Longtime political prisoner Ruchell Magee was released after spending 67 years behind bars. Magee was born in Jim Crow Louisiana in 1939 and faced the full brunt of white supremacy in the United States. As a 16-year-old, he was arrested on false charges of rape for having a relationship with a white woman in a part of the South dominated by the KKK. For this false charge, he spent over seven years in “Angola,” the Louisiana State Penitentiary notorious for its brutality and for forcing prisoners to work in slave-like conditions on a farm. After he was released, he moved to Los Angeles, where he was free for only 6 months before being arrested and imprisoned again on a marijuana charge. This term of incarceration would last until today.
While Magee was incarcerated for the second time he became politically active. Magee became a jailhouse lawyer, helping other inmates with their cases and providing legal advice, which had been denied to him in his own trial.
In 1970, Magee participated in the Marin County Rebellion that attempted to free three other well-known political prisoners: the Soledad Brothers Fleeta Drumgo, John Clutchette, and George Jackson. George Jackson’s younger brother, Jonathan Jackson, took over a court hearing in an attempt to bargain for the release of George Jackson. Magee, along with James McClain and the Black Panther William Arthur Christmas, helped in the takeover attempt. Jonathan Jackson and the others tried to escape in a van with the judge held hostage. The guards opened fire, in the process killing McClain, Jackson, and Christmas. Magee was wounded and then faced the full weight of state repression. Magee was tried again for his participation in the Marin County Rebellion. He served as his own defense and used the case to expose the corruption of the California judicial system and “to show you and prove to you that the entire state of California judicial system…don’t care nothing about the little man’s rights. It’s not just Magee but any Black man that they feel they can get away with, sneak and hide and convict him through fraud and thereafter place fraud records upon him.”
Magee was finally freed on July 21 of 2023. But Magee is not the only political prisoner in the U.S. In fact, there are hundreds more. American Indian activist Leonard Peltier has been imprisoned since 1977 for his activism, even though he became eligible for parole in 1993. Journalist and writer Mumia Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther, was arrested and tried in a kangaroo court and has been incarcerated since 1982. There are hundreds of other cases like this across the U.S: from activists of the mass movements of the 1960s to activists today, many have been the target of state repression.
If you would like to donate money for Magee’s reentry, you may do so here: