A tribute to George Jackson
Posted by raleighfist on August 30, 2008
This past Aug. 21 marked the 37th anniversary of the assassination of Black Panther leader and political prisoner, George Jackson, in San Quentin Prison by prison guards. His death was an important spark for the heroic Attica Prison uprising in upstate New York just one month later, which helped to expose inhumane conditions in U.S. prisons, which still exist today. The following article, “George Jackson: A note on his life,” first appeared in the Aug. 31, 1971, issue of Workers World.
George Jackson was born September 23, 1941, in the heart of Chicago’s ghetto. Having moved to Los Angeles, he was 15 when shot six times by L.A. police and sent to a juvenile prison for seven months for allegedly attempting to remove goods from a department store. From then on, his life became a series of run-ins with racist U.S. “justice.”
In 1960, George was accused of robbing $70 from a gas station. Convinced by the district attorney to cop a plea for a light sentence, he pleaded guilty and was instead given a one year to life imprisonment. He was 18 then. Eleven years later George Jackson was still in jail, most of the time locked up in maximum security.
During that time his readings extended from Shakespeare to Mao, writing constantly, training himself legally and physically, teaching his fellow inmates to read and write, bringing the political message of Black liberation to his people. His respect and influence among the other inmates grew to such an extent that prison officials felt that their rule through terror was being threatened and finally he, along with John Clutchette and Fleeta Drumgo, was accused of killing a guard in retaliation for the murder of three Black prisoners who were gunned down in the prison yard by a guard firing from a tower.
All pleaded their innocence, George Jackson becoming the outstanding spokesman of the Soledad Brothers, as they came to be called. George was looking forward to the trial. He planned to use his public appearances in court to expose the vicious brutality of the U.S. prison system as well as the overall racist oppression of the Black community in the U.S. To prevent him from doing just that, on August 21 George Jackson was murdered by prison guards. Even if it were true, as the authorities charge, that Jackson was attempting escape, he was justified in seeking freedom from his racist captors by any means necessary. The prison system deprives the oppressed of every political and human right. What right is left but to rebel?
But his fellow prisoner Ruchell Magee has charged that the racist guards shot George Jackson in cold blood in his own cell. Thus his murder, in addition to being a tragic loss to all revolutionaries, is one of the most heinous crimes and frame-ups in the blood-soaked history of this repressive system.