(Some Spoilers) The movie "Back August" is named after the bloodiest prison brake in the California state prison San Quentin's history.
On Saturday August 21, 1971 six people, three guards and three convicts, were slashed shot and beaten to death in an aborted break-out of San Quentin lead by career criminal and militant black activist George Jackson. Jackson himself didn't get far being shot by a prison guard sniper in his leg with the bullet somehow going, after ricocheting on impact, up the left side of his body, like that of an M-16 assault rifle, and ending up smashing into his brain killing him. We last see Jackson as the movie goes into freeze-frame laying on the ground dead with his right hand extended in a grotesque looking black power salute.
The movie only covers George Jackson's short , who died at age 29, and violent life from January 13, 1970 to his death some 19 months later. On January 13, 1970 on the exercise grounds of Soledad prison a fight broke out between members of the Black Guerrilla Family and White Aryan Nation. With prison tower guard O. G Miller opening fire to stop the fighting three members of the Black Guerrilla's were gunned down and killed. One was W.D Nolen a fellow inmate and close friend of Jackson who introduced the young man to radical Marxism.
Three days later prison guard John V. Mills was attacked beaten and thrown to his death from a third floor catwalk in retaliation for the Soledad killings. Arrested for Mills murder ware convicts Fleeta Drumgo John Clutchette and George Jackson. The three were to later become, because of Jackson's writings, known as the Soledad Brothers.
While in solitary confinement Jackson wrote a slew of letters to his mother in Oakland that soon found their way to Batam Books in New York City. Even though Jackson's letters were crudely written and loaded with grammatical errors they hit the spot in how political prisoners, that Jackson called himself and his fellow black brothers behind bars , are being treated by the law enforcement and legal systems in America. Jackson spent his time in solitary not only writing but keeping himself in shape. Doing as many as 1,000 fingertip push-ups every day Jackson's forearms became so muscle-bound that he couldn't put them through the steel bars in his cell when he was to be manacled for his daily supervised half hour walk in the prison's exercise yard.
The eye-opening and thought provoking letters had Batam send one of its proof writers David Dryer to see George Jackson in getting his OK to publish them. Grudgingly agreeing to let Batam publish his letters in a book called "Soledad Brothers" George Jackson became a literary sensation overnight. In the end the fame that Jackson got from his writings lead to him making himself a martyr for his cause, Black Liberation. This celebrity status had Jackson go on the road that lead to what was to become Black August, or Saturday,on August 21, 1971 at San Quentin.
The money and fame that Jackson got from is writing "Soledad Brothers" could have gotten him the legal help that would have easily overturned his conviction on a $70.00 gas station robbery in 1960 that had him serve, like Jackson said, over one year behind bars for every $10.00 he stole. Always maintaining that he was Innocent of prison guard Mills murder Jackson getting so caught up with his own popularity, in and out of prison, refused to plead innocent to Mills murder just to keep his revolutionary image in tact.
What I feel was the real reason for Jacksons death wish was the death of his younger brother 17 year-old Jonathan who, together with two fellow Black Guerrilla Family members, was gunned down at the Marin County Civic Center in San Raphael on August 7, 1970. Jonhatan tries to get his big brother George freed by taking hostages right out of a courtroom at the center. Jonathan together with his fellow kidnappers William Christmas and James McCain as well as the presiding judge in the courtroom Harold Haley were killed as well as a number of jurors wounded in the wild and deadly police and kidnappers crossfire.
With his kid brother Jonathan, who George affectionately called Man-Child, gone Jackson just gave up on life in and out of prison and that lead to his ill conceived breakout a year later; Where he ended up dead with his brains blown out by a sniper's bullet.
P.S George Jackson was to go on trial for the murder of John V. Mills, just three days after his death in San Quentin, on August 24, 1971. A trial that many in the legal profession as well as fellow black activists were sure he would have won his freedom with the help of the money as well as nation wide, mostly positive, publicity that he got from his best selling book "Soledad Brothers". By then Jackson got so caught up with his both bad a** image as well as guilt for his brother Jonathan death that freedom as sweet to him as if was before all this happened wasn't all that appealing to George anymore.
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