Today marks the 37th anniversary of the assassination of our beloved Comrade George L. Jackson, aka "Soledad Brother." I'm sending you this article written in 2000 and published in the S.F. Bay View newspaper for your information. The only changes would be the dates and number of years Hugo and Ruchell have now been incarcerated, 44 and 45 years respectively in California gulags. You can find more info at www.hugopinell.org.
Black August 2000: A story of African freedom
By Kiilu Nyasha, 23 July 2000
Black August is a month of great significance for Africans throughout the diaspora, but particularly here in the
U.S. where it originated. “August,” as Mumia Abu-Jamal noted, “is a month of meaning,,, of repression and
radical resistance, of injustice and divine justice; of repression and righteous rebellion; of individual and
collective efforts to free the slaves and break the chains that bind us.”.
On this 21st anniversary of Black August, first organized to honor our fallen freedom fighters, Jonathan and
George Jackson, Khatari Gaulden, James McClain, William Christmas, and the sole survivor of the August 7,
1970 Courthouse Slave Rebellion, Ruchell Cinque Magee, it is still a time to embrace the principles of unity,
self-sacrifice, political education, physical fitness and/or training in martial arts, resistance, and spiritual
The concept, Black August, grew out of the need to expose to the light of day the glorious and heroic deeds of
those Afrikan women and men who recognized and struggled against the injustices heaped upon people of color
on a daily basis in America.
One cannot tell the story of Black August without first providing the reader with a brief glimpse of the “Black
Movement” behind California prison walls in the Sixties, led by George Jackson and W. L. Nolen, among
As Jackson wrote: “...when I was accused of robbing a gas station of $70, I accepted a deal...but when time
came for sentencing, they tossed me into the penitentiary with one to life. It was 1960. I was 18 years old.... I
met Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Engels, and Mao when I entered prison and they redeemed me. For the first four
years I studied nothing but economics and military ideas. I met black guerrillas, George ’Big Jake’ Lewis, and
James Carr, W.L. Nolen, Bill Christmas, Torry Gibson, and many, many others. We attempted to transform the
Black criminal mentality into a black revolutionary mentality. As a result, each of us has been subject to years
of the most vicious reactionary violence by the state. Our mortality rate is almost what you would expect to find
in a history of Dachau. Three of us [Nolen, Sweet Jugs Miller, and Cleve Edwards) were murdered several
months ago [Jan. 13, 1969] by a pig shooting from thirty feet above their heads with a military rifle.” (Soledad
Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson)
When the brothers first demanded the killer guard be tried for murder, they were rebuffed. Upon their
insistence, the administration held a kangaroo court and three days later returned a verdict of “justifiable
homicide.”. Shortly afterward, a white guard was found beaten to death and thrown from a tier. Six days later,
three prisoners were accused of murder, and became known as The Soledad Brothers.
“I am being tried in court right now with two other brothers. John Clutchette and Fleeta Drumgo, for the alleged
slaying of a prison guard. This charge carries an automatic death penalty for me. I can’t get life. I already have
On August 7, 1970, just a few days after George was transferred to San Quentin, his younger brother Jonathan
Jackson, 17, invaded Marin County Courthouse single-handed, with a satchel full of handguns, an assault rifle
and a shotgun hidden under his raincoat. “Freeze,” he commanded as he tossed guns to William Christmas,
James McClain, and Ruchell Magee. Magee was on the witness stand testifying for McClain, on trial for
assaulting a guard in the wake of a guard’s murder of another Black prisoner, Fred Billingsley, beaten and
teargassed to death. A jailhouse lawyer, Magee had deluged the courts with petitions for seven years contesting
his illegal conviction in ’63. The courts had refused to listen, so Magee seized the hour and joined the guerrillas
as they took the judge, prosecutor and three jurors hostage to a waiting van. To reporters gathering quickly
outside the courthouse, Jonathan shouted, “You can take our pictures. We are the revolutionaries!”
Operating with courage and calm even their enemies had to respect, the four Black freedom fighters
commandeered their hostages out of the courthouse without a hitch. The plan was to use the hostages to take
over a radio station and broadcast the racist, murderous prison conditions and demand the immediate release of
The Soledad Brothers. But before Jonathan could drive the van out of the parking lot, the San Quentin guards
arrived and opened fire. When the shooting stopped, Jonathan, Christmas, McClain and the judge lay dead.
