This week we will be highlighting BLACK AUGUST and the lives and legacies of Black political prisoners who were leaders in the fight for liberation and against political persecution in the ‘60s and ‘70s. This series will be centered around answering the questions: what is police and prison abolition, why do we fight for it, and how has our history with the carceral system shaped this moment? Stay tuned!
The story of Black August began in 1960 when an 18-year old by the name of George Jackson received a 1-year to life sentence when he was accused of stealing $70 from a gas station. Jackson spent the next 10 years in prison, many of which were spent in solitary confinement where he became a writer and theoretician.
At the time, there had been a number of documented instances of guards killing prisoners in the California prison system. In Soledad Prison where George was being held, prison guards shot into a group of prisoners and killed three. A day later, one of the prison guards was found dead, for which Jackson and two other inmates, who became known as the “Soledad Brothers”, were accused of killing.
On August 7, 1970 George’s brother Jonathan raided the Marin County Courthouse and freed three prisoners in an attempt to leverage the release of the Soledad Brothers. Jonathan and all but one of the prisoners did not survive the raid, as prison guards and police fired on their van, killing them as well as a judge whom they had taken hostage.
Of his brother, George wrote, ““He was free for a while. I guess that’s more than most of us can expect.” Just over a year later, George Jackson was murdered by prison guards.
Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson