hits counter Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson - Ebook PDF Online
Hot Best Seller

Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson

Availability: Ready to download

A collection of Jackson's letters from prison, Soledad Brother is an outspoken condemnation of the racism of white America and a powerful appraisal of the prison system that failed to break his spirit but eventually took his life. Jackson's letters make palpable the intense feelings of anger and rebellion that filled black men in America's prisons in the 1960s. But even re A collection of Jackson's letters from prison, Soledad Brother is an outspoken condemnation of the racism of white America and a powerful appraisal of the prison system that failed to break his spirit but eventually took his life. Jackson's letters make palpable the intense feelings of anger and rebellion that filled black men in America's prisons in the 1960s. But even removed from the social and political firestorms of the 1960s, Jackson's story still resonates for its portrait of a man taking a stand even while locked down.


Compare

A collection of Jackson's letters from prison, Soledad Brother is an outspoken condemnation of the racism of white America and a powerful appraisal of the prison system that failed to break his spirit but eventually took his life. Jackson's letters make palpable the intense feelings of anger and rebellion that filled black men in America's prisons in the 1960s. But even re A collection of Jackson's letters from prison, Soledad Brother is an outspoken condemnation of the racism of white America and a powerful appraisal of the prison system that failed to break his spirit but eventually took his life. Jackson's letters make palpable the intense feelings of anger and rebellion that filled black men in America's prisons in the 1960s. But even removed from the social and political firestorms of the 1960s, Jackson's story still resonates for its portrait of a man taking a stand even while locked down.

30 review for Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson

  1. 4 out of 5

    Graeme

    What can I say about George. This is a troublesome one for me. George got done for robbing a petrol station in California -- a $70 heist -- and got one year to life as a sentence. He was advised to plead guilty, on the understanding that the one year part of the deal would see him out of the clink in next to no time. In fact, he spent the next decade -- his term started in 1960 -- in prison. At the time, the California penal system (is it any different now) was intensely racist, pitting blacks, What can I say about George. This is a troublesome one for me. George got done for robbing a petrol station in California -- a $70 heist -- and got one year to life as a sentence. He was advised to plead guilty, on the understanding that the one year part of the deal would see him out of the clink in next to no time. In fact, he spent the next decade -- his term started in 1960 -- in prison. At the time, the California penal system (is it any different now) was intensely racist, pitting blacks, aryan-brotherhood whites and Mexicans against each other deliberately, certainly by Jackson's accounts. The book is a collection of George's letters, and while they begin several years into his incarceration, you do get a glimpse of him as he moves from disgruntled young man to serious, hardcore Maoist politics. He gives it to his parents with both rhetorical barrels, for being pawns of the system. His dad is totally brainwashed and unworthy of respect. His mum's that terrible scourge of the revolutionary: the emasculating woman. There's a fair dollop of George going for the old patriarchal malarky of 'women are too irrational to be revolutionaries' and 'black women should stop robbing black men of their masculinity' etc. This is certainly just of its time, I suppose. It's interesting, however, when Angela Davis appears in the book. She appears toward the end of the book, no doubt as George writes to her following her hounding by old bonzo dog doo head Ronald Reagan, then governator of California and scourge of all things left-learning. She's a communist. And she's a feminist. And given the tenor of George's letters to her, she's had a word with him about his attitude to the sisters in the movement. We read George's letters to his little brother -- the strange pride he feels when his brother scores with an older lady. We get lots of George's revolutionary thought, which feels sort of ... Stalinist ... by modern standards. 'The people will control the factories and be motivated to treat each other fairly, just as they do in the USSR and Cuba' type stuff. But he has a wonderful way of railing against God, which I found fascinating. Almost like he would, if he could, become more Old Testament than the God of the Old Testament, and kick God's arse if he could, in a suitably Old Testament way. Send a ravenous she-bear to mix things up. Or maybe just take a baseball bat to God's head. He's an angry dude. And he does a great line in longing. He falls in love -- or maybe it's infatuation -- with his female correspondents, and is really quite poetic in his letters to them. He writes, I think, with a kind of frustrated fantasticness (not a word, I fear) that's really a pleasure to read. And so, what do I think? Worth a read for these things, and to really get a good gulp of the revolution as it existed in poor George's mind, and was envisaged at the time. And it's also worth reading to counter that stupid debate that says we'd lower crime rates if we'd just make prison tougher. Not really buying that old chestnut. But perhaps that's one for another time. But it's generally an interesting book and well worth reading, I'd hazard.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Michael Finocchiaro

    A classic in its time, Soledad Brother is the autobiographical story of George Jackson who was arrested at 19 for stealing $70 at gunpoint from a gas station and sentenced to a one year to life in prison. In prison, he became politically aware and read widely: Mao, Lenin, Marx and joined the Black Panther party. This book talks about his self-education during years of solitary confinement and the injustice in the penal system heavily weighted against african-americans. It is a fascinating read a A classic in its time, Soledad Brother is the autobiographical story of George Jackson who was arrested at 19 for stealing $70 at gunpoint from a gas station and sentenced to a one year to life in prison. In prison, he became politically aware and read widely: Mao, Lenin, Marx and joined the Black Panther party. This book talks about his self-education during years of solitary confinement and the injustice in the penal system heavily weighted against african-americans. It is a fascinating read and presaged his violent end. Having been attacked by neo-Nazis of the Aryan Nation in the Soledad Prison yard, he made an escape attempt and was killed by guards at 29 years old. He became a "cause celebre" for the radical black community. These letters are then sort of his will and testament and along with the Angela Davis and Malcolm X autobiographies provide the most poignant insights into this movement that still resonates today where some basic injustices denounced by these militants have not really changed enough (Ferguson, etc).

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lloyd Scott

    An awesome read from the mind of an intelligent man who sadly got caught up into the system of violence and crime. A man who grew up in the midst of racism and was convinced that all white people were evil and not to be trusted, and if white men in particular had the chance they would put all black men behind bars and throw away the key. Great writings by a man who had demons that he never could exorcise and in the end, sadly it cost both his life, his younger brother's life and others as well. An awesome read from the mind of an intelligent man who sadly got caught up into the system of violence and crime. A man who grew up in the midst of racism and was convinced that all white people were evil and not to be trusted, and if white men in particular had the chance they would put all black men behind bars and throw away the key. Great writings by a man who had demons that he never could exorcise and in the end, sadly it cost both his life, his younger brother's life and others as well. A powerful read yet very sad.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Finn

    i'm a rather big fan of george jackson. i hate to say this, but it was very hard for me to get through his letters to his parents. his views on women gave me a twitch by the time i was half way through. but then i sort of changed my perspective, cuz he wasn't writing this for publication. he is after all in jail writing his parents and all in all he has a lot to be angry about. so in a way the most offensive parts gave me a lot to think about. his letters do become more like the writing he becam i'm a rather big fan of george jackson. i hate to say this, but it was very hard for me to get through his letters to his parents. his views on women gave me a twitch by the time i was half way through. but then i sort of changed my perspective, cuz he wasn't writing this for publication. he is after all in jail writing his parents and all in all he has a lot to be angry about. so in a way the most offensive parts gave me a lot to think about. his letters do become more like the writing he became famous for as they focus more on correspondence with his lawyer and other female comrades and friends (including angela davis) on the outside. george jackson was a sincere revolutionary and for that reason i think we should all read his writings and perspective.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Eli Wilkinson

    I want to start off by saying that my low review for this book is 90% my fault. Awhile ago I was advised by a friend much smarter than myself to never read the preface to either a biography or a work of philosophy, because it is impossible not to be influenced by the preface author’s reading of what you are about to engage with. So I fucked up. I not only read the preface, but a lot about George Jackson prior to reading the book. The guy is remarkable, and an important revolutionary figure from b I want to start off by saying that my low review for this book is 90% my fault. Awhile ago I was advised by a friend much smarter than myself to never read the preface to either a biography or a work of philosophy, because it is impossible not to be influenced by the preface author’s reading of what you are about to engage with. So I fucked up. I not only read the preface, but a lot about George Jackson prior to reading the book. The guy is remarkable, and an important revolutionary figure from both a Marxist and Black Liberation perspective. That being said you could have gotten that from his Wikipedia entry. The lead up to his letters makes Jackson into a secular revolutionary saint. Reading his letters will break this illusion for you. The guy despised women, and while he bemoaned the plight of black people in America he certainly thought very little of many of them including those he was incarcerated with, calling many of them ‘uneducated cretins’ a lack of compassionate imagination that reads as hypocritical to put it mildly. If Jackson were alive today I have little doubt he’d be a left-wing equivalent of Candace Owens. Should you read this book? Yes, it’s an important historical artifact, but if like me you went into it thinking you would get a deep thinker on revolution and liberation, then I would recommend going elsewhere.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Christopher

    Truly touching and great read. For those who like to look between the lines and popular views.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Simón

    I can't remember how I found out about this book. Maybe it was mentioned in some documentary, or it was referenced by some Wikipedia article I was reading. When I marked it to read, I found that a friend had previously read it, which encouraged me to give it a try. What a book! First, I couldn't help hating George Jackson. The way he treated his family in his letters, the way he patronised them, how sexist he was... I was unable to empathise with him, and started thinking these were the reasons h I can't remember how I found out about this book. Maybe it was mentioned in some documentary, or it was referenced by some Wikipedia article I was reading. When I marked it to read, I found that a friend had previously read it, which encouraged me to give it a try. What a book! First, I couldn't help hating George Jackson. The way he treated his family in his letters, the way he patronised them, how sexist he was... I was unable to empathise with him, and started thinking these were the reasons he was unable to be paroled out... and that's when it stroke me, that's when I realised how I am part of the system: eager to find reasons not to question the status quo, to find reasons to justify the systemic racism, to find reasons to bend, to fit. At that point, I kept reading with more passion. What they did with George Jackson is a shame: he was sentenced to one year to life for a $70 armed robbery. He was told that pleading guilty would see him out of prison earlier than trying to argue his case, but instead he was kept incarcerated for 11 years, spending many of them in isolation, until he was finally killed in a riot. George Jackson educated himself during his time in jail: he studied languages, read about Marxism, Maoism and essentially revolutionary ideology. Learning about him from his letters is hard, since the reader lacks half of the context. Sometimes they are written after receiving a visit, sometimes they answer other letters, sometimes he's angry, sometimes he's hopeful... In the end, he learns to expect nothing. I won't attempt to summarise his letters: he talks about politics, oppression, racism, capitalism... And his letters also talk about Martin Luther King and why his nonviolent activism could never work (this he says before MLK is murdered, and repeats afterwards) The book is available online here: http://historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/s..., and I encourage everybody to read it.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Soweto Satir

    Extremely powerful. This is a book that I think every American should read. It's an important piece of American history. Through the life of George Jackson, we see what true discipline and strength is. His words still ring in my ear as if he were speaking directly to me. Through George's letters we see what kind of struggle that Blacks had to deal with within the penal system and how a person can truly be a political prisoner. Extremely powerful. This is a book that I think every American should read. It's an important piece of American history. Through the life of George Jackson, we see what true discipline and strength is. His words still ring in my ear as if he were speaking directly to me. Through George's letters we see what kind of struggle that Blacks had to deal with within the penal system and how a person can truly be a political prisoner.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sumayyah

    An insightful portrait of a young, Black man during the last half of the 1960s. George Jackson's letters contain truth, hope, anger, love, bitterness - all the conflicting emotions a man in his situation knows. Though somewhat tainted my his displays of misogyny and condescension toward his mother, George Jackson's words are still valid today and should be read, specifically, by those interested in reforming the prison system. An insightful portrait of a young, Black man during the last half of the 1960s. George Jackson's letters contain truth, hope, anger, love, bitterness - all the conflicting emotions a man in his situation knows. Though somewhat tainted my his displays of misogyny and condescension toward his mother, George Jackson's words are still valid today and should be read, specifically, by those interested in reforming the prison system.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Nzinga Misgana

    This book changed my life. Thank you, Comrade George.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    I've had in on my to-read forever. What better time to finally dive in than when assigned a report based on Jackson's experiences in the California prisons. Jackson's eloquence, insight, and passion are apparent on every page. Every thoughtful penned word speaks volumes for what he experienced, what he saw, and what he was trying to communicate. And, that says a lot, when you know there must be worlds of words unsaid. And worlds of understanding lost between the lines. I've had in on my to-read forever. What better time to finally dive in than when assigned a report based on Jackson's experiences in the California prisons. Jackson's eloquence, insight, and passion are apparent on every page. Every thoughtful penned word speaks volumes for what he experienced, what he saw, and what he was trying to communicate. And, that says a lot, when you know there must be worlds of words unsaid. And worlds of understanding lost between the lines.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sheehan

    The letters back and forth between George and his brother are a great snapshot of the period and the love of a brother for his sibling.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Gary

    This book shows first hand the potential that resides in a human being to elevate beyond his upbringing & circumstances. George ended up being one of the most influential people during the movement.

  14. 4 out of 5

    David Kenvyn

    This is one of the seminal works of the Black Liberation Struggle in the United States. It stands alongside Bobby Seale’s “Seize the Time” or the works of Eldridge Cleaver. It is a series of letters written from prison by George Jackson from the mid-sixties until the death of his brother Jonathan in 1970. Jonathan was killed when he tried to take over a courtroom by force. George was killed the next year in an attempted prison breakout. At least that is the official story and I now cannot rememb This is one of the seminal works of the Black Liberation Struggle in the United States. It stands alongside Bobby Seale’s “Seize the Time” or the works of Eldridge Cleaver. It is a series of letters written from prison by George Jackson from the mid-sixties until the death of his brother Jonathan in 1970. Jonathan was killed when he tried to take over a courtroom by force. George was killed the next year in an attempted prison breakout. At least that is the official story and I now cannot remember whether or not people believed it at the time. It does have a certain convenience to it, as did the stories of people committing suicide in apartheid prisons at the same time. There are difficulties in reading this book 50 years after I first did so. My copy is now old and yellowing and foxed, but the punch that is delivered is still extraordinary. There can be no doubt that it is a powerful book. It was written by a man who was imprisoned as a teenager because he was involved in a store hold-up. He was given a prison sentence that effectively meant life because he could not be released until a parole board decided that it was safe to do so. I cannot imagine that a white teenager would have received such a sentence and, if he did, would not have been released within a few years. It is difficult to read this book int eh aftermath of the George Floyd killing and the Black Lives Matter campaign without being angry. It is 50 years since the events of this book and we are still in the same place. Another difficulty is that we only have the letters that George Jackson wrote himself. We di not have the replies so we cannot see how the conversation developed and what arguments, if any, persuaded him to change his mind. At the time that the book was published, I assume that the prison authorities refused to release the replies that had been received. I expect that the letters are no longer available, but they may be in a prison library archive somewhere in California. The most shocking thing about the book is Jackson’s incredible misogyny. He actually writes that his sister Penelope should not take part in political discussion, but should sit there quietly listening to the wisdom of her menfolk. Of course, this was written in the late sixties and he was a man of his time. This was written before the second wave of feminism began to have any influence on left-wing political thought. It is the case that when he comes into contact with women like Angela Davis and Fay Stender, his lawyer, that his views change considerably. This is one of the reasons why it is frustrating not to have the replies to his letters because we do not know why he changed his mind. We can make the assumption that their examples had a huge impact on his thinking, but we do not have the evidence. What we do know is that when in prison he read a huge amount of political writing ranging from Che Guevara to Malcolm X. We also know that he was very aware of events taking place at the time, such as the Vietnam War. We know that he formed very clear political ideas. For instance, he was dismissive of the non-violent ideology of Martin Luther King because of the sheer scale of the violence that the racists unleashed on the Civil Rights Movement. We know that he was in awe of Ho Chi Minh and the Vietnamese people in their refusal to be defeated by the most powerful military state in the world. We know that he believed in the devastating legacy of slavery on Black Americans; how it had intimidated the men and terrorised the women. We know that he believed that the USA was a fascist state as far as black people were concerned. The fact that he spelled the name of his country Amerika, in a direct reference to the swastika, is something that cannot be overlooked. We can also guess that if George Jackson was alive today, he would be leading the Black Lives Matter campaign. Like Joe Hill, he never died.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Patrick

