The Vault of Lost Tales

Memoirs of an Enchanted Sojourner

Month: March, 2015

Mirror, Mirror


The Vault of Lost Tales

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” -Anonymous

I remember as a kid watching old episodes of Scooby Doo

When the reflection in the mirror would echo movements just like you

But you knew that wasn’t you looking back from the mirror’s reflection

That creepy jeepy monster disguising his actions for his own protection

Well I’m all grown up now, and that monster in the mirror was me, after all

The skeleton in the closet of my subconscious, bouncing around like a basketball

I screamed bloody murder when the image in the magic mirror started haunting me

But it did exactly as I did, and showed me things about myself I didn’t want to see

How can this be?

So I…

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Don’t Meddle with It

I can add nothing to this, nor may I take anything away…

A Soul Dad & Brotha, and A San Quentin Motha

Letters: 1964-1970

JUNE, 1964 4

Dear Mother,

Are you well? I think of you often and would write more regularly than I do if I could but find the time. The things that I am working on demand a great deal of time. I guess this is so because it is my lot to have no one to help me.

Mama, and I mention this without vanity, I have made some giant steps toward acquiring the things that I personally will need if I am to be successful in my plans; aside from the factual material acquired from books and observations there is, as you know, a certain quality of character needed to perform the thing that I have in mind. I have completely repressed all emotion; have learned to see myself in perspective, in true relation with other men and the world. I have enlarged my vision so that I may be able to think on a basis encompassing not just myself, my family, my neighborhood, but the world. I have completely arrested the susceptibility to think in theoretical terms, or give credence to religious, supernatural, or other shallow unnecessary things of this nature that lock the mind and hinder thinking.

When a man does something or possesses something that is complementary to his character, it is virtually impossible for him to hide this thing, keep it to himself, keep from telling it to those he wishes to impress; this is natural egoism, the need for attention and flattery asserting itself. I have quietly removed this need; neglect and loneliness have no effect whatever on me anymore. I feel no pain of mind or body, and the harder it gets the better I like it. I must rid myself of all sentiment and remove all possibility of love. Though I owe allegiance to no one other than myself I clearly understand that my future rests with the black people of the world. I am trying in every way possible to adjust my thinking habits so that their ways of life won’t seem as strange and alien to me as these people over here would have it. After I am finished with myself, an observer who could read my thoughts and watch my actions would never believe that I was raised in the United States, and much less would he believe that I came from the lowest class, the black stratum of slave mentality. 5

I have been meaning to ask you how Delora was doing with her husband in jail. I sincerely hope she is not finding it too hard, but life on the treadmill can be expected to be hard; if you will send me her address and ask her if she wants to write me, I will send the necessary forms to her.

Hang on, I’m going to make everything all right.

Your son,



Dear Mother,

I went up yesterday and I’ll have to say that it does not look too hopeful. I think my black brother crossed me, the one you met when you were here last. They made mention of my going to school. One of them told me in so many words to bring back a diploma. Maybe this was his meaning, maybe not. I will not know for sure until my official results come in on Friday of this week. I’ll write you again then.

Lavera 6 came to see me this weekend, and said she will come again next weekend. I will tell her Saturday what I got at the board; she can contact you. But there is no need for that much disquiet; if I should get an immediate release there would still be weeks of formalities to go through.

We have birthdays this week. Though I have lost all of my sentimentality, I know you people still cling to the old, so I’ll observe the social amenities by wishing you health on your birthday. Really though, is it not silly, the little pat phrases, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, etc.? They (the Europeans) have reduced all life to a very dull formula. All natural feelings have been lost.

I have work here in my cell to do, see you soon.




