It was the writings of prison organizer George Jackson that got me involved in prisoner support work, so i feel a certain responsibility in sharing a piece of his life. I’ve compiled the tracks from the first Prisons on Fire disc below. This way you can hear several folks talk about George Jackson (including Angela Davis, David Hilliard, George’s mom, and others) instead of just read what i have to say. To catch you up to where the disc starts, George Jackson grew up in Chicago, where at the age of 18 he was convicted to one year to life for stealing $70 from a gas station at gun point. It was in prison that he became a political organizer and Black liberationist.
The U.S. government had a multi-pronged approached to destroying the growing Black Power movement in the 60s and 70s. While COINTELPRO has gained a fair amount of infamy, a lesser-known program was Project 100,000. The Project was launched by the Defense Department and was aimed at controlling the Black Power movement by targeting and recruiting those to whom the Black liberationist message would most appeal. However, Project 100,000 was billed as a way to “rehabilitate” impoverished applicants and accepted those that would traditionally be turned away from military service (such as those with criminal records). The Project 100,000 recruits ended up seeing more extensive combat duty than other recruits and “rehabilitation” from poverty played out to be just the lip-service that it was. The project is credited with enlisting nearly 140,000 Black soldiers.
Here’s a quote from Specialist 4 Richard J. Ford III on returning from Vietnam:
Judging by U.S. history books, the only Black inventor was George Washington Carver (although in Indiana we also learned about Madame C.J. Walker, whose factory still stands in downtown Indianapolis and is now a theater). But the fact is that his podium is a rather crowded one. Here are some of the many other Black innovators:
Lewis Latimer: started as an inventor at Maxim’s U.S. Electric. In 1884, he was hired to work with Thomas Edison. He later became Edison’s chief litigator in patent conflicts. He also wrote the first book on electrical lighting. He later became the only Black member of the elite Edison Pioneers.
Garrett Augustus Morgan: In 1912 he invited the gas mask which soon became an indispensable tool for firefighters. He also invinted the automatic three-way stop sign (predecessor to the traffic light)
Shelby Davis: Created the adding machine (an early calculator) to make work at the Postal Service more efficient.