Radical Pedagogy


Radical Pedagogy (2016)

Volume 13 Number 1

ISSN: 1524-6345

George Jackson’s Epistolary Pedagogy: Soledad Brother and Teaching Revolutionary Failure

Nathaniel Heggins Bryant

English Department

California State University, Chico, USA

E-mail: nhegginsbryant@csuchico.edu


This article examines the pedagogical contributions of George Jackson, one of the most famous black revolutionaries active in US prisons in the late 1960s. Jackson’s impact on revolutionary thought and militancy is well-documented, but his role as a mentor and teacher has been understated and understudied until recently. To understand his work, this article contextualizes two important influences on Jackson’s pedagogy: the educational work undertaken by the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, and the revolutionary Latin American theory of focoism, which articulated a theory of revolutionary failure. It then seeks to understand the benefits and limitations of teaching the revolution through what the author names Jackson’s “epistolary pedagogy” by closely examining the educative capacities of the letters contained in Soledad Brother. Ultimately, this article contends that the collection itself, composed as a single epistle to posterity, embodies a productive notion of revolutionary failure for future radicals.

Keywords: George Jackson, Soledad Brother, critical pedagogy, Black Panthers, letter

                            writing, focoism, epistolary pedagogy, black revolution, pedagogy of failure