Dear Father,

I guess you are right in what you say about Mother’s position. If she wishes to occupy the corner set aside for us in this society and be happy with such then let it be. I merely speak of better and different things in a society greater (in my humble opinion) and more conducive to advancement for people of my kind. Always bear in mind that though I may sound intolerant and pressing at times, all I say is by way of discourse and nothing by way of advice. You see I understand you people clearly. You are afflicted by the same set of principles that has always governed black people’s ideas and habits here in the U.S. I know also how we arrived at this appalling state of decadence. You see, my father, we have been “educated” into an acceptance of our positions as national scapegraces. Our acceptance of the lie is consciously based on the supposition that peace can and must be preserved at any price. Blacks here in the U.S. apparently do not care how well they live, but are only concerned with how long they are able to live. This is odd indeed when considering that it is possible for us all to live well, but within the reach of no man to live long! My deepest and most sincerely felt sympathies go out to all of you who are not able to resolve your problems because of this fundamental lack of spirit. The morass of illusionment has claimed your souls completely. I do not care about the other millions of blacks here in the land of tears, their fate is of their own choosing; but because you and the others of our family have always been close to me whatever successes I wring from the eternal foe you will share. Until I do this I know it is expecting too much for you to be impressed with the ideals I put forward. It’s always been this way I imagine. One has to be shown the fruits and feel the rewards of a new or different thing before perceiving its merits.

In the airmail letter you sent it is not altogether clear to me what you were trying to say, so I won’t leap to any conclusions but let me state that I have a singular incapability, which is my strongest point, my first principle. I could never in this existence betray my kind. Love of self and kind is the first law of nature, my father. What N. did to me in 1958 I can never forgive. 7 I can understand why she betrayed me to the whites and can even explain why she thought herself right in doing so, but I can’t forgive her because she has not made any effort to change her completely backward sympathies. It is the same thing today with her as it was yesterday. She would betray me a second time if I allowed it. You know that I love my mother dearly for many reasons, she always (through your labor of course) provided for me materially the best she knew how, but she failed me bitterly in matters of the mind and spirit. My education she put in the hands of the arch-foes of my kind. This is a betrayal of the worst kind, because of this I’ve had to learn everything I now know on my own by trial and error. I have almost arrived but look at the cost. I would not be in prison now if she hadn’t been reading life through those rose-colored glasses of hers, or if you would have had time and the wisdom to tell me of my enemies, and how to get the things I needed without falling into their traps. She kept telling me how wrong I was and making me feel guilty. All of this I now understand, but again cannot forgive because she is still doing this same sort of thing!!

I got the nuts and cake today thanks, socks and handkerchiefs also. Take care.



Dear Father,

Everything was in order, concerning the package that is. They brought it right in front of the cell and opened it.

Mama sent me a card with a picture of some white people on the front of it. I guess she just can’t perceive that I don’t want anything to do with her white god.

I am still confined to this cell. It is nine by four. I have left it only twice in the month I’ve been here for ten minutes each time, in which I was allowed to shower. Did I tell you? They have assured me that I have not been given a bad-conduct report. It is just that they felt I was about to do some wrong. It’s always suspicions. What I was supposed to have done or was about to do, never, never what they caught me doing as it should be. The last time I was in a cell like this three months, from February to May (1964) for reasons that are not altogether clear yet! I have had no serious infraction in almost three years now. You know I had at least $125 on me when I was arrested in 1960 and they took it. I assume it was to cover the $70 that was missing as the result of the robbery. So I’m thinking that I shouldn’t owe them too much more. You know in fact I’m fast awakening to the idea that I may not owe anyone anything and that they even might owe me. I have given four-and-a-half years of life, during which I have had to accept the unacceptable, for $70 that I didn’t take — I protest. I protest.

If you knew how much I protested, how seriously I felt about the matter, you and Mother and anyone who has a natural affinity with me would surely be trying to convince me that you were on my side.

The events of the Congo, Vietnam, Malaya, Korea, and here in the U.S. are taking place all for the same reason. The commotion, the violence, the struggles in all these areas and many more spring from one source, the evil and malign, possessive and greedy Europeans. Their abstract theories, developed over centuries of long usage, concerning economics and sociology take the form that they do because they suffer under the mistaken belief that a man can secure himself in this insecure world best by ownership of great personal, private wealth. They attempt to impose their theories on the world for obvious reasons of self-gain. Their philosophy concerning government and economics has an underlying tone of selfishness, possessiveness, and greediness because their character is made up of these things. They can’t see the merit in socialism and communism because they do not possess the qualities of rational thought, generosity, and magnanimity necessary to be part of the human race, part of a social order, part of a system. They can not understand that “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs” is the only way men can live together without chaos. There is a species of fly that lives only four hours. If one of these flies (June fly I believe they are called), if one of these flies was born at twelve o’clock midnight in darkness and gloom, there would be no way possible for him in his lifetime to ever understand the concept of day and light. This is the case with the Europeans.

They are small men with their petty intrigues and prejudices. “In shallow men the fish of small thoughts cause much commotion, in magnanimous oceanic minds the whales of inspiration cause hardly a ruffle” (Mao Tse-tung).



Dear Mother,

I promised myself that I wouldn’t write you again from here. I only take pen in hand when feeling moves me to do so. My feeling seems to be wasted on you. You know beyond question what my feelings are, I never think of anything trite or inconsequential anymore. I’ve forgotten the feeling of joy. I’ve long since had my last smile wrung unceremoniously from my hollow soul. I write home to you people, my people, the closest of my kind for understanding and advice. I attempt to advise you in areas of which experience has made me better informed. I get no understanding. If I followed the advice I receive it would only serve to enslave me further to this madness of our times. My advice falls upon deaf ears!

This is my reason for not wanting to write. What can I say further? It is clear you don’t love me when you refuse to aid me the only way you can, the only way I expect! By telling me I am right and that I have your blessings. You see I am being frank: though I care about your feelings, I care more for your well-being. There are things brewing now that could ruin you completely if, when they break, you are in sympathy with wrong. Robert is the same way, he pretends or he may earnestly not feel the effects of the circumstances I attempt to explain. He is sympathetic to wrong. But I can overlook him more readily because of his almost complete lack of mental training. His past experiences have been very limited regarding the stimulus of academic learning, he is innocent. But not so with you, though your exposure was not all that it should have been, you are equipped with the basic fundamentals needed to guide one to the truth, should it be truth one favors. When I consider my own experience bought at the cost of these terrible years, supplemented in love and concern by your own experience and learning, what am I to think but that something is radically wrong, that I am being betrayed and have been betrayed. The question is one of grave proportions to me. I cannot stress this point too clearly. I mean to make sure this doesn’t happen to me again or to my seed. If a person doesn’t stand with me, he stands against me to my way of thinking. I feel that you have failed me Mama. I know that you have failed me. I also know that Robert has never held an opinion of his own. You have influenced his every thought ever since you have known him. You have always had the running of things. You have done him a disservice. You are doing Jon a disservice now. You are a woman, you think like a bourgeois woman. This is a predatory man’s world. The real world calls for a predatory man’s brand of thinking. Your way of viewing the world is necessarily bourgeois and feminine. How could I, Robert, Jon, or any of the men of our kind accomplish what we must as men if we think like bourgeois women, or let our women think for us. This is what’s happening all over this part of the world! Robert should have been stronger, should have had more time and freedom of movement. So should Grandfather, and Great-Grandfather. But they didn’t and it isn’t their fault. The cruelest and most suppressive treatment has always fallen to the males because they have not that tender defense the woman is born with. So understand me once and for all. I speak no further on the matter. You conceived and Robert sired a man. Nothing can turn me from my resolve. Make no further attempts. I am going to give my all to this thing, and if the victory is to fall to me, you and people like you must stand beside me, not lean or lie on me.

Robert tells me you are sick. I am writing to ask about the nature of your illness. I know a hope will not aid you any, but by whatever gods there be I hope and wish you well. There is much sickness and tears to come, some will fall to me also I guess, but my condition can only improve from where I stand now.

Fare you well.