    A couple of months ago, on a train from San Francisco to Los Angeles, I passed Soledad Prison, which reminded me of this book. As I noted when I began reading this, it's been on my to-read list for some time. When I discovered that it was available at archive.org, I decided to 'borrow' it. This is more a rambling collection of random thoughts than a review, I guess, but the book left me with some impressions that I wanted to share. As the title makes clear, these are letters George Jackson wrote f A couple of months ago, on a train from San Francisco to Los Angeles, I passed Soledad Prison, which reminded me of this book. As I noted when I began reading this, it's been on my to-read list for some time. When I discovered that it was available at archive.org, I decided to 'borrow' it. This is more a rambling collection of random thoughts than a review, I guess, but the book left me with some impressions that I wanted to share. As the title makes clear, these are letters George Jackson wrote from prison. His attorney at the time, Fay Stender, edited and had them published, and managed to persuade French writer and political activist Jean Genet to write the introduction. A best seller, it raised substantial monies for a legal defense fund that she also set up. (More about Stender later.) Jackson was originally convicted and imprisoned in 1961 for a $70 armed robbery, for which he was given a one-year to life sentence. The letters span the years 1964 to 1970 (he was killed the following year attempting to escape) but the book leads off with an autobiography, in the form of a letter to the book's editor, Gregory Armstrong, and a few of his more recent (1970) letters to Stender. The earliest letters are to his parents and other relatives, many of which include the banal requests for books, typewriters, inquiries about how people are doing, etc., but also include reprimands of his parents for their weak conformity to the system. I hadn't read much by or about Jackson prior to this book, so I don't know a great deal about his relationship with his father. He is dismissive towards both of his parents at various times, but he derides his father a bit more, particularly his affection for Martin Luther King, Jr., who Jackson believed to be rather impotent in his non-violent approach. (Later in the book, his attitude towards his father seems to have improved.) At times, I couldn't help but be reminded of Ta-Nehisi Coates' book, Between the World and Me... and I wondered if Coates had read Soledad Brother, as there was a certain similarity in both theme and political stridency. Despite having lived in very different times, the struggle of black people in the United States remains unfortunately much the same. As I recall, Coates is somewhat tethered to the Black Panther ideology, which, of course, Jackson also represented, albeit more militaristically. (Feel free to inform me on this.) Throughout my reading of this, the fact that Jackson was in prison for a $70 robbery loomed in the back of my mind. Time after time, he was denied parole. Time after time, privileges were taken away, or he was sent to solitary confinement. I tried to imagine the abuse that he (and others in similar situations) had to endure for such a petty crime. Granted, his time in prison was extended when he was involved in an incident in which a prison guard was murdered (Jackson was charged with the murder, but was killed three days before the trial was due to commence), but as has become clearer and clearer to me each day that I have lived, our penal system is designed to abuse criminals, not reform them. Prison personnel have been given great freedoms to punish prisoners at every turn. Late in the book is a collection of letters to his attorney, Fay Stender. These tend to be rather long, so considering that his letters were supposed to be no longer than the front and back of a standard letter-sized piece of paper, I suspect that these were handed to her during face-to-face conferences. No matter... they're quite dense with Jackson's view of the world, particularly how black people in this country have been kept down (while at the same time being expected to conform to and become one with white European constructs) which I found to be compelling and spot-on. In some of Jackson's letters to Stender, he also makes it a point to mention his affection for her. How deeply this ran, of course, I have no clue, but I decided to do a web search to find out more... to see if there was a client-attorney relationship gone too far, to see what became of her, and to see if she was still practicing law in the Bay Area. I was disturbed to find that a member of Jackson's Black Guerrilla Family went to her home in 1979 while on parole and shot her several times in front of her children and a friend, leaving her paralyzed from the waist down. About a year later, after testifying against her attacker, she killed herself. That this happened eight years after Jackson's death was a little surprising. Considering that she was told to say that she had betrayed Jackson before being shot, I wondered if the attack might have been done at Jackson's behest; did he suggest it before he died? Or was the assailant such a rabid follower that he and other Family members took it upon themselves to punish her for not helping to acquire weapons for Jackson? Following the letters to Stender are a collection of letters to Joan (I can't recall now if her full name was mentioned), with whom he appears to have had a quasi-romantic relationship, as well as some written to the activist Angela Davis. The letters to Davis are also peppered with words suggesting he was enamoured with her for more than just her politics, but that's conjecture. Sweetness oozed when writing to Joan, but Jackson was more philisophical with Davis, albeit with sweet sign-offs. I found myself alternately liking Jackson and not. Mostly, I guess, I disliked his misogynistic attitude, in general, toward women, something that he disn't really show with Stender, Joan, or Davis. I wish I would have made note of his specific wording, but he clearly considered women a peg or two below men... or at least himself. I've given this a five-start rating because I believe that it should be read by anyone wanting to understand some of the dynamics of this country's problems related to skin colour. The real substance of Jackson's militarism springs from a well-thought out view of the treatment of black people since they were first brought here as slaves.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Rahul Tiwari

    Settle your quarrels, come together, understand the reality of our situation, understand that fascism is already here, that people are already dying who could be saved, that generations more will live poor butchered half-lives if you fail to act. Do what must be done, discover your humanity and your love in revolution. Pass on the torch. Join us, give up your life for the people. - George Jackson A great insight into the mind of a great revolutionary. Thank you George Jackson.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Pam

    I read this book at the recommendation of Rob Barton, a D.C. guy incarcerated at the age of 16 for 30 years to life. He grew up poor and black in the "bad" part of D.C. and he said I should read this book to understand his childhood/culture and, in part, why he thinks the way he does. (Rob is like George in that he is charismatic and against the "system." People naturally follow him. But he is unlike George in that he is playing within the rules to get to a larger goal.) I found the letters to b I read this book at the recommendation of Rob Barton, a D.C. guy incarcerated at the age of 16 for 30 years to life. He grew up poor and black in the "bad" part of D.C. and he said I should read this book to understand his childhood/culture and, in part, why he thinks the way he does. (Rob is like George in that he is charismatic and against the "system." People naturally follow him. But he is unlike George in that he is playing within the rules to get to a larger goal.) I found the letters to be repetitive at times, but more importantly, I would have added in more background and context. I finally started doing my own research and found a wealth of information that put what I was reading into a different perspective. Other mysteries were never answered -- like who Z. was and why George suddenly stopped writing to her. That said, this book indeed did what Rob told me it would: opened my eyes to a world and life experience and outlook on the world we all need to understand. AND...the world needs more rebels willing to take big risks to speak truth to power!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Viola

    https://www.counterpunch.org/2020/11/... NOVEMBER 5, 2020 That’s Not Gangster, That’s Love: Eddie Conway and Jose Saldaña Talking BY SUSIE DAY Why do prison abolitionists argue that people who spend years behind bars are exactly the ones we need out in the world to help mend our broken communities? The answer starts to emerge when you listen to Eddie Conway and Jose Saldaña. Eddie was Lieutenant of Security for Baltimore’s Black Panther Party when he was sentenced to life plus 30 years. He spent 44 https://www.counterpunch.org/2020/11/... NOVEMBER 5, 2020 That’s Not Gangster, That’s Love: Eddie Conway and Jose Saldaña Talking BY SUSIE DAY Why do prison abolitionists argue that people who spend years behind bars are exactly the ones we need out in the world to help mend our broken communities? The answer starts to emerge when you listen to Eddie Conway and Jose Saldaña. Eddie was Lieutenant of Security for Baltimore’s Black Panther Party when he was sentenced to life plus 30 years. He spent 44 years in Maryland prisons, was released in 2014, and now reports for The Real News Network. Jose was in the NYC Young Lords Party when he was sentenced to 25 years to life. He was paroled after 38 years in New York prisons, and now leads Release Aging People in Prison/RAPP, which works to change state policies that incarcerate thousands of people – mostly Black and Brown – for decades. Jose and Edie spent most of their lives locked up, and survived largely by mentoring men inside, based on what they’d learned in the Panthers and Young Lords. What follows is a virtual haiku of their 90-minute online conversation that I moderated for RAPP on October 28. I began by asking them what it was like to face a life sentence as a politically aware person. Jose Saldaña: I was a street-corner drug dealer. That was my identity and my future. That corner was the only way out of conditions I inherited at birth. As a first-generation Puerto Rican, I’m in New York, a high school dropout, experiencing all kinds of discrimination. When the Young Lords came on the scene, they changed my life, totally. They gave me an identity of who I was that connected to a history of resistance to colonial oppression. Before that my heroes was big-time drug dealers. Now my heroes became people like Doña Lolita Lebron who were willing to sacrifice their lives for the Puerto Rican people. This is what I entered prison with. I had a life sentence; I knew I may never get out, so I continued to educate myself. Even if I didn’t get out, I was going to make a contribution to this movement from inside prison. Eddie Conway: My story is similar. I was in the army. Matter of fact, I was on my way to Vietnam when the light came on and I realized that there was tanks in Newark, NJ, on the street, pointing 50-caliber machine guns at Black women. So I came back to America and it became clear that the Black Panther Party was the organization we needed to get changes. When I entered prison I was convinced I would survive and come back out – and that I would survive this ordeal out in America, too. What fortified me was the righteousness of the struggle to change things. So from day one, I went in fighting. Forty-three years and 11 months later, when I stepped out, I was still fighting. JS: We all wore green in New York prison, all subjected to the same degrading disregard for our humanity. We were insulted in just about every way possible, 24-7. Even our families were subjected to some of this. Everybody understood that racism dominated this system but most of us couldn’t articulate it to the point where we could have full, head-on discussions. So dealing with conditions gave me an in, trying to empower and help each other. And we had help – one of the movements that evolved from NY prisons was the Resurrection Study Group. It was founded by incarcerated men, including former Panther Eddie Ellis, and was like what the Young Lords and the Panthers were in the streets. SD: What did you study? JS: The history of resistance, for one. But resistance didn’t stop at learning who our enemy is. It also encouraged a moral commitment to return to our communities and repair the harm we’d done there. This was so important. You cannot be a leader if you haven’t acknowledged that you’ve harmed someone. And people started to realize that this was a part of their development. EC: That’s absolutely true. We were about changing the harm that most people had engaged in. We recognized the history of oppression and tried to change that. It’s almost the same experience you had, Jose. I just came to it in a different direction. When I stepped into the prison system, I was determined not to work with prisoners – I was gonna spend my time freeing myself. But the first day I got there, I realized everybody was treated like animals. I wasn’t going for that. So we started political education classes and organizing. We had a group – about 100 of us in the beginning – that ended up becoming the Maryland Penitentiary Intercommunal Survival Committee. The Black Panther Party was closed for memberships at the time, so we had to name it something else. And that spread to other prisons in the state. SD: What books did you read? JS: I did so much reading. Das Kapital, Chairman Mao, Wretched of the Earth, Kahlil Gibran, Kwame Nkrumah. But the book I used more than anything was the prison letters of George Jackson [Soledad Brother]. Because I understood that the people I was trying to empower had a certain way of thinking that the Young Lords rescued me from: being a person who will resort to violence against my own. That’s how most of my peers survived. So we addressed that survival mechanism by redefining concepts like loyalty, courage. I told them this story. I had a codefendant. He was more than a brother to me; he was my number onebrother. He was arrested before I was, when I was in hiding. And the police, they hung him from a roof by his ankles. His wife was there, she told me about it weeks later. They hung him from the roof, saying, “Tell us where Jose is!” He says, “You want to know? OK, I’ll tell you.” They bring him up a little so they could hear him say where I’m hiding – because he did know. But he yelled at the top of his lungs, “F-U, pigs! Drop me.” All these guys look around. They say, “That’s gangster.” I say, “No, that’s not gangster. That’s love, man.” That’s love and loyalty. Not just to each other, but to a principle greater than all of us in this room. This is how I would try to educate them, bringing them into a movement that’s greater than themselves. Because this is about liberation for people that have been enslaved for hundreds of years. EC: Well, we built a library, is what we did. We took two cells and lined the walls with books. We had everything in there from The Black Book to The Green Book. But mainly what helped us was Malcolm X’s autobiography and Soledad Brother. They were what prisoners with no consciousness at all was willing to work through. I did a number of programs. The last one was Say Their Own Words, which brought together 100 prisoners and speakers from around the country. It was a college level, interactive program. At the end of that program, they shipped us all around the state, so we wouldn’t continue it. Of course, when we got to other prisons, we polluted that population also. We ended up building something called Friend of a Friend, which was an official mentoring program focusing on skills that members of street organizations needed to negotiate with each other. The last prison I was in, every week, somebody would be murdered. And after three or four years of Friend of a Friend, it was down to two murders a year. JS: We need to recognize that mass incarceration is a reality for literally hundreds of thousands of families in our communities. This is the legacy of racism, which dominates this criminal legal system. This is where mass incarceration came from – imprisoning or actually murdering grassroots community leaders, and imprisoning the communities that support them. What do we do about it? From the RAPP perspective, we have to create legislation that will correct this and ensure our communities will never again be subject to these racist policies. Doesn’t matter what the crime or conviction was. Doesn’t matter the length of sentence. Doesn’t matter whether the charges are violent or nonviolent. The only way we can correct this is by returning everyone to their families. EC: I was in prison with fathers, grandfathers, grandchildren. That’s generations of people – that’s genocide. But honestly, I wouldn’t let everybody out. Some people might need to be incarcerated. I’ve come in contact with some serious sociopaths. They preyed upon young boys in particular. I’ve been almost forced to kill some of them, trying to protect young men. So Jose, I’m gonna be honest with you. There are some people I wouldn’t let out. JS: I’ve met a few like that. But I don’t think laws should be made based on that few. And I notice that when they’re released, after maybe 40 years, they’re committed – a civil commitment – to an institution. The state recognizes there is something terribly wrong with them. But it doesn’t actually treat them until after they get 40 or 50 years out of them. This is why I say that prisons should not be for anyone. Because if they create that law to imprison one sick person, they will imprison others. And those others are going to be us. EC: You know, Jose, you’re absolutely right. They need treatment. Prisons don’t do anything for them, except let them feed on the young innocent population. SD: Jose, you had four kids when you went to prison. Eddie, you had two. Did your mentoring have anything to do with your kids you weren’t allowed to parent? JS: It’s extremely difficult to be a good dad when you’re doing a life sentence. I realized that I failed as a father. A dad doesn’t want to admit that. My daughter once told me that I wasn’t there for her. So I tried to make up for it by helping these younger kids, to really help them. It helped me keep going… EC: Probably my major regret is, before I went to prison, I was so caught up in making the world a better place for everybody that I actually lost my family. I didn’t take the personal time to make the world better for my son or my wife. I got a chance to make up some of it with the counseling programs. That’s something I counsel everybody now. No matter what you’re doing, pay attention to raising your children. Don’t sacrifice everything for your politics. Politics are important, but this is a long, long-term fight. Sent from my iPad

