On August 7, 1970 – 50 years ago – Jonathan Peter Jackson the 17-year old brother of George Jackson, brought 3 guns into the Marin County Hall of Justice, where Judge Haley was presiding over the trial of San Quentin prisoner James McClain. He drew weapons from his satchel, and with the assistance of McClain and 2 prisoners who were witnesses for McClain, Ruchell Magee and William A. Christmas, took Judge Haley, Deputy District Attorney Gary Thomas and 3 female jurors hostage. Upon exiting the courthouse, Jackson and the other kidnappers attempted to flee with the hostages in tow. Police and prison guards opened fire on the van Jackson was driving. At the end of the shootout, Jackson, Haley, McClain and Christmas were dead and McGee and Thomas were seriously injured. The kidnapping was meant as a tool to negotiate the freedom of the Soledad Brothers, 3 Black prisoners (George Jackson, Fleeta Drumgo, and John Clutchette) who were charged with the murder of a prison guard at Soledad Prison in California.
This moment, like so many others, represents one of the influential Black Liberation Movement events and asks us to further study historic strugglers – Angela Davis, George and Jonathan Jackson, The Soledad Brothers, The San Quentin Six, Ruchell Magee, and organizations like the Black Panther Party. Our lessons must include prison resistance, political prisoners, state violence, and insurgency.
Below we have compiled audio, video, and paper documents from a diversity of primary resources (most taken from the Freedom Archives but also from other online sources) illuminating the historical context and lasting significance of extrajudicial struggle.
Excerpt Taken from Black Journal – Episode 32: Justice? (Originally Aired April 26, 1971) – a production of NET Division, Educational Broadcasting Corporation.
Audio Clips taken from Prisons On Fire (2001) – produced by the Freedom Archives:
The Soledad Brothers:
Marin County Rebellion:
1. “The Web of Death & Struggle: The Genesis of California’s Political Trials,” San Quentin Six Collection.
2. “Fallen Comrades,” in The Black Panther Black Community News Service, Vol. 1-2, 1991. Excerpt from periodical. Black Panther Party News Service Collection.
3. “Georgia Jackson Remembers,” in Scanlan’s Suppressed Issue: Guerilla War in the USA, January 1971. Article in periodical. North American Social Movement Organizations Collection.
4. “Black August: George and Jonathan Jackson (A Commemoration)” Black Cat Collective, 1995. Speech transcript in Black August Resistance Collection.
5. By Any Means Necessary. Periodical in the Ruchell Magee Collection.
6. The Black Panther Black Community News Service, Vol. 5-7, August 15, 1970. Periodical in Black Panther Party News Service Collection.
7. “August 7, 1970: Marin County Courthouse,“ in From Soledad to San Quentin. Excerpt from non-digitized monograph. San Quentin Six Collection.
8. Lest We Forget by Safiya A. Bukhari. Poetry booklet in Safiya Bukhari Collection.
9. “In Memoriam of Comrade-Brother Jonathan Jackson, Born in this month, 26 years ago,” Excerpt from The Fuse, No. 12. October 12, 1979. New Afrikan Prisoners Organization Collection.
10. Excerpts from KPFA program, “Nothing is More Precious Than…” including poem by Lincoln Bergman (page 18 & 23). August 9, 1975.
11. “Fascism: Its Most Advanced Form is Here in Amerikka,” Flyer in the George Jackson Collection.
12. Stills from George Jackson / San Quentin video.