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Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  3,271 ratings  ·  103 reviews
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 re ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published September 1st 1994 by Lawrence Hill Books (first published October 1st 1970)
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Oct 04, 2011 rated it liked it
What can I say about George. This is a troublesome one for me. George got done for robbing a petrol station in California -- a $70 heist -- and got one year to life as a sentence. He was advised to plead guilty, on the understanding that the one year part of the deal would see him out of the clink in next to no time. In fact, he spent the next decade -- his term started in 1960 -- in prison. At the time, the California penal system (is it any different now) was intensely racist, pitting blacks, ...more
Michael Finocchiaro
A classic in its time, Soledad Brother is the autobiographical story of George Jackson who was arrested at 19 for stealing $70 at gunpoint from a gas station and sentenced to a one year to life in prison. In prison, he became politically aware and read widely: Mao, Lenin, Marx and joined the Black Panther party. This book talks about his self-education during years of solitary confinement and the injustice in the penal system heavily weighted against african-americans. It is a fascinating read a ...more
Lloyd Scott
Oct 30, 2009 rated it really liked it

An awesome read from the mind of an intelligent man who sadly got caught up into the system of violence and crime. A man who grew up in the midst of racism and was convinced that all white people were evil and not to be trusted, and if white men in particular had the chance they would put all black men behind bars and throw away the key. Great writings by a man who had demons that he never could exorcise and in the end, sadly it cost both his life, his younger brother's life and others as well.
Jan 06, 2013 rated it liked it
i'm a rather big fan of george jackson. i hate to say this, but it was very hard for me to get through his letters to his parents. his views on women gave me a twitch by the time i was half way through. but then i sort of changed my perspective, cuz he wasn't writing this for publication. he is after all in jail writing his parents and all in all he has a lot to be angry about. so in a way the most offensive parts gave me a lot to think about.
his letters do become more like the writing he becam
Eli Wilkinson
Feb 14, 2019 rated it it was ok
I want to start off by saying that my low review for this book is 90% my fault. Awhile ago I was advised by a friend much smarter than myself to never read the preface to either a biography or a work of philosophy, because it is impossible not to be influenced by the preface author’s reading of what you are about to engage with.

So I fucked up. I not only read the preface, but a lot about George Jackson prior to reading the book. The guy is remarkable, and an important revolutionary figure from b
Oct 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Truly touching and great read. For those who like to look between the lines and popular views.
Apr 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I can't remember how I found out about this book. Maybe it was mentioned in some documentary, or it was referenced by some Wikipedia article I was reading. When I marked it to read, I found that a friend had previously read it, which encouraged me to give it a try.

What a book!

First, I couldn't help hating George Jackson. The way he treated his family in his letters, the way he patronised them, how sexist he was... I was unable to empathise with him, and started thinking these were the reasons h
Soweto Satir
Nov 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Extremely powerful. This is a book that I think every American should read. It's an important piece of American history. Through the life of George Jackson, we see what true discipline and strength is. His words still ring in my ear as if he were speaking directly to me. Through George's letters we see what kind of struggle that Blacks had to deal with within the penal system and how a person can truly be a political prisoner. ...more
Jun 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
An insightful portrait of a young, Black man during the last half of the 1960s. George Jackson's letters contain truth, hope, anger, love, bitterness - all the conflicting emotions a man in his situation knows. Though somewhat tainted my his displays of misogyny and condescension toward his mother, George Jackson's words are still valid today and should be read, specifically, by those interested in reforming the prison system. ...more
Nzinga Misgana
Feb 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This book changed my life. Thank you, Comrade George.
I've had in on my to-read forever. What better time to finally dive in than when assigned a report based on Jackson's experiences in the California prisons.

Jackson's eloquence, insight, and passion are apparent on every page. Every thoughtful penned word speaks volumes for what he experienced, what he saw, and what he was trying to communicate. And, that says a lot, when you know there must be worlds of words unsaid. And worlds of understanding lost between the lines.
Jul 26, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The letters back and forth between George and his brother are a great snapshot of the period and the love of a brother for his sibling.
Aug 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book shows first hand the potential that resides in a human being to elevate beyond his upbringing & circumstances. George ended up being one of the most influential people during the movement.
David Kenvyn
Aug 17, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the seminal works of the Black Liberation Struggle in the United States. It stands alongside Bobby Seale’s “Seize the Time” or the works of Eldridge Cleaver. It is a series of letters written from prison by George Jackson from the mid-sixties until the death of his brother Jonathan in 1970. Jonathan was killed when he tried to take over a courtroom by force. George was killed the next year in an attempted prison breakout. At least that is the official story and I now cannot rememb ...more
Apr 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biographical
A couple of months ago, on a train from San Francisco to Los Angeles, I passed Soledad Prison, which reminded me of this book.

As I noted when I began reading this, it's been on my to-read list for some time. When I discovered that it was available at, I decided to 'borrow' it. This is more a rambling collection of random thoughts than a review, I guess, but the book left me with some impressions that I wanted to share.

As the title makes clear, these are letters George Jackson wrote f
Rahul Tiwari
Jul 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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. Pass on the torch. Join us, give up your life for the people. - George Jackson

A great insight into the mind of a great revolutionary. Thank you George Jackson.
Jul 24, 2020 added it
I read this book at the recommendation of Rob Barton, a D.C. guy incarcerated at the age of 16 for 30 years to life. He grew up poor and black in the "bad" part of D.C. and he said I should read this book to understand his childhood/culture and, in part, why he thinks the way he does. (Rob is like George in that he is charismatic and against the "system." People naturally follow him. But he is unlike George in that he is playing within the rules to get to a larger goal.)