FEBRUARY, 1965 25

Dear Mother,

Your letter reached me late for some unknown reason. Has your health improved? I think you should relax; all has not been said or done yet. You are a little confused now for understandable reasons; things will be made clear before long. I should be out of here this year. I have complied with all of their demands: group counseling, school, clean conduct record. I go to board next time they meet. You could start writing letters to the Adult Authority now, the more the better. You know what to say: that I was young then and you see a vast change in my character now. Also say that you can and will help me with a place to stay.

I asked Robert to send me some shoes. Check with him on it. They have to be sent from Sears by the salesman, cost no more than $25, have the price or sales slip in the box, and in the way of type and size I want some old folks’ comforts with high tops, 9 — B. Nothing else, my feet need therapy in the worst way. Soon as you can on this, I want to get rid of these corns and sores before I get out.

I’m glad you weren’t a singer or dancer. Pop was wise in that. The image held of the blacks in this part of the world is that we are proficient in but one or two areas only, the service trades or the physical entertainment fields (singers, dancers, boxers, baseball players).

Would you like to support the theory that we are good for nothing but to serve or entertain our captors?

In the society of our fathers and in the civilized world today, women feel it their obligation to be ever yielding and obedient to their men. Life is purposely made simple for them because of their nature, and they are happy. When the women outnumber the men in the black societies, the men take as many wives as they can afford, and care for them all equally. In the white for some nebulous reason the men can take only one . . . the rest are left to become prostitutes, nuns, or lesbians. In the civilized societies the women do light work, bear children, and lend purpose to the man’s existence. They train children in the ways of wisdom that history has shown to be correct. Their job is to train the children in their early life to be men or women, not confused psychotics! This is a big job, to train and propagate the race!! Is this not enough? The rest is left to the men: government administration, the providing of means of subsistence, and defense, or maintenance of life and property against any who would deprive us of it, as the barbarian has and is still attempting to do. The white theory of “the emancipated woman” is a false idea. You will find it, as they are finding it, the factor in the breakdown of the family unit. Mama, all this struggle is unnecessary. Let’s not create an atmosphere of competition among ourselves as they have done. Life is too short. There is too much for us to restore to its proper order and we are too wise. What do you think made the white guy write that life is “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing” — he felt frustrated and stupid.


MARCH, 1965 12

Dear Mama,

The things you speak of are uppermost in my mind and my heart. I am not too manly or sophisticated to say that I love you and all the rest with a devotion and dedication that will continue to grow until I pass from this existence. Anything that will please you, and that falls within human accomplishment, I will carry out. I say this with confidence because of my certainty that you would never ask me to please you by surrendering my mental liberty and self-respect; I wouldn’t want to live were these, my last two real possessions, to be lost.

Any confidence you put in me, Mama, will be well placed. This is not mere talk, my ego is nowhere involved. If we are to surmount these barriers standing between us, and finally work things around to our advantage, on a few points we must be agreed. You must listen to me. I’ve been trying to say something. Stop closing my voice off from your mind! My hair has started to turn gray and I’m beginning to look like an old man. My best efforts up to now have all fallen far short of their intended goals. I know, however, just as sure as day follows night that I will win the last round. That is the one I always win, the important one.

I feel that you understand the situation better than most who live on your level. From your last letter, I know you are intelligent enough to understand. I have it before me now and I glean much to indicate that this is so. But there is much that has escaped your understanding, and it is quite reasonable that this be true. You have no way of learning and bettering. However, if you will honor my humble voice, I would very much like to pass on to you just a thought or two I have had. All that I ask is that you hear me, and think about what I say. Do not just read over the lines. Think of what I say in relation to things past, and the vague possibility that is our future. I’m not just another convict or “Negro.” I’m one who really loves you and who has been observing with a practiced eye and an almost photographic memory. But first let me clear up one other incidental thing. Robert has never said anything unattractive or belittling about you. Each of his letters expresses almost total grief for the condition of your health. He blames me even, then himself, but never the right people. He feels he has failed you, me, and all the others, and he keeps trying to learn if I also blame him. Of course I do not blame him or you, or myself. I place the blame for the social ills that have caused us discomfort and unhappiness squarely upon the shoulders of those responsible: the people in control!!

