Saturday, December 18, 2021

Sunday synopsis - true crime-American Saturday


American Saturday by Clark Howard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Great book. I honestly had never heard of the San Quentin Six about whom this book is written. Well, it isn't actually about them. It's about the guards, 3 of whom were killed, 2 of whom were severely wounded, when George Jackson obtained a gun from a visitor and created the riot to end all riots at the prison.

The author goes into great detail about the guards and several of the prisoners as well, including, of course, the "dragon" George Jackson. Author Clark Howard doesn't just tell who they are and why they were at San Quentin on that fateful Saturday. He definitely did his research! The reader learns not just when and where they were born and grew up, but weaves in personal details, life events, motivations, and truly humanizes not only the guards, but the inmates who were involved as well. More detail is given to some of the stories, likely because much of the lives of some of them is unknown.

George Jackson was a Black Revolutionary, founder and leader of the gang known as the Black Guerrilla Family. On Saturday, August 21, 1971, he somehow became in possession of a gun (details about that are disputed, and the lawyer that was first assumed had smuggled it in, was later acquitted of that charge, although some say wrongfully acquitted). Howard says that Jackson got the gun inside by hiding it in his wig, while Wikipedia says it was under his cap. However he got it, he got it. Jackson proceeded to order that the guards who had been killed or wounded be held in a cell on the floor, after unlocking doors to the unit to free most of the prisoners. George appeared to believe he was going to escape and take another inmate or two with him.

San Quentin Six: Pinell (top center) was famed for his role in the 1971 prison break attempt with five fellow inmates. He is pictured in 1971, aged 30, with the rest of the San Quentin Six (top left and right) Fleeta Drumgo, 30; Luis Talamantez, 22; (bottom L-R) John Larry Spain, 25; David Johnson, 28; Willie Tate, 30

Although George is not one of the "San Quentin Six," he is the main character in this story because, if not for him, the event would never have happened. He was killed as were two other inmates and three guards, all white. George was a known racist who despised white people, and other than him, all those who died were white. Many others were shot or stabbed but survived.
The responsible party.

The San Quentin Six were tried on a number of charges. It was the longest-lasting trial and most costly trial in California history. The trial lasted 16 months and cost the state over two million dollars. After reading the book, though, I don't think justice was served.

For the first half of the book I was a bit frustrated with all of the back story, but as I got more into the book, it became apparent that the back story was necessary. It is a sad yet well-written and well-researched account of the events leading up to and including the prison riot. It was a fascinating read.
In memory of the following:
Paul Krasenes, Frank DeLeon, and Jere. P. Graham.

View all my reviews

1 comment:

  1. It sounds like a history comes alive book that would be hard to read but important.


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