  19. 5 out of 5

    Arik Darnell Brown

    Getting insight into the racist prison environment while simultaneously reading the growth of thought by George Jackson was impactful. If this man had been born in different circumstances with different resources the impact of his intellect the world will never know. A very good read albeit sometimes very sad.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Devin

    "Cold and calm though." In this phenomenonal work of personal letters fron revolutionary communist and political prisoner George Jackson, we get an in-depth look at his development into a revolutionary over a span of 6 years [he died in 1971 -- this book ends in 1970; in between I assume he was writing Blood in My Eye], in the worst of conditions -- in maximum security prison, largely in solitary confinement. His rage is felt on every page, even in the more intimate letters to the various women h "Cold and calm though." In this phenomenonal work of personal letters fron revolutionary communist and political prisoner George Jackson, we get an in-depth look at his development into a revolutionary over a span of 6 years [he died in 1971 -- this book ends in 1970; in between I assume he was writing Blood in My Eye], in the worst of conditions -- in maximum security prison, largely in solitary confinement. His rage is felt on every page, even in the more intimate letters to the various women he loved, and the more kind letters to his family. It's easy to say that George Jackson was a bitter, angry man who took his rage out on his family. However, the first 200 or so pages are letters mainly to his parents, and to his brother Jonathan Jackson, who later died in a shootout with police after taking hostages in exchange for George's freedom. He at times would lash out, but it was out of frustration that was from love for his family, and how he wanted them to understand his revolutionary views and follow suit. One of the most memorable [and one of my favorite] passages in this entire book is in the last pages, when George writes that his father, who in the first half of the book tries to beg George to assimilate to colonialist, white-supremacist society, refers to cops as "pigs", and George says "he'll be alright." Additionally, he admits in his final letter, while lamenting on Jonathan Jackson's death, that he completely misunderstood his mother and her loyalty to him. Another sad, but touching moment. The misogyny in the first part of the book is something we can't ignore. Many revolutionary men of that time were misogynistic [and many still are now, but with way more criticism, as there should be]; men and women could be revolutionary, but women were still seen as subservient. In his earlier writings, George Jackson absolutely co-opts this view. It's uncomfortable to read, but I remind myself that when he was writing these early letters, he was 24, 25 years old, had been incarcerated for a third of his life, and was a nationally-oppressed Black person who had very limited access to the outside world the changing social movements. Towards the end of this book, his views have clearly changed as he writes to Angela Davis, and I have no doubt that he wouldve only progressed forward in the correct line had he not been murdered. It speaks to how revolutionaries must progress in study and practice; Fidel Castro was absolutely homophobic in his early revolutionary years -- imagine if no one ever gave him the opportunity to rectify his errors [and he definitely did]. This book is a must-read for any true communists and for anyone researching the Black liberation struggle. George Jackson lives!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jeron

    Soledad Brother was an insightful glimpse into the mind of George Jackson, a Black man in America who had varied experiences, all of which placed him outside of the norm. Since childhood he appeared to have a rebellious spirit, which caused him to engage in harmful behaviors, and eventually led to him becoming a criminal - and prison inmate. While imprisoned, George Jackson became an outspoken critic of racism, and a revolutionary who was a strong advocate for communism. By reading the book, whi Soledad Brother was an insightful glimpse into the mind of George Jackson, a Black man in America who had varied experiences, all of which placed him outside of the norm. Since childhood he appeared to have a rebellious spirit, which caused him to engage in harmful behaviors, and eventually led to him becoming a criminal - and prison inmate. While imprisoned, George Jackson became an outspoken critic of racism, and a revolutionary who was a strong advocate for communism. By reading the book, which contained his letters to family and friends, readers can gain insight into experiences of which they have no knowledge. Throughout Soledad Brother, George Jackson repeatedly spoke about the racism that Blacks experienced in society, and inside of the prisons in which he was housed. Things seemed to be particularly bad for Black inmates because not only did they have to endure racism from their fellow inmates, but also from racist prison guards who formed alliances with inmates of their race to express their hatred towards Blacks. In Jackson's letters to his parents, he was very critical of his father, who he felt had was docile and submissive to racism, and received nothing beneficial in exchange for his obedience. That aroused angry feelings within Jackson, who appreciated the fact that his mother appeared to be more willing to challenge racism than his father. Jackson seemed to believe that regardless of how Blacks were abused and discriminated against, they should continue to maintain their identity and fight their oppressors. By the time that Jackson was murdered, he had served in prison around 10 years of a life sentence for robbery. His sentence seemed to have been unreasonably harsh due to racism, which was likely the catalyst for Jackson transitioning from unrepentant criminal to revolutionary. The letters in Soledad Brother reveal both the promise for intellect that exists for people who have been discarded by society, and the causes for resentment possessed by Blacks who have endured racism. Additionally, it shows Jackson's strength. It's a testament to his strength and character that he was able to maintain his sanity after enduring years of living in solitary confinement in prison under inhumane conditions.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Miguel

