George Jackson and the Origins of Black August


Remember George Jackson

Prairie Fire Organizing Committee

Fireworks Graphics

Offset, 1981

10926


"I don't want to die and leave a few sad songs and a hump in the ground as my only monument. I want to leave a world that is liberated from trash, pollution, racism, nation-states, nation-state wars and armies, from pomp, bigotry, parochialism, a thousand different brands of untruth and licentious, usurious economics."


George Jackson (1970). "Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson," Chicago Review Press


This week is the 51st anniversary of the murder of George Jackson, Black Panther, activist, and author, by prison guards at San Quentin State Prison. Although the official line is that he was killed trying to escape, the circumstances of his death are still debated as the police kept changing their story.


In 1960, despite evidence of his innocence, Jackson was sentenced from one year to life for stealing $70. He was 18 and spent ten years in Soledad prison — seven and a half of them in solitary confinement. While incarcerated, Jackson was influenced by other politicized prisoners and became a revolutionary. He co-founded the Black Guerrilla Family (BGF) with W. L. Nolen, and became a leader in the prisoner rights movement. His writings and dedication to Black liberation inspire future prison abolitionists.


In 1970, Jackson, along with Fleeta Drumgo and John Clutchette, became known as the Soledad Brothers when, because of their political activism, they were falsely accused of murdering a prison guard. The Soledad Defense Committee included Angela Davis, Jane Fonda, Noam Chomsky, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Corky Gonzales, Tom Hayden, Ron Dellums, Robert Scheer, and many others. Drumgo and Clutchette were acquitted. Jackson had already been murdered.


In 1979, the BGF initiated an annual celebration to remember George Jackson and the San Quentin Prison Uprising. August also marks the many other efforts by Black radicals against racial violence and the carceral state. Originally observed to honor the life and legacy of George Jackson and other revolutionaries who sacrificed for civil and human rights, this month is now known to many as Black August. It's a time to pay tribute to Black resistance, freedom fighters, political prisoners, and activists who fought for Black liberation and to continue their legacy.


August is layered with cycles of collective resistance — from the Haitian Revolution in 1791, Nat Turner Rebellion in 1831, March on Washington in 1963, to the Ferguson Unrest following the murder of Michael Brown in 2014, and many more.


Today, Black August is an invitation to reflect on and celebrate the deep histories of Black resistance movements internationally and recommit to fighting for racial justice.


Here's to a liberated future.


References:

George Jackson | The Freedom Archives


"The Soledad Brothers," | The Soledad Brother Defense Committee | The Freedom Archives


Black August | The Movement for Black Lives


Black August uplifted as alternative Black History Month | AP News


Two Desperate Hours: How George Jackson Died | The New York Times


Resources:

Blood in My Eye George L. Jackson


Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson



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