Guerilla: Racial Coercion, White Supremacy, and the Rise of the Black Guerilla Family


The Black Guerilla Family was founded in 1970 in San Quentin as the prison arm of the Black Power Movement. Racial coercion emerged as a penal logic in the late 1950s in response to the perception of a growing black militant threat within the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). With this punishment mindset came a set of formal and informal practices that had dire consequences for the prison social system in California. Racial coercion brewed racial unrest and violence, pitting prisoners against each other and fueling contempt for correctional authority. Correctional officers increased their level of violence and punishment severity toward black militants especially, with white prisoners similarly banding together to form prison gangs in order to dominate black prisoners. Under these conditions, the Black Guerilla Family organized in 1970. The CDCR’s implementation of racial coercion as a system of racial domination and political persecution eventually decimated the BGF’s original social movement foundation. These turn of events influenced the organization to become one of the largest and most influential prison gangs in United States history.

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