    The contemporary U.S. imaginary of the prison system is deeply flawed. People imagine the open halls of Orange is the New Black, the permeable boxes of Shawshank Redemption, or the discrete set pieces of numerous police procedurals. The imaginary is one that envisions prisons as places of self-discovery, growth, thrift, and development. In truth, it is none of those things, despite the rare and wretched few who wrench something of value from the hellholes of the U.S. prison system. One such man The contemporary U.S. imaginary of the prison system is deeply flawed. People imagine the open halls of Orange is the New Black, the permeable boxes of Shawshank Redemption, or the discrete set pieces of numerous police procedurals. The imaginary is one that envisions prisons as places of self-discovery, growth, thrift, and development. In truth, it is none of those things, despite the rare and wretched few who wrench something of value from the hellholes of the U.S. prison system. One such man is George Jackson. His words signify more powerfully than any film or television show ever could, the harsh realities of prison. Psychic alienation, familial conflict, and the anguish of knowing a certain version of one's own circumstance. Jackson recounts his experience as a product of his environment and in a situation that, too, is the result of his environment. He consistently excoriates those that wield institutional power, disavowing self-blame and the maelstrom of his family life he constantly attempts to mend. The astute political analysis pairs exquisitely with his personal drama. The two, in fact, do not occupy bifurcated categories but are one and the same. Jackson writes of his political consciousness in response to his father's criticism, "You have misjudged the depth of my feelings on these matters. They mean everything to me." Indeed, for Jackson the genre of analysis that people would dismiss as disinterested, clinical, or abstract comes to life. It means everything.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kate Savage

    "We die too easily. We forgive and forget too easily." - George Jackson There are sublime moments in this book. Jackson's terse and compelling autobiography at the beginning, or his letter two days after his little brother is shot and killed. Masterpieces. Jean Genet's introduction to the original edition, placed at the end of this edition, is also compelling to read. And the general tone of a person locked up on an indefinite sentence and constantly at the mercy of guards and parole boards -- it "We die too easily. We forgive and forget too easily." - George Jackson There are sublime moments in this book. Jackson's terse and compelling autobiography at the beginning, or his letter two days after his little brother is shot and killed. Masterpieces. Jean Genet's introduction to the original edition, placed at the end of this edition, is also compelling to read. And the general tone of a person locked up on an indefinite sentence and constantly at the mercy of guards and parole boards -- it clarifies how hateful and racist prisons are. Another compelling aspect was to see Jackson struggle with the conventionalities of his parents -- the cruelty of his letters to "you people" who keep sending those goddamned Christmas cards to a rebel maltheist; the tender hope that at some moments the people who have known you the longest finally understand you. The dream that your family could be your comrades (he calls his father Robert, or he calls him his brother). And then they say Be a good boy or they send him a book on St. Augustine, and Jackson is plain angry again, saying he doesn't see any use in communicating. This fraught bond with his family across politics is beautiful and awful. But the book is impossible to read if you have the faintest trace of feminism in you. A stupid and embarrassing misogyny pervades the letters. He meets Angela Davis, and you think he's learned his lesson now, but he ruins it by sexualizing her, fantasizing about protecting her, and pontificating to her with his political analysis. Pontification, in general, is a draw-back of the book. Jackson has had time to think and books to read. But though his analysis of the world is surely more accurate than the average persons' on the right side of the bars, he's hard to trust. Wide-ranging comments, whether about the lack of hunger in China or the herd behavior of buffalo, and are simply incorrect, grate on me.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Randall Wallace

    If blacks were to finally and effectively take their part in the capitalist quest long dominated by Europeans and recently the U.S., whom would they kidnap, subjugate, colonize or enslave to do their bidding? When blacks followed white bids for representation and equality with their own, like the Haitian Revolution following after the American and French Revolution, they were ruthlessly put down for following the obvious path of “do as I do” instead of “do as I say”. Strange that America was bor If blacks were to finally and effectively take their part in the capitalist quest long dominated by Europeans and recently the U.S., whom would they kidnap, subjugate, colonize or enslave to do their bidding? When blacks followed white bids for representation and equality with their own, like the Haitian Revolution following after the American and French Revolution, they were ruthlessly put down for following the obvious path of “do as I do” instead of “do as I say”. Strange that America was born by those desperately wanting of freedom, and when they got it, they denied it to others. George talks about what many are afraid to discuss: 1. Psychopaths in power wrongly mistake non-violence for weakness (because violence is what the state has a monopoly on) 2. Thus psychopaths in power won’t hear the voice of the people because they are in a position of “weakness”. 3. Therefore “Nonviolence must constantly demonstrate the implied effect of it’s opposite”; the Left must effectively pseudo re-posture itself as the tough guys. The Civil War and Reconstruction only changed black people from chattel to economic slaves and the sole reason is capitalism and George wanted it gone. When you see a black man with a fancy car, it probably is because he was wrongly taught by capitalism “we are not worth more than the amount of capital we can raise”. I like when George poetically mentions the American Flag as waving in its normal position - obstructing the sun. So why would black parents send their kids out unprepared and unprotected to be taught by an educational system, a media, and a culture that historically hates them and hates the truth? If you really liked this book, then good news - George’s Blood in My Eye is even stronger and it explains some of the stuff in the earlier Soledad Brother well. I think these books of George’s belong together, like the Hobbit with the Lord of the Rings. ☺

