Who was George Jackson?
George Jackson was an African-American, who co-founded the 'The Black Guerrilla Family', a Marxist revolutionary organisation. His life story is a constant reminder of how the human spirit takes its stand even while being physically locked down. A revolutionist in the making, Jackson made efforts to eradicate racism and provide safety and dignity to prison inmates. He was imprisoned after he was found guilty of robbing at a gas station at gun point. He spent much of his time in prison reading voraciously and studying political economy and radical theory. He would also spend time writing his thoughts. He also wrote to many of his friends and supporters from prison.These writings were later made into the well-known books, 'Soledad Brother' and 'Blood in My Eye'. He widely condemned racism and was critical of the prison system, which took the lives of his close friends. The letters that he wrote from prison were a reflection of the rebellious sprit and the rage at the system that were filled in the minds of African-American men at that point in time. At the young age of 29, he was shot dead in prison, in what is believed to have been an escape attempt.
Childhood & Early Life
George Lester Jackson was born in Chicago, Illinois, United States to Lester and Georgia Bea Jackson. He had four siblings.
Since there were several juvenile convictions against him, including assault, burglary and armed robbery, he had to go to the California Youth Authority Corrections facility in Paso Robles for a while.
In 1961, he was sentenced to prison for a year for armed robbery. At the age of eighteen, he had robbed gas from a gas station, putting employees at the station at gun point.
At the San Quentin State Prison, he became a part of a revolutionary group and simultaneously assaulted many prison guards and inmates. This was the reason his imprisonment was extended.
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In 1966, while still in prison, he became acquainted with W.L. Nolen, who played a crucial role in introducing him to the Marxist and Maoist ideology. The duo soon formed a close friendship.
In 1966, along with W.L. Nolen, he co-founded the African-American Marxist revolutionary organization, ‘The Black Guerrilla Family'. At that time they were still in prison.
After he became involved in ‘The Black Guerrilla Family', he became more disciplined as a person and spent much of his time studying political economy and radical theory.
Spending more and more time in solitary confinement he began to read voraciously. He also wrote many letters to his friends and supporters. These were later published as books, 'Soledad Brother' and 'Blood in My Eye'.
It is believed that after he met Huey Percy Newton in jail, he became a part of the 'Black Panther Party. Newton was the co-founder of the 'Black Panther Party', a black revolutionary socialist organization.
In 1969, along with W.L. Nolen, he was shifted from San Quentin to Soledad prison in Monterey County, California. The following year, W.L. Nolen was shot dead by a prison guard along with two other inmates, after they got into a riot with members of the Aryan Brotherhood, a white supremacist organisation.
After the death of his dear friend, W.L. Nolen, he became very revengeful and stressed on the need for safety precautions for other prisoners. He also became very confrontational.
On January, 16, 1970, along with Fleeta Drumgo and John Clutchette, he was charged for the murder of a prison guard named, John V. Mills. Mills was beaten and thrown from the third floor.
On August 7, 1970, Jonathan Jackson, his 17 year old brother walked into the Marin County courtroom. He freed the prisoners and took hostages, a judge, Deputy District Attorney and three jurors, demanding the release of the 'Soledad Brothers', Jackson, Fleeta Drumgoole and John Clutchette.
On August 21, 1971, he was gunned down to death by prison guards in San Quentin Prison, three days before the commencement of his murder trial. Prison officials, described it as an escape attempt.
Personal Life & Legacy
He was shot to death at the San Quentin Prison at the age of 29, in what was believed to be an escape attempt. On August 28, 1971, his funeral was organised at the St. Augustine's Episcopal Church in Oakland, California.
In November 1971, singer Bob Dylan dedicated the song, ‘George Jackson’ in his honour. The song was about his life and death.
In 1972, Archie Shepp, a saxophone player dedicated most parts of his album, ' Attica Blues' in his honour.
In 2003, American rapper, Ja Rule named his album, ' Blood In My Eye', which was after Jackson's book of the same title.
In 1998, Stanley Williams dedicated his book, 'Life in Prison' to him.
The 2007 film, ‘Black August’, directed by Samm Styles was based on his life. The film covered the last fourteen months of his life.