I found the letters to b

NOVEMBER 5, 2020
That’s Not Gangster, That’s Love: Eddie Conway and Jose Saldaña Talking

Why do prison abolitionists argue that people who spend years behind bars are exactly the ones we need out in the world to help mend our broken communities? The answer starts to emerge when you listen to Eddie Conway and Jose Saldaña. Eddie was Lieutenant of Security for Baltimore’s Black Panther Party when he was sentenced to life plus 30 years. He spent 44
Arik Darnell Brown
Jul 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Getting insight into the racist prison environment while simultaneously reading the growth of thought by George Jackson was impactful. If this man had been born in different circumstances with different resources the impact of his intellect the world will never know. A very good read albeit sometimes very sad.
"Cold and calm though."

In this phenomenonal work of personal letters fron revolutionary communist and political prisoner George Jackson, we get an in-depth look at his development into a revolutionary over a span of 6 years [he died in 1971 -- this book ends in 1970; in between I assume he was writing Blood in My Eye], in the worst of conditions -- in maximum security prison, largely in solitary confinement. His rage is felt on every page, even in the more intimate letters to the various women h
May 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Soledad Brother was an insightful glimpse into the mind of George Jackson, a Black man in America who had varied experiences, all of which placed him outside of the norm. Since childhood he appeared to have a rebellious spirit, which caused him to engage in harmful behaviors, and eventually led to him becoming a criminal - and prison inmate. While imprisoned, George Jackson became an outspoken critic of racism, and a revolutionary who was a strong advocate for communism. By reading the book, whi ...more
Feb 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The contemporary U.S. imaginary of the prison system is deeply flawed. People imagine the open halls of Orange is the New Black, the permeable boxes of Shawshank Redemption, or the discrete set pieces of numerous police procedurals. The imaginary is one that envisions prisons as places of self-discovery, growth, thrift, and development. In truth, it is none of those things, despite the rare and wretched few who wrench something of value from the hellholes of the U.S. prison system. One such man ...more
Kate Savage
Nov 12, 2013 rated it liked it
"We die too easily. We forgive and forget too easily." - George Jackson

There are sublime moments in this book. Jackson's terse and compelling autobiography at the beginning, or his letter two days after his little brother is shot and killed. Masterpieces. Jean Genet's introduction to the original edition, placed at the end of this edition, is also compelling to read.

And the general tone of a person locked up on an indefinite sentence and constantly at the mercy of guards and parole boards -- it
Randall Wallace
Aug 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
If blacks were to finally and effectively take their part in the capitalist quest long dominated by Europeans and recently the U.S., whom would they kidnap, subjugate, colonize or enslave to do their bidding? When blacks followed white bids for representation and equality with their own, like the Haitian Revolution following after the American and French Revolution, they were ruthlessly put down for following the obvious path of “do as I do” instead of “do as I say”. Strange that America was bor ...more
Aug 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book was, in turns, both hard to get through and hard to put down.

Jackson's earlier letters to his parents swing starkly between the universal painful anguish of a young adult (in the vein of "No one understands me! I'll never speak to you again!")--complete with scathing condescension--and the clarity and eloquence of a dedicated scholar and revolutionary. He alternates between calling his parents by "mama and father" and their first names, usually indicating his emotional state at the ti
Sep 15, 2007 rated it liked it
This is a collection of letters written from prison by George Jackson, political prisoner for 10 years during the 60s era, before being murdered by prison guards in 1971. Serving a 1 year-to-life sentence for stealing $70 from a store, Jackson is constantly refused parole for being a political troublemaker. Finally, he was framed for the murder of a prison guard in 1970 along with 2 other black inmates, and this led the Black Panthers to recruit him as a spokesperson. Jackson then became a natio ...more
It's hard to get through his earlier letters to his family when he is just a sexist shit head. I have a very hard time taking even the most grossly marginalized person seriously when they spin around and pull the same crap elsewhere. But then, it's despairingly common for those discriminated against to turn around and just regurgitate the same garbage onto those they feel they can still hold power over. Vomit as a defense mechanism, lovely. And I doubt he ever thought his earlier letters would b ...more
Robert Allen
Super great book--George Jackson was far ahead of his time. I believe the advantage of parochial school give him an incite in white America that typical African Americans were not expose to until venturing out into the world. The confusion, experiences and philosophy of the setting weighs in vastly in reference to his formal education. Coupled with the aforementioned, the perils of his blackness, incarceration, injustice, and downright bigotry help to shape this mans outlook on life, in which I ...more
Mar 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
I read this book shortly after it came out while I was in college, and came back to read it again after thinking a lot about Bob Dylan's song "George Jackson."

I found that what I remembered from the first read was the revolutionary George Jackson, but this book is much more than that.

The first two-thirds consists primarily of letters to his mother and father. The final third is letters to a variety of people including his attorney, supporters on his Defense Committee, and Angela Davis.

Taken as a
Jun 23, 2015 added it
Welcome to the American Justice System. What is created here?
Take a read.
Now, go onto 'the other Wes Moore.'
Ask the question, would George condemn the free Wes?
Talk of revolution, incorporation, slavery. Sure, we all have a voice.
Even as a slave.
What cultural, economic set ups can prepare the human condition to thrive in a limited atmosphere?
You think you have an answer. Make it happen. Otherwise, you'd better remember the lessons of cultures past. And, there are a lot of them. All failed.
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George Lester Jackson was an African-American left-wing activist, Marxist, author, a member of the Black Panther Party, and co-founder of the Black Guerrilla Family. Jackson achieved fame as one of the Soledad Brothers and was later shot to death by guards in San Quentin Prison.

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