and “King Shorty run it.” Quite a few members of the Black Disciples are “hip-hoppers” or “b-boys,” who pride themselves in wearing the latest fashion (a.k.a. “gear”). Popular clothing among BDs are Addidas and Nike sweat suits, Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers apparel, Timbaland boots and Nike Air Force 1’s gym shoes. When selling drugs when the weather permits, most members wear white t-shirts and blue jeans. Those who can afford it purchase expensive leather Pelle Pelle or Averiz jackets, “Chin Chillas” fur coats for colder weather, and also wear gold chains, often with the 6-pointed star or cross emblem. BDs who “ride under” the blue 5-pointed star wear Dallas Cowboys apparel. High-ranking members often wore suits, trendy casual clothing and expensive dress shoes (gators, etc.). Members mostly have fades or braided/corn-rolled hair. The BDs' principle act is the illicit selling of narcotics, particularly, crack cocaine, powder cocaine, heroin, and marijuana. They have also been known to sponsor hughe gambling rings, in which dice games were played. Also, dog fighting in more common within the BDN than other gangs, and the members gamble on the outocme of thse fights as well. Other criminal acts include graffiti, assault, battery, theft, armed robbery, kidnapping, torture, shootings, and murder. It weas revealed in the case against Thompson than the BDs laundered a vast amount of wealth in illegitimate front businesses as may have paid off police and politicians (alderman). The BDs longtime traditional enemy has been the Black P. Stones. The gang has had wars with the Stones in the 1990s, but not as often as they've warred with the Gangster Disciples, especially in the Robert Taylor Homes, on the Low End, and in Englewood. However, Blue Fin BDs are known to share turf with both Gangster Disciples and Mickey Cobras. Traditional BDs too in other parts of the city, such as Beverly and pockets in Englewood have begun to share turf with the Gds. The gang has also had its share of disputes with the Four Corner Hustlers of Jackson Park and West Pullman. Additionally, the BDs have a tight relationship with the New Breeds (Black Gangsters) in the prison system. The gang has active members and recruits at Englewood Prep H.S., Harper H.S., Dunbar H.S., Fenger H.S., Robeson H.S., Hyde Park H.S., and Julian H.S.
Iconography: The six-pointed star was adopted to honor “King” David Barksdale. The 6 points of the star are Love Life Loyalty Knowledge Wisdom and Understanding. The Gates (III) symbolizing the keeping of David Barksdale out of hell and also represents a "third world" philosophy, in which they considered themselves victim of imperialism and opression. The three stands for “mind,” “body,” and “soul.” In their literature (or “lit”) the BDs also use the heart with wings and tail but rarely tag these symbols. Also, in their original lit, their symbols included the pitchforks, however they not only don't use these symbols, they seldom “drop the forks,” both in graffiti as hand-signs as a sign of disrespect to the GDN.
Factions: We’re still trying to obtain more information about the Black Disciple factions which include the Corleons and Blue Fin (Five) Black Disciples. It is said that "Fat Reggie" founded the Black Fin BDN. Many speculate that the gang started in Paul Laurence Dunbar H.S. They were and still are tight with the Mickey Cobras. The two gangs share territory in two locales: 65th & Maryland Ave. and 59th & Martin Luther King Drive.The Blue Fin Black Disciples are also under a blue five pointed star and a red six pointed star. they do not consider themselves a renegade faction but rather "Barnone." Barnone is an indicator of their legitimacy within the larger Almighty Black Disciple Nation.
The Corleons are believed to have originated in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This theory states that the CBD's were founded by Don Jones alias: Don Derkey. In the year 1996 the Corleons migrated to West Pullman. They have the following dynasties: 116th & emerald and 118th & Peoria. The CBD's are under a Red Rose, and the other Almighty Black Disciples Nation symbols.
Adams & Leavitt in the St. Stephens Terrace Apts.
Jackson & Damen in the Damen Courts Apts.
Monroe & Albany
45th & Wabash
<_”5th Ward,” 44th to 46th, Evans to Vernon
45th & St. Lawrence
46th & Evans_>
54th & Indiana “Black Gate City”
55th & State (shared w/GDs and MCs)
56th & Calumet
59th & Normal “D-Town”
59th & Hermitage
59th & Elizabeth
59th & King Dr. (Blue 5’s)(shared w/MCs)
60th & Normal "The Castle"
61st & Normal "Lamron"
61st & Wabash
61st & King Dr. “Murder Drive”
63rd & King Dr. (shared w/GDs)
63rd to 64th & Racine “Ogden Park”
64th & Lowe
64th & Stewart
64th & Normal
64th to 65th & Maryland "Young Money" (Blue 5's)
64th to 65th & King Drive in the Parkway Gardens Apts. "New Town" (Blue 5’s) (shared w/GDs and "regular" BDs)
65th & Stony Island
65th & Wood
66th & Parnell
67th & Cottage Grove "Crushville"
<_”Dark Side, 67th to 69th, Green to Normal,
67th & Halsted
67th & Lowe
67th & Harvard
68th & Green (shared w/GDs)
69th & Halsted
69th & Union_>
68th & Hoyne
69th & Marshfield “Smashville”
71st & Racine "Emmet Till Valley"
71st & King Drive “The 1” (Blue 5’s, sahred w/ "regular BDs")
73rd & Racine “7-Trey/Trey Ward” (shared w/GDs)
73rd & Halsted “Dog Pound”
73rd & Ridgeland “Ridge Town”
79th & Morgan
<_”Lon City, 79th Street, State to St. Lawrence
79th & Calumet
79th & Vernon_>
79th & Ellis (shared w/GDs)?
79th & Crandon
82nd & Cottage Grove
83rd & Ellis
93rd & Justine
93rd & Loomis
99th & Yale
99th & Malta (shared w/GDs)
100th & Michigan “Death Row” and 100thpl. & Michigan “Thriller”
107th & Perry “Dirty Perry”
107th & Edbrooke
111th & Vincennes
116th & Emerald and 118th & Peoria “Rag Town” (Corleons)
117th & Princeton (115th to 118th, State to Wentworth)
120thpl. & State
123rd to 126th, Halsted to Union “Trigga Town” (shared w/GDs)
131st & Corliss “Block 7” in the Altgeld Gardens
Calumet City, IL
Calumet Park, IL
Chicago Heights, IL
Evanston, IL l
Taft Homes in Peoria, IL
Little Rock and North Little Rock, Arkansas
Winter Springs, Florida
Gary, Hammond, and South Bend, Indiana
New Orleans, Louisiana
Brooklyn and Queens in New York City, New York
Memphis and Millington, Tennessee
Madison and Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Former known sets:
ABLA Homes "The Village" (shared w/New Breeds)
18th & Pulaski
35th & Federal and 37th & Federal in Stateway Gardens "Stateville"
37th & Ellis in the Madden Park Homes (37th-39th, Cottage Grove-Ellis) “New Town”
45th & Federal "Shortyville aka "3rd World" and 48th & Federal "4848" in the Robert Taylor Homes
53rd & Kimbark (Devils Disciples)
64th & Peoria "The Church" (Devils Disciples)
108th & Wentworth “8-Ball”
Emery, Rod. From Gangster Disciples to Blueprint: Growth and Development (Morris Publishers)
Knox, George. Gang Threat Analysis: The Black Disciples. 2004. Accessed from http://www.ngcrc.com/bdprofile.html.
Perkins, Useni. Explosion of Chicago’s Black Street Gangs: 1900 to Present.