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George Jackson (Black Panther)

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George Jackson (Black Panther)

} |death_place = San Quentin, California, U.S. |death_cause = Shooting |nationality = United States |known_for = Prison activist[2] In 1961 he was convicted of armed robbery, for robbing $70 from a gas station at gunpoint and at age 18 was sentenced to serve one year to life in prison.[3]

During his first years at San Quentin State Prison, Jackson became involved in revolutionary activity, as well as assaults on guards and fellow inmates. Such behavior, in turn, was used to justify his continued incarceration on an indeterminate sentence. He was described by prison officials as egocentric and anti-social.[4] In 1966, Jackson met and befriended W.L. Nolen who introduced him to Marxist and Maoist ideology. The two founded the Black Guerrilla Family in 1966 based on Marxist and Maoist political thought.[5] In speaking of his ideological transformation, Jackson remarked "I met Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Engels, and Mao when I entered prison and they redeemed me."[6]

As Jackson's disciplinary infractions grew he spent more time in solitary confinement, where he studied sociopath, a very personable hoodlum" who "didn’t give a shit about the revolution." He did amass a following of inmates including whites and Hispanics although with less enthusiasm than his fellow black inmates.[7]

According to David Horowitz, Jackson joined the Black Panther Party after meeting Huey P. Newton in jail.[8]

In January 1969, Jackson and Nolen were transferred from San Quentin to Soledad prison.[9] On January 13, 1970, Nolen and two other black inmates were shot to death by guard Opie G. Miller during a yard riot with members of the Aryan Brotherhood. Following the death of Nolen, Jackson became increasingly confrontational with corrections officials and spoke often about the need to protect fellow inmates and take revenge on guards for Nolen’s death in what Jackson referred to as “selective retaliatory violence.”[10]

On January 17, 1970, Jackson was charged along with Fleeta Drumgo and John Clutchette for murdering guard John V. Mills, who was beaten and thrown from the third floor of Soledad’s Y wing[11] This was a capital offense and a successful conviction could put Jackson in the gas chamber. Mills, an inexperienced rookie, was murdered, supposedly in retaliation for the shooting deaths of Nolen and the other two black inmates by officer Miller the year prior. Miller was not convicted of any crime, a grand jury ruling his actions to be justifiable homicide.[12]

Marin County courthouse incident

On August 7, 1970, George Jackson's 17-year-old brother Jonathan Jackson burst into a Marin County courtroom with an automatic weapon, freed prisoners James McClain, William A. Christmas and Ruchell Magee, and took Judge Harold Haley, Deputy District Attorney Gary Thomas, and three jurors hostage to demand the release of the "Soledad Brothers." Haley, Jackson, Christmas and McClain were killed as they attempted to drive away from the courthouse. Eyewitness testimony suggests Haley was hit by fire discharged from a sawed-off shotgun that had been fastened to his neck with adhesive tape by the abductors. Thomas, Magee and one of the jurors were wounded.[13] The case made national headlines.

Angela Davis, accused of buying the weapons, was later acquitted of conspiracy, kidnapping, and murder. A possible explanation for the gun connection is that Jonathan Jackson was her bodyguard. Magee, the sole survivor among the attackers, eventually pleaded guilty to aggravated kidnapping and was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1975.[14] Magee is currently imprisoned in Corcoran State Prison and has lost numerous bids for parole.


On August 21, 1971, Jackson met with attorney Stephen Bingham on a civil lawsuit Jackson had filed against the California Department of Corrections. After the meeting, Jackson was escorted by officer Urbano Rubico back to his cell when Rubico noticed a metallic object in Jackson’s hair, later revealed to be a wig, and ordered him to remove it. Jackson then pulled a Spanish Astra 9 mm pistol from beneath the wig and said "Gentlemen, the dragon has come"—a reference to Ho Chi Minh.[15] It isn't clear how Jackson obtained the gun. Bingham, who lived for 13 years as a fugitive before returning to the United States to face trial, was acquitted of charges that he smuggled a gun to Jackson.[16]

Jackson then ordered Rubico to open all the cells and along with several other inmates they overpowered the remaining guards and took them, along with two inmates hostage. Six of the hostages were killed and found in Jackson’s cell, including guards Jere Graham, Frank DeLeon and Paul Krasnes and two white prisoners. Guards Kenneth McCray, Charles Breckenridge and Urbano Rubico had been shot and stabbed as well, but survived.[17] After finding the keys for the Adjustment Center's exit, Jackson along with fellow inmate and close friend Johnny Spain escaped to the yard where Jackson was shot dead and Spain surrendered.[18] Jackson was killed just three days prior to the start of his murder trial for the 1970 slaying of guard John Mills.[19]

Three inmates were acquitted and three were convicted for the murders: David Johnson, Johnny Spain and Hugo Pinell.[20] They became known as the San Quentin Six.[21]

There is some evidence, however, that Jackson and his supporters on the outside had planned the escape for several weeks. Three days before the escape attempt, Jackson rewrote his will leaving all royalties as well as control of his legal defense fund, which had become very well-funded with the donations of wealthy leftists, to the Black Panther Party.[22] Some Black Guerrilla Family members claimed that Newton had used his contacts within Soledad to hamper Jackson’s release as he did not want a potential rival for power to be freed.[23][24]

Jackson's funeral was held at St. Augustine's Episcopal Church in Oakland, California on August 28, 1971.[25]

In popular culture

Many notable artists and entertainers have dedicated their work to Jackson's memory or created works based on his life. A non-album single was released by [26]

Lombroso's legacy, trying to escape after eleven years (eight and a half in solitary) of an indeterminate one-year-to-life sentence for stealing seventy dollars from a gas station.""[27]

Jackson's life, beliefs and ultimate fate were the topic of one of the many audio tapes recorded at the

Arnold Schwarzenegger's response to Williams' appeal for clemency, the governor claimed that this dedication was "a significant indicator that Williams is not reformed and that he still sees violence and lawlessness as a legitimate means to address societal problems."

The 2007 film Black August is a retelling of the last fourteen months of Jackson's life.[28]

British reggae band Tribute to the Martyrs.

In Part II, "Cargo Rap," of the novel

  • Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson – online text of Jackson's 1970 book
  • Remembering the Real Dragon: An Interview with George Jackson – by Karen Wald, May and June 1971
  • George Jackson: Black Revolutionary – pro-Jackson article by Walter Rodney, November 1971
  • A collection of George Jackson quotes

Jackson's writings, interview, advocacy of his views

  • FBI file on George Jackson

External links

  • Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson (1970); ISBN 1-55652-230-4
  • Blood In My Eye (1971); ISBN 0-933121-23-7
  • Min S Yee. The Melancholy History of Soledad Prison; In Which a Utopian Scheme Turns Bedlam (1973); ISBN 0-06-129800-X
  • Eric Mann. Comrade George; An Investigation into the Life, Political Thought, and Assassination of George Jackson (1974); ISBN 978-0-06-080318-6
  • P. Collier and D. Horowitz; Destructive Generation (1996); ISBN 978-0-684-82641-7
  • Jo Durden-Smith. Who Killed George Jackson? (1976); ISBN 0-394-48291-3

Further reading


See also


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