On August 7, 1970, Jonathan took three guns from Angela and made his way to the Marin Courthouse alone and sat down in the courtroom amongst the other spectators.
After a few minute of sitting in the courtroom calmly, Jonathan opened his satchel, drew a pistol and threw it to Black Panther defendant McClain. Jackson then produced a carbine from his raincoat as McClain held the pistol against Judge Haley's head. Jackson was reported as saying “Freeze. Just freeze.” He then told court officials, attorneys and jurors to lie on the floor while another San Quentin inmate, Ruchell Magee, a witness at McClain's trial, went to free three other testifying prisoners from their holding cell. A couple with a baby was also ordered into the judge's chambers.
A fourth man, Black Panther William A. Christmas, who was freed by McGee, joined the other three kidnappers. Haley was forced at gunpoint to call the sheriff Louis P. Montarnos, to convinve the police to refrain from intervening. They placed a sawed-off shotgun which was fastened under his chin with adhesive tape. They then secured four other hostages whom they bound with piano wire: Deputy District Attorney Gary Thomas and jurors Maria Elena Graham, Doris Whitmer, and Joyce Rodoni.
No action was taken against as they moved the hostages to the corridor. Jim Kean, a photographer for the San Rafael Independent Journal, arrived at the building after he had heard news of the incident from police radio in his car. He stepped off an elevator directly adjacent to the hostages and kidnappers, and was reportedly told by one of them “You take all the pictures you want. We are the revolutionaries.” Kean and his colleague Roger Bockrath took a series of photographs of the group, apparently after some brief discussion as to whether the two journalists should be added to the ranks of the hostages.
three black prisoners during a prison fight in the exercise yard three days prior by another guard, Opie G. Miller.
Faye Stender, a Bay Area attorney and prisons rights activist started the Soledad Brothers Defense Committee to publicize the case and raise money for the defense of Jackson, Drumgoole and Clutchette. Many people came to the aide of the prisoners including Julian Bond, Jane Fonda and Marlon Brando, but it was Angela Davis who would play a major part in the events of the near future.
Davis, who had been vocal with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) while she was a professor of philosophy at California State University Los Angeles and who was a current member of the Black Panther Party became involved with the movement to free the three black inmates. Angela began corresponding with Jackson and soon developed a personal relationship with him. She attended all the court hearings relating to the Soledad Brothers' indictment, along with many others.
Angela and Jonathan had a special relationship and even though he was young, he would sometimes act as her bodyguard. He was a young soldier and an extreme activist and most people admired that about him as a young man coming into his own and she was in love with his older brother. Davis wrote to George Jackson: “All my life's efforts have gone in one direction – Free George Jackson. Free the Soledad Brothers. Man I have gotten into a lot of trouble but I don't give a damn. I love you…. That is all that matters. Liberation by whatever means necessary. If I am serious about my love for you... I should be ready to go all the way. I am. I love you. Until victory, Angela.”
On the day before the kidnapping, Davis and Jonathan Jackson were in a rented yellow utility van at the Marin Courthouse. Jonathan went into the courtroom where James McClain was on trial. He was wearing a long buttoned-up raincoat, despite the heat and lack of rain. The van had troubles running, so Jonathan and Davis drove to a gas station down the street from the courthouse to get the van repaired.
The group entered the elevator, informing the police that “they wanted the Soledad brothers freed by 12:30 today.” The kidnappers then forced the hostages into a rented Ford panel truck, which they began to drive towards an exit leading to the U.S. 101 freeway.
The police had set up a road block outside of the civic center in anticipation of the group leaving. As Jonathan Jackson drove the hostages and three convicts away from the courthouse, front passenger McClain shot at the police stationed in the parking lot. The police shot back. Judge Haley was killed by the discharge of the shotgun which had been taped to his neck. Hostage Deputy District Attorney Gary Thomas grabbed a gun from Jonathan Jackson and began shooting at the kidnappers. A shooting melee ensued, in which three Black Panthers were killed. The only Black Panther abductor to survive was Ruchell Magee. Prosecutor Thomas was paralyzed for life. Juror Graham suffered a bullet wound to her arm.
After Jonathan died, George wrote him a letter in which he ended it:
Spending months at a time in solitary confinement gave George no choice, but to read, study and write. In 1966 George along with W.L. co-founded the Black Guerilla Family, which was based on Marxist and Maoist ideologies and political thoughts.
Put George L. Jackson on your list of must reads..
The BGF and the Panthers had the same radical thoughts about oppression and White American society in general. When brothers from the Panther Party went to San Quentin, they were embraced by the BGF without having to choose a different allegiance, since the two groups were of the same infrastructure.
