Exerts from Chapter 4, Prison Gangs in America, by Gabriel C. Morales
The BGF was the most political of all the CA prison gangs and the most dangerous towards Police and Corrections Officers in the late 1960s through the early 1970s. The BGF’s roots started out in the California Department of Corrections (CDC) in 1966 as the Black Family and Black Vanguard led by George Lester Jackson and W.L. Nolen. Jackson's group was first the Revolutionary Armed Movement (RAM) that aligned with the Black Panther Party, but he was locked up years before the Panthers started. He became a revolutionary in prison and wrote several books including “Soledad Brother – The Prison Letters of George Jackson” and “Blood in my Eye”. Jackson then merged with James “Bone” Johnson's group called the Black United Movement (BUM) and these groups formed the early BGF. The following is typical of what Jackson preached, “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 die or 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.”1
As a teen, Jackson belonged to a L.A. street gang called the Capones. He was probably attracted to the name since he lived in the Throop Street Projects of Chicago as a youngster before moving to the Los Angeles area with his parents. Interesting, per Retired Chicago Gang Cop Joe Sparks, Fred Hampton, Leader of the Black Panthers was killed by the police very close to these same Projects. Jackson had some problems as a youth and was housed in Paso Robles. In 1959, soon after his release, he did a robbery in Bakersfield, CA. He escaped the Kern Co. Juvenile Hall by impersonating another youth and committed another robbery of a gas station for over $70 dollars. He was caught again and sentenced under the old “Indeterminate Sentencing Law” to one year to life in prison. Jackson felt the law was unfair and racked up multiple disciplinary problems that landed him in “The Hole”. Jackson also ran with fellow convict James Carr in a gang called the Wolfpack and failed the Parole Board for the eighth time in 1968.
George Jackson was transferred with the Soledad Brothers to San Quentins’s-Adjustment Center (AC) in the Summer of ’70 after the death of C/O Mills. On August 7, 1970, George Jackson’s younger brother Jonathan Jackson burst into the Marin County Courthouse in a bid to free BGF inmates on trial and take hostages to exchange for his brother George. With court hostages in tow at gun point, the inmates made their way to a rented yellow Hertz van and were about to pull out of the parking lot when Marin County Officers and San Quentin guards opened fire. When the shooting stopped, Judge Harold Haley, Jackson, Christmas, and McClain all lay dead in the van; Ruchell “Cinque” McGee was unconscious and seriously wounded. McGee was still alive years later at Pelican Bay State Prison. Marin County Deputy Prosecutor Thomas was also seriously wounded but lived. The BGF expected more assistance from the Black Panther Party than they received which caused a rift from that point on. After Jonathan’s and the BGF failed escape attempt, George Jackson became enraged and sought revenge and formed the “August 7th Movement”. After Jackson’s books came out he had almost celebrity-like status. His visitors would often call him Comrade George as Marxist-Leninists often do.8
George L. Jackson was killed during a bloody escape attempt from San Quentin’s Adjustment Center-High Security Unit in August of 1971 while he made a break for the prison gate with inmate Johnny Spain. 9 According to Paul Liberatore’s book “The Road to Hell”, fellow Soledad Brother John Clutchette was in Visiting at the same day Jackson staged his escape attempt. Jackson’s attorney was John Thorne but another attorney Stephen Bingham was assisting him in a law-suit against CDC. Bingham did visit Jackson on August 21, 1971 and his paralegal and Black Panther supporter Vanita Anderson signed out of the East Gate at 1430 hrs. Bingham later said he borrowed Anderson’s tape recorder during the legal visit which is believed to have held the gun. 10 There was some confusion as the escort was right after day shift to swing shift change. After Jackson’s visit, C/O Frank DeLeon escorted him back to the AC. Policy stated all inmates were to be searched before reentry. C/O Paul Krasnes was working with trustees in the AC. Jackson allegedly pulled out an Astra 9-mm semi-automatic that he hid under his Afro wig and said, “All right Gentlemen, this is it, I’m taking over! The Dragon has come!” 11 In his book “Blood In My Eye” Jackson talks about being self taught a “bastardized style of martial arts”. The book was finished just a few weeks before his death. Third paragraph from the end of the book he prophesized, “The Dragon is coming…” 12
To this day, the BGF often uses a “Black Dragon” (Jackson’s nickname) as one of their symbols. They may also use a sword with a crossed rifle, or a dragon surrounding a prison tower. Many who are sympathetic with the BGF cause will have neither as they know officials will try to validate them as prison gang members and they will be locked up in Security Housing Units (SHU). They have a Central Committee that has existed since the early 1970s. Their early ideology demanded, “Total Liberation from within these concentration camps of the United States of Cowards, and SURVIVAL by any means necessary!” 17
By 1970, the BGF made an alliance with the Nuestra Familia to fight the Aryan Brotherhood and Mexican Mafia, but BGF have never been referred to as "Northern Structure". Many BGF were from Northern California and the Bay Area so they were close to KUMI 415. BGF may speak Swahili such as "Weusi Giadi Jama" for Black Guerrilla Family. Also, Crips do not automatically become BGF in prison. Most Crips could not care less about any revolution, it is all about making money and surviving. The BGF was and still is very violent towards Law Enforcement and Corrections.