Voices Radio: George Jackson, Black Panther, Author, Political Prisoner, Friend and Comrade of Eric Mann
“I came to know George Jackson in my own life as a political prisoner. On September 25, 1969, as part of the Boston Weatherman above ground collective, we organized a militant demonstration against the Harvard Center for International Affairs. We did so in the tradition of the campaign of the Columbia University Campaign of the residents of Harlem, the Student Afro Society, and Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) of which I was a national organizer at the time, in challenging genocidal military research on campus. I was arrested, convicted and sentenced to 2 years in prison (of which I served 18 months) and another 3 years of probation during which time if I ever violated probation I could be put back in prison for another 2 years. (Probation was even more terrifying than prison.)
While in prison, from January 1970 to July 1971, I was deeply moved by Soledad Brother as were tens of thousands of prisoners especially Black prisoners. Yes, we were moved by George’s revolutionary will, his physical prowess (“I do 1,000 finger-tip push-ups a day) that pushed me to do 250 of the normal ones, and his brilliant study and scholarship. He told Jessica Mitford, interviewing him for the New York Times, “At present I’m engaged in a study of the working‐class movement here in the United States and an in-depth investigation of history of the last 50 years, when Fascism swept the Western world. I split my writing time between that and correspondence with people I love. On important relationship of his at the time was with Angela Davis, whose legal connection to him led to a trumped-up charge that led her to go underground and become a celebrated political figure.
Shortly after he was murdered, I began work on a book about his life, Comrade George: An Investigation into the Life, Political Thought, and Assassination of George Jackson. It sold 15,000 copies and we distributed at least 2,000 copies free to prisoners. It is still in circulation in the prisoners in many different forms.
I also want to draw you attention to the important project of The Freedom Archives and their visionary director Claude Marks. In celebration of George Jackson’s life they have initiated the “99 Books” project.
George Jackson was assassinated 50 years ago on August 21, 1971. The following week, the prison authorities released an inventory of the 99 books in his cell. Using these 99 books, we envision creating a web resource (curriculum/study guide, video interviews) that encourages serious political engagement and a critical internationalist political lens by which to understand his contribution to Black Liberation. We will enhance the curriculum with video comments from people who knew George.” I am very honored to have been asked to produce such a video and am working on it now.” – ERIC MANN