Magee and the prosecutor were critically wounded, and one juror suffered a minor arm wound.
Magee survived his wounds and was tried originally with co-defendant Angela Davis. Their trials were later
severed and Davis was eventually acquitted of all charges. Magee was convicted of simple kidnap and remains
in prison to date—37 years with no physical assaults on his record. An incredible jailhouse lawyer, Magee has
been responsible for countless prisoners being released—the main reason he was kept for nearly 20 years in one
lockup after another. He is currently at Corcoran State Prison, having been recently transferred from Pelican
Bay, remains strong and determined to win his freedom and that of all oppressed peoples.
In his second book, Blood In My Eye, published posthumously, Jackson noted: “Reformism is an old story in
Amerika. There have been depressions and socio-economic political crises throughout the period that marked
the formation of the present upper-class ruling circle, and their controlling elites. But the parties of the left were
too committed to reformism to exploit their revolutionary potential....Fascism has temporarily succeeded under
the guise of reform.” Those words ring even truer today as we witness a form of fascism that has replaced gas
ovens with executions and torture chambers; plantations with prison industrial complexes deployed in rural
white communities to perpetuate white supremacy and Black/Brown slavery.
The concentration of wealth at the top is worse than ever: One percent now owns more wealth than that of the
combined 95% of the U.S. population; individuals are so rich their wealth exceeds the total budgets of
numerous nations—as they plunder the globe in the quest for more.
“The fascist must expand to live. Consequently he has pushed his frontiers to the farthest lands and peoples....
I’m going to bust my heart trying to stop these smug, degenerate, primitive, omnivorous, uncivil—and anyone
who would aid me, I embrace you.”
“International capitalism cannot be destroyed without the extremes of struggle...We are the only ones...who can
get at the monster’s heart without subjecting the world to nuclear fire. We have a momentous historical role to
act out if we will. The whole world for all time in the future will love us and remember us as the righteous
people who made it possible for the world to live on.... I don’t want to die and leave a few sad songs and a
hump in the ground as my only monument. I want to leave a world that is liberated from trash, pollution,
racism, nation-states, nation-state wars and armies, from pomp, bigotry, parochialism, a thousand different
brands of untruth, and licentious, usurious economics.” (Soledad Brother)
On August 21, 1971, after numerous failed attempts on his life, the State finally succeeded in assassinating
George Jackson, then Field Marshall of the Black Panther Party, in what was described by prison officials as an
escape attempt in which Jackson allegedly smuggled a gun into San Quentin in a wig. That feat was proven
impossible, and evidence subsequently suggested a setup designed by prison officials to eliminate Jackson once
and for all.
However, they didn’t count on losing any of their own in the process. On that fateful day, three notoriously
racist prison guards and two inmate turnkeys were also killed. Jackson was shot and killed by guards as he drew
fire away from the other prisoners in the Adjustment Center (lockup) of San Quentin.
Subsequently, six A/C prisoners were singled out and put on trial -- wearing 30 lbs of chains in Marin
courthouse—for various charges of murder and assault: Fleeta Drumgo, David Johnson, Hugo L.A. Pinell
(Yogi), Luis Talamantez, Johnny Spain, and Willie Sundiata Tate. Only one was convicted of murder, Johnny
Spain. The others were either acquitted or convicted of assault. Pinell is the only one remaining in prison and
has suffered prolonged torture in lockups since 1969. He is currently serving his 10th year in Pelican Bay’s
SHU, a torture chamber if ever there was one. A true warrior, Pinell would put his life on the line to defend his
As decades passed, our Black scholars, like Mumia Abu-Jamal, learned of other liberation moves that happened
in Black August. E.g., the first and only armed revolution whereby Africans freed themselves from chattel
slavery commenced on August 21, 1791 in Haiti. Nat Turner’s slave rebellion began on August 21, 1831
(coincidence?), and Harriet Tubman’s Underground Railroad started in August. As Mumia stated, “Their
sacrifice, their despair, their determination and their blood has painted the month Black for all time.”
Let us honor our martyred freedom fighters as George Jackson counselled: “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”