George Jackson (Black Panther): Wikis

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Cover of Soledad Brother

George Lester Jackson (September 23, 1941 – August 21, 1971) was an American convict, who became a communist and a member of the Black Panther Party while in prison, where he spent the last 12 years of his life. He was one of the Soledad Brothers and achieved fame due to a book of published letters.

Contents

Biography

Born in Chicago Illinois, Jackson spent time in the California Youth Authority Corrections facility in Paso Robles because of several convictions. He was convicted of armed robbery, a felony, for robbing a gas station at gunpoint and at age 18 was sentenced to serve one year to life in prison.

While at San Quentin State Prison in 1966, he founded the Black Guerrilla Family, a Marxist prison gang with political objectives.

On 16 January 1970 along with Fleeta Drumgo and John Clutchette he was charged with murdering guard John V. Mills in retaliation for the shooting deaths of three black inmates by officer O.G. Miller from his guard tower; both the shooting and the retaliation took place inside Soledad Prison. Miller however was not convicted of any crime, a grand jury ruling his actions to be justifiable homicide in response to a fight that had broken out.[1] Incarcerated in the maximum security cellblock at Soledad Prison, Jackson and the other two inmates became known as the "Soledad Brothers".

Isolated in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day, Jackson studied political economy and radical theory and wrote two books, Blood in My Eye and Soledad Brother, which became bestsellers and brought him worldwide attention.

Marin County incident

On 7 August 1970 George Jackson's 17-year-old brother Jonathan Jackson burst into a Marin County courtroom with an automatic weapon, freed three San Quentin prisoners, and took Judge Harold Haley, Deputy District Attorney Gary Thomas and three jurors hostage to demand freedom for the "Soledad Brothers". The weapons had been bought by Angela Davis.

Judge Haley and prisoners William Christmas, James McClain, and Jonathan Jackson 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, prisoner Ruchell Magee and one of the jurors were wounded.[2] The case made national headlines.

Ruchell Magee (born 1939), the sole survivor among the militants who attacked the court, was convicted for Haley's kidnapping and murder and sentenced to life imprisonment, which he is serving in Corcoran State Prison; he has lost numerous bids for parole.

Jackson's death

On August 21, 1971, three days before he was to go on trial, 29 year old George Jackson was shot and killed at San Quentin prison.

According to the state of California, lawyer-activist Stephen Bingham had smuggled a pistol concealed in a tape recorder into the prison to Jackson, who was housed in San Quentin's Adjustment Center time awaiting trial for the murder of a prison guard. On August 21, 1971, Jackson, according to the state, used the pistol, an Astra 9-mm semi-automatic, to take over his tier in the Adjustment Center. Six people were killed, including prison guards Jere Graham, Frank DeLeon and Paul Krasnes, two white prisoners, and Jackson himself.

French intellectuals like Michel Foucault and Jean Genet argued that Jackson's death was a "political assassination."[3]

Following the incident, Bingham fled the country, living in Europe for 13 years before surrendering in 1984 and returning to the United States to stand trial, where he was acquitted of all charges.

The Bingham trial

In the Stephen Bingham case, defense attorney M. Gerald Schwartzbach successfully defended Bingham. Bingham himself explained that he had fled the country and remained on the run for so many years as he had believed it would have been impossible to receive a fair trial since the crime of which he was accused resulted in the death of prison guards. Bingham was acquitted in July 1986.

Tributes

There is a non-album single released by Bob Dylan titled "George Jackson" about the plight and death of Jackson.[4] The song made the American charts peaking at #33 in January 1972.[5]

Marxist punk blues band The Dicks released an original composition titled "George Jackson" on their 1980-1986 compilation, in which singer Gary Floyd proclaims "You were my hero."

Steel Pulse, who performed Bob Dylan's composition "George Jackson," on the album African Holocaust also sang about "George Jackson, Soledad brother" in the song "Uncle George" on their much earlier critically acclaimed Tribute to the Martyrs album.

J. P. Robinson, A Florida based Soul & R&B singer cut a version of 'George Jackson' that appeared on the Atco label (6298) in 1972. This is available on Kent/Ace Cd 'Change is Gonna Come: The Voice of Black America'

Archie Shepp, a leading member of the free jazz movement of the late 1960s, recorded a tribute, "Blues for Brother George Jackson" on his 1972 album Attica Blues. The album was widely praised.

Frankie Goes To Hollywood, on their 6:15 second cover version of the song "War" titled "War (..and hide)" which is found on the original UK 12" vinyl version of their LP album Welcome to the Pleasuredome, the song has a voiceover artist imitating Ronald Reagan who says "Then of course there is revolutionary love. Love of comrades fighting for the people, and love of people. Not an abstract people but people one meets and works with. When Che Guevara talked of love being at the center of revolutionary endeavor, he meant both. For people like Che, or George Jackson, or Malcolm X, love was the prime mover of their struggle. And love cost them their lives. Love, coupled with a man's pride."

Stanley Williams dedicated his 1998 book Life in Prison, in part, to George Jackson. In Governor 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."

Dead Prez, an Alternative rap pair mention George Jackson in their song "Together": "Anything can happen if you make it so, I'm like George Jackson .45 in my afro".

In the Rage Against the Machine song "New Millennium Homes", George Jackson is mentioned: "Tha spirit of Jackson Now screams through tha ruins". Jackson's Soledad Brother is also one of the many books photographed in the liner-notes to the album Evil Empire.

Underground hip-hop artist Zearle describes the fatal 1970 Marin county jail break attempt by Johnathan Jackson and George Jackson's subsequent killing by prison guards in his song "Manchild".

Hip-hop artists Digable Planets make reference to George Jackson in the song "Jettin'" from their 1994 album "Blowout Comb" - (Pendulum Records)

Tupac Shakur's controversial song "Soulja Story" on the album 2pacalypse Now was dedicated to George and Jonathan Jackson.

There is a George Jackson Poster on the back of a door in the famous Blaxplotation film 'Foxy Brown' about 1:10 into the film.

Nas pays tribute to George and Jonathan Jackson in his song "Testify" from his latest Untitled album. Also in an unreleased track with The Game, Nas refers to the Soledad Brothers; "I wear the pain of the Soledad Brothers/ And them chrome gat bussers"

Ja Rule also named his 2003 album after Jackson's book, Blood In My Eye.

Hasan Salaam has another reference to George Jackson and his brother in the song Get High Riddum found on "Tales of the Lost Tribe: Hidden Jewels"; "I fight for my freedom like George and John Jackson".

See also

References

Further reading

  • 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 978-0060803186
  • P. Collier and D. Horowitz; Destructive Generation, (1996) ISBN 978-0684826417
  • Jo Durden - Smith Who Killed George Jackson ? 1976 394-48291-3

External links

Jackson's writings, interview, advocacy of his views

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