George became known to all of America corrections officer John Vincent Mills was killed at California's Soledad Prison on January 16, 1970. George Jackson, Fleeta Drumgoole, and John Clutchette were said to have murdered Mills in retaliation for the shooting deaths of
During his incarceration in the California Department of Corrections facility in Soledad, George got involved in the budding revolutionary movement when he became friends with W.L. Nolan, a member of the Black Panther Party, who in turn introduced George to literature from Mao Zedong and Karl Marx and he began to read about communist ways and ideologies. He studied their political structures and radical theories and began to mold his own ideologies as he saw them in relations to the world and political institution he was confined in.
Because Angela had been accused of being a traitor to the country and had received many death threats, she had several weapons registered to her name and Jonathan often carried one when he was with her for her protection.
They came up with a plan to get Jackson out of prison by kidnapping persons during the trial of Black Panther member James McClain, who was on trial for attempted murder for the stabbing a
Soledad guard at the Marin County Civic Center. Those to be held hostage, including the judge, deputy district attorney, and jurors would be traded for Jackson's freedom. Jonathan Jackson was chosen to execute the plan.
In the week preceding the kidnapping, Angela Davis and Jonathan Jackson visited George.
In the days before the kidnapping, Davis and Jonathan Jackson drove to Mexico, Santa Cruz, Oakland, San Jose, San Francisco, and San Rafael. Two days before the kidnapping, Davis and Jonathan Jackson bought a shotgun from a pawn shop in San Francisco.
Ruchell Magee pled guilty to the charge of aggravated kidnapping for his part in the assault. In return for his plea, the Attorney General asked the Court to dismiss the charge of murder of Judge Haley. He later attempted unsuccessfully to withdraw his plea, and was sentenced in 1975 to life in prison. He is currently imprisoned at the CSP in Lancaster and has lost numerous bids for parole.
For the complete story there are several books written, but Blood in my Eye and Soledad Brothers are great reads into the mind of a powerful man, being George Jackson, but they all knew Jonathan was special in a way only few have the heart to be. What he did was wrong, but his reason and beliefs were valid to him and many others who believed in the fight they were fighting.
Blood In My Eye by George L. Jackson
Soledad Brothers by George L. Jackson
When I asked my mother, who was heading into her senior year at Blair about Jonathan, she smiled and said, “He was so sweet and hansom, but he was very quiet. You could tell something was on his mind, most of us just didn’t know about George at the time.”
Jonathon’s older brother George was the most infamous inmate in the history of American prisons. George Lester Jackson was a Black militant leader who had already achieved legendary status in the prison system after being convicted in 1961 for a $70 robbery and sentenced to 1 year to life sentence at the age of 18. This was after several stints in the California Youth Authority as a juvenile, but an indeterminate sentence was at that time cruel and unusual punishment and it is no longer in effect.
Cold and calm though.
All right, gentlemen, I'm taking over now.
On August 21, 1971, days before his trial in the guard's killing, the 29-year-old Jackson launched a riot at San Quentin Prison with a 9 mm pistol. There are various controversies over the course of events of the obtaining of the firearm and who supplied it, but it is believed that Stephen Bingham an attorney who had replaced Stender visited Jackson. With him he carried the pistol and an Afro wig. He gave the wig to Jackson to hide the gun in but as he was leaving the gun protruded from the wig and Jackson was asked to show the object. Having been discovered and gun in hand, he released an entire floor of prisoners from the maximum-security wing, crying, “This is it, gentlemen, the Dragon has come!” In the ensuing melee, three guards were killed, as were two prisoners suspected of being snitches, before George Jackson rushed out into the yard where he was shot and killed by a guard.
In 1972, Angela Davis was tried and found not guilty on all counts.
On August 7, 1970, 17 year old Jonathan Peter Jackson took three guns registered to his mentor and confidant Angela Davis into the Marin County Hall of Justice, where Judge Harold Haley was presiding over the trial of San Quentin inmate James McClain. He then drew weapons from his satchel, and with the assistance of McClain and Black Panther inmates Ruchell Magee and William A. Christmas took, Judge Haley, Deputy District Attorney Gary Thomas and three female jurors’ hostage.
The question so many asked was what drove a seventeen year old to the point of revolutionary actions. The story is documented and yet so much has gone unanswered, because of Jonathan’s sudden demise.
Jackson was the youngest of five children born to Lester and Georgia Bea Jackson. Raised in Pasadena, California, he attended St Andrew's School for grades seven and eight, La Salle High School for ninth grade, and then Blair High School through his junior year. Jackson was nicknamed "the Man-Child" by his brother George because of his tall, manly stature as a teenager.