Soledad Brother

theparisreview.org
Extreme Remedies
George Jackson’s Soledad Brother, forty years later.George JacksonMax Nelson is writing a series on prison literature. Read the previous entry, on the French revolutionary Madame Roland, here.On August 21, 1971, George Jackson pulled a pistol on his wardens at San Quentin, the notoriously racist maximum-security prison to which he’d recently been relocated. When the news broke that... Read More »
By Max Nelson

Revisiting George Jackson’s incendiary “Soledad Brother.”

Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson, published by Bantam Books, 1970. I remember reading most or all of this book years ago, in college, but I never owned a copy. This book came from the library of McClure McCombs, a Professor of Sociology in Chicago who died on September 5, 2013. I found it at an estate sale at his house in Logan Square.

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To the Man-Child, Tall, evil, graceful, brighteyed, black man-child Jonathan Peter Jackson who died on August 7, 1970, courage in one hand, assault rifle in the other; my brother, comrade, friend the true revolutionary, the black communist guerrilla in the highest state of development, he died on the trigger, scourge of the unrighteous, soldier of the people; to this terrible man-child and his wonderful mother Georgia Bea, to Angela Y. Davis, my tender experience, I dedicate this collection of letters; to the destruction of their enemies I dedicate my life.
George L. Jackson

The back cover of Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson, published by Bantam Books, 1970. This book came from the library of McClure McCombs, a Professor of Sociology in Chicago who died on September 5, 2013. I found this book this morning at an estate sale at his house in Logan Square. Posted in reflection and memory of Herman Wallace who died on Thursday, October 3rd, days after being released from prison, where he spent 41 years in solitary confinement.

You must then stop giving yourself pain by feeling that you failed somewhere. You have not failed. You have been failed, by history and events, and people over whom you had no control. Only after you understand this can you then go on to make the necessary alterations that will bring some purpose and value to your life; you must gain some control!
—  George Jackson, Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson
vimeo

George Jackson - 41 year commemoration from Freedom Archives

“Blackmen born in the U.S. and fortunate enough to live past the age of eighteen are conditioned to accept the inevitability of prison. For most of us, it simply looms as the next phase in a sequence of humiliations. Being born a slave in a captive society and never experiencing any objective basis for expectation had the effect of preparing me for the progressively traumatic misfortunes that lead so many blackmen to the prison gate. I was prepared for prison. It required only minor psychic adjustments.”

— George Jackson, Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson (1970)

In 1960, at the age of eighteen, George Jackson was accused of stealing $70 from a gas station in Los Angeles. Though there was evidence of his innocence, his court-appointed lawyer maintained that because Jackson had a record (two previous instances of petty crime), he should plead guilty in exchange for a light sentence in the county jail. He did, and received an indeterminate sentence of one year to life. Jackson spent the next ten years in Soledad Prison, seven and a half of them in solitary confinement. Instead of succumbing to the dehumanization of prison existence, he transformed himself into the leading theoretician of the prison movement and a brilliant writer. Soledad Brother, which contains the letters that he wrote from 1964 to 1970, is his testament.

GENET ON GEORGE JACKSON AND THE POETIC GENIUS OF THE REVOLUTIONARY

If we accept this idea, that the revolutionary enterprise of a man or of a people originates in their poetic genius, or, more precisely, that this enterprise is the inevitable conclusion of poetic genius, we must reject nothing of what makes poetic exaltation possible. If certain details of this work seem immoral to you, it is because the work as a whole denies your morality, because poetry contains both the possibility of a revolutionary morality and what appears to contradict it.

–Jean Genet on George Jackson, “Introduction to the First Edition [of Soledad Brother]”

NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS NO POETIC GENIUS

FUCK YOU

invert that shit. poetic genius is the inevitable result of the revolutionary enterprise.

ACTUALLY, NO POETIC GENIUS AT ALL!

Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson
by George L. Jackson

“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.”

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.