  25. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    This book was, in turns, both hard to get through and hard to put down. Jackson's earlier letters to his parents swing starkly between the universal painful anguish of a young adult (in the vein of "No one understands me! I'll never speak to you again!")--complete with scathing condescension--and the clarity and eloquence of a dedicated scholar and revolutionary. He alternates between calling his parents by "mama and father" and their first names, usually indicating his emotional state at the ti This book was, in turns, both hard to get through and hard to put down. Jackson's earlier letters to his parents swing starkly between the universal painful anguish of a young adult (in the vein of "No one understands me! I'll never speak to you again!")--complete with scathing condescension--and the clarity and eloquence of a dedicated scholar and revolutionary. He alternates between calling his parents by "mama and father" and their first names, usually indicating his emotional state at the time of each letter. These letters were quick reading (especially as he had to abide by the prison rule limiting the length of each individual letter), but they were particularly painful to read because of the ever-present reminders of how young Jackson was at the time of his original sentencing and how his bright young mind was being heavily worn down by the inhumane conditions of prison. In his later letters to his lawyers and Angela Davis, Jackson becomes more focused and steadily dedicated to Maoist revolutionary ideas. These letters are powerful in a different way from his earlier letters in that Jackson calls to attention the inseparable issues of capitalism, racism, and the broken and inhumane "justice" and prison systems. One of the challenges of reading these letters is how sexist many of them are, as Jackson spews the old "women are too frail to lead the revolution; leave it to the men" bull. In the later letters to Davis, it's clear that she has pushed back against these comments of his and caused his tone to change course yet again. Overall I found Jackson's letters to be worth reading as an early voice denouncing the state of the prison system and racism in the U.S. from the inside. Unfortunately, it is particularly painful reading this today when the prison industrial complex has grown to become even worse.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    This is a collection of letters written from prison by George Jackson, political prisoner for 10 years during the 60s era, before being murdered by prison guards in 1971. Serving a 1 year-to-life sentence for stealing $70 from a store, Jackson is constantly refused parole for being a political troublemaker. Finally, he was framed for the murder of a prison guard in 1970 along with 2 other black inmates, and this led the Black Panthers to recruit him as a spokesperson. Jackson then became a natio This is a collection of letters written from prison by George Jackson, political prisoner for 10 years during the 60s era, before being murdered by prison guards in 1971. Serving a 1 year-to-life sentence for stealing $70 from a store, Jackson is constantly refused parole for being a political troublemaker. Finally, he was framed for the murder of a prison guard in 1970 along with 2 other black inmates, and this led the Black Panthers to recruit him as a spokesperson. Jackson then became a national figure after his younger brother Jonathan took over a courtroom with a submachinegun and demanded the release of George and his comrades, ending in a bloody shootout in August 1970. The content of this book is George's letters to his family, love interests, and lawyer, beginning around 1964 and running until 1970. The best of the book helps us to understand prison reality, particularly for a black male prisoner, and the nature of the racist prison system in the United States. But the book suffers from being very disjointed as any collection of letters would be, and there are long periods which are just everyday noticings and advice to his parents, which did very little for me. Overall the book is good, and there is a cogent analysis underlying all of Jackson's writing and which is developed in an essay or 2, but to be honest I found the backstory more compelling than the content of the book itself.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    It's hard to get through his earlier letters to his family when he is just a sexist shit head. I have a very hard time taking even the most grossly marginalized person seriously when they spin around and pull the same crap elsewhere. But then, it's despairingly common for those discriminated against to turn around and just regurgitate the same garbage onto those they feel they can still hold power over. Vomit as a defense mechanism, lovely. And I doubt he ever thought his earlier letters would b It's hard to get through his earlier letters to his family when he is just a sexist shit head. I have a very hard time taking even the most grossly marginalized person seriously when they spin around and pull the same crap elsewhere. But then, it's despairingly common for those discriminated against to turn around and just regurgitate the same garbage onto those they feel they can still hold power over. Vomit as a defense mechanism, lovely. And I doubt he ever thought his earlier letters would be published. 2/3rds through it turns into something readable with startling poignant and political letters from a man held as a political prisoner and murdered by prison guards when he was just 30 years old. Those early letters do provide a significant contrast though. His illegal, unending imprisonment and the racism and violence he experienced while in this so-called controlled and rehabilitating environment (does anyone even believe that anymore?) is largely what revolutionized him.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Robert Allen

    Super great book--George Jackson was far ahead of his time. I believe the advantage of parochial school give him an incite in white America that typical African Americans were not expose to until venturing out into the world. The confusion, experiences and philosophy of the setting weighs in vastly in reference to his formal education. Coupled with the aforementioned, the perils of his blackness, incarceration, injustice, and downright bigotry help to shape this mans outlook on life, in which I Super great book--George Jackson was far ahead of his time. I believe the advantage of parochial school give him an incite in white America that typical African Americans were not expose to until venturing out into the world. The confusion, experiences and philosophy of the setting weighs in vastly in reference to his formal education. Coupled with the aforementioned, the perils of his blackness, incarceration, injustice, and downright bigotry help to shape this mans outlook on life, in which I find reality based. George Jackson, was truly intellectual, and a very inspiring brother whom I regard as someone worthy of emulation because he was upright, independent, fearless, and outspoken. Moreover, George Jackson, was a man that devalued deception, hypocrisy, bigotry, racism, and totalitarianism. Reading and studying George Jackson, has helped me to grow into the socially,politically, and racially aware man I am today.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    I read this book shortly after it came out while I was in college, and came back to read it again after thinking a lot about Bob Dylan's song "George Jackson." I found that what I remembered from the first read was the revolutionary George Jackson, but this book is much more than that. The first two-thirds consists primarily of letters to his mother and father. The final third is letters to a variety of people including his attorney, supporters on his Defense Committee, and Angela Davis. Taken as a I read this book shortly after it came out while I was in college, and came back to read it again after thinking a lot about Bob Dylan's song "George Jackson." I found that what I remembered from the first read was the revolutionary George Jackson, but this book is much more than that. The first two-thirds consists primarily of letters to his mother and father. The final third is letters to a variety of people including his attorney, supporters on his Defense Committee, and Angela Davis. Taken as a whole, the book documents Jackson's development from an angry prisoner to a revolutionary, from a black nationalist to a communist internationalist, from hyper macho man with a backwards view of women to a man in touch with his ability to love and express himself in a poetic manner.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Dennis

    Welcome to the American Justice System. What is created here? Take a read. Now, go onto 'the other Wes Moore.' Ask the question, would George condemn the free Wes? Talk of revolution, incorporation, slavery. Sure, we all have a voice. Even as a slave. What cultural, economic set ups can prepare the human condition to thrive in a limited atmosphere? You think you have an answer. Make it happen. Otherwise, you'd better remember the lessons of cultures past. And, there are a lot of them. All failed. Je Welcome to the American Justice System. What is created here? Take a read. Now, go onto 'the other Wes Moore.' Ask the question, would George condemn the free Wes? Talk of revolution, incorporation, slavery. Sure, we all have a voice. Even as a slave. What cultural, economic set ups can prepare the human condition to thrive in a limited atmosphere? You think you have an answer. Make it happen. Otherwise, you'd better remember the lessons of cultures past. And, there are a lot of them. All failed. Jesus, the injustice in this tome are legion. But, that won't stop some from dismissing it simply on the basis of race or a social reaction to being fair and reasonable. No words can change that person's mind. And that is the tragedy. The true tragedy of the human race. Fuck.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.