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George Lester Jackson (September 23, 1941 – August 21, 1971) was an African-American author.
While serving a sentence for armed robbery in 1961, Jackson became involved in revolutionary activity and co-founded the (proto)Marxist-Leninist-Maoist, Black Guerrilla Family.
In 1970, he was charged, along with two other Soledad Brothers, with the murder of prison guard John Vincent Mills in the aftermath of a prison fight.
The same year, he published Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson, a combination of autobiography and manifesto addressed to a black American audience.
The book would become a best-seller and earn Jackson personal fame.
Jackson was killed during an attempted prison escape in 1971.
Jackson and other prisoners took hostages during the attempt and five hostages were found dead in Jackson's cell after the incident.
Born in Chicago, Illinois, Jackson was the second son of Lester and Georgia Bea Jackson's five children. He spent time in the California Youth Authority Corrections facility in Paso Robles due to several juvenile convictions including armed robbery, assault, and burglary.
In 1961, he was convicted of armed robbery – for stealing $70 ($600 in current dollar terms) at gunpoint from a gas station – and sentenced to one year to life in prison.
During his first years at San Quentin State Prison, Jackson became involved in revolutionary activity. He was described by prison officials as egocentric and anti-social. In 1966, Jackson met and befriended W. L. Nolen, who introduced him to Marxist and Maoist ideology. The two founded the Black Guerrilla Family in 1966 based on Marxist and Maoist political thought. In speaking of his ideological transformation, Jackson remarked: "I met Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Engels, and Mao when I entered prison and they redeemed me."
As Jackson's disciplinary infractions grew he spent more time in solitary confinement, where he studied political economy and radical theory. He also wrote many letters to friends and supporters, which would later be edited and compiled into the books Soledad Brother and Blood in My Eye, bestsellers that brought him a great deal of attention from leftist organizers and intellectuals in the U.S. and Western Europe. He amassed a following of inmates, including whites and Latinos, and most enthusiastically with other black inmates.
In January 1969, Jackson and Nolen were transferred from San Quentin to Soledad Prison. On January 13, 1970, corrections officer Opie G. Miller shot Nolen and two other black prisoners (Cleveland Edwards and Alvin Miller) during a yard riot with members of the Aryan Brotherhood, killing all three. Following Nolen's death, Jackson became increasingly confrontational with corrections officials and spoke often about the need to protect fellow inmates and take revenge on correction officers, employing what Jackson called "selective retaliatory violence".
On January 17, 1970, Jackson, Fleeta Drumgo and John Clutchette were charged with murdering a corrections officer, John V. Mills, who was beaten and thrown from the third floor of Soledad's Y wing. This was a capital offense and a successful conviction would have put Jackson in the gas chamber. Mills was purportedly killed in retaliation for the shooting deaths of three inmates by Miller the previous year. Miller had not been charged with any crime, as a grand jury ruled his actions during the prison fight justifiable homicide.