October is Black History Month, and to celebrate, we’re featuring someone who has influenced history every Wednesday and Saturday all through October. Our next feature is George Jackson.

Did you know that Bob Dylan wrote a song about George Jackson’s life and death that charted at #33 in 1972?

George Jackson was a political activist who founded the Black Guerrilla Family, a marxist revolutionary organisation. He was particularly concerned with the treatment of black African Americans by the police force and while in prison. His eloquent letters and writings in prison formed his best-selling book, Soledad Brother, which inspired many young African Americans to have hope for a political and social revolution in which they would not be unfairly treated.


George Jackson’s Story

George Jackson was born in Chicago and was the second of five siblings. His mother was overprotective, and living in a segregated neighbourhood meant that he did not see a white person until starting nursery. After an incident where a white boy nocked him out with a baseball bat because Jackson touched his hair out of curiosity, his mother transferred him to a parochial school. The school was separated into a well equipped side for white students and a run down side for black students. He was sent to live with his grandmother in the countryside each summer where he learned to shoot.

Soon, his family moved into a larger apartment, but in a rougher neighbourhood. Jackson was rarely at home, sneaking out and getting into trouble with the law. After previous convictions for robbery, assault and burglary, he was finally imprisoned in 1961 for armed robbery after stealing $70 from a gas station and sentenced to one year to life.

Jackson was no more obedient to authority in prison than he was outside, becoming involved in revolutionary activity, supposedly assaulting guards and other inmates. He befriended W.L Nolen, who introduced him to the writings of radical politicians such as Mao Tse Tung and Karl Marx. They started the left-wing revolutionary group, the Black Guerrilla Family (BGF). Jackson’s run-ins in prison landed him in solitary confinement, where he continued to read and also wrote many letters. These were later published under the name Soledad Brother and Blood in My Eye and were huge successes.

After other incidents with guards and inmates, in 1969, Jackson and Nolen were transferred to Soledad prison. The following year, along with two other black inmates, Nolan was shot to death by a corrections officer during a yard fight with a white supremacist group. Following this, Jackson became increasingly confrontational, and spoke about the need to highlight targeted violence towards black inmates.

A white guard was beaten and thrown from a window on the third floor of the prison and killed. Jackson and two other inmates were charged with murder. The case received national attention, and Jackson was infamously thought of as a leading figure among black revolutionaries.

Jackson’s younger brother Jonathan was incredibly influenced by his older brother’s writings. On August 7 1970, he was shot in an attempt to take over a courthouse where 3 black prisoners were on trial. Hostages were taken to demand the release of the Soledad Brothers.

Jackson predicted his murder in prison, as detailed in his writings in Blood In My Eye. His prediction came true on 21 August 1970, when he was shot as he was supposedly trying to escape prison. He smuggled in a gun under an afro wig, saying “Gentlemen, the dragon has come” a reference to Vietnamese communist leader, Ho Chi Minh. He overpowered guards, released other prisoners and was then gunned down by tower guards.

Three days before his death, he rewrote his will, leading all royalties and control of his legal defense fund to the Black Panther Party.