It is mainly on this subject that I am going to speak now. To get it across I am going to write two letters, this one and another sheet also tonight. This should be read first for the idea to follow in logical order. 8

I am going to do exactly as you say concerning the show of good conduct here. I have never raised my hand against any man, since I’ve been an adult that is, except in self-defense, but there has been an element of aggressiveness in the way that I have handled these incidents. I’ll have to always defend my person, but I promise you that unless there is a direct threat to my existence I will never have another bit of trouble here. Understand though that you do not live in the real rip-and-tear world. You have escaped it by surrendering your self-determination and freedom of thought in a tranquilizing conformity to the wishes of whoever may hold the strings. Consequently you do not know how hard it is to live in peace even for a short period with people who defy violence, and vilify peace and harmony.


MARCH, 1965 12

Dear Mama,

I will try what you advised. I know it to be the best way at this point in the little game. But should I fail you are not to say, “George is no good.” You must try to understand that now, just as in the past, there are other considerations and influences that enter into the course of events that turn our lives one way or the other.

Have you ever wondered how you and I and all our kind lost their identity so fast? The last blacks were brought into this country only 75 to 80 years ago, three generations at most. This is too short a time for us to have lost as much as we have. No other people have completely been divorced from their own as we have in such a short period. I don’t even know my name. Have you ever wondered about this? The answer is found in the fact that we lost control of the circumstances surrounding our lives. We were alienated from our sources, isolated, and remolded to fit in certain forms, to fill a specific purpose. No consideration was or has ever been given to our being anything other than what we were originally intended to be (I ask for electronics or drafting and I’m told to be practical). You must realize, understand fully, that we have little or no control over our lives. You must then stop giving yourself pain by feeling that you failed somewhere. You have not failed. You have been failed, by history and events, and people over whom you had no control. Only after you understand this can you then go on to make the necessary alterations that will bring some purpose and value to your life; you must gain some control! I have said this to Robert a hundred times but it makes no impression at all. He writes back in the same vein as he did the time before I said anything. He just doesn’t have the mental equipment. Will you look deeper and think on the matter and then explain to him? I was born knowing exactly nothing. I had no one, no one, to teach me the things of real value. The school systems are gauged to teach youth what to think, not how to think. Robert never had the time to say even hello, and neither of you really knew anything to give my anyway, because your parents knew nothing. Do you see where the cycle brings us, to the real source of the trouble, the alientation and the abandonment, the pressure from without, the system and its supporters? I didn’t know either. So we must look to the people whose responsibility it is to see to it that the benefits of society pass down to all concerned for an answer. If a good god exists then they are the ones who must make an appeal to him for forgiveness: forgiveness for relinquishment and dereliction of duty! I don’t need god, religion, belief, etc. I need control, control of the determining factors relating to the unquestioning support and loyalty of my mother, father, brothers, sisters. You need Robert and I need him and he needs you. We all need each other. The standards and emotions we have used in the past to regulate our relations defy all nature and run contrary to all known precedent. When did blood cease to be thicker than and more binding than all else? We must look to each other and destroy the barriers placed between us with trust, and love. I am committed and I will do all that I have to. I am equal to anything that is required. Help me when you can, the only way you can, by trying to understand.

I don’t want a package this year; save the money; save all you can. I am living very badly now and just to stay alive is an ordeal, but I see something better. It is vague, and is a possibility at best, but I know a place, a refuge where people love and live.


MARCH, 1965 16

Dear Father,

I’ve been going through final examinations at school. Had to use all of my available time in study and have not been able to write like I should, but forgive me. They are over now and I did well.

I go before the board next week.

I didn’t know about L.’s husband. That is too bad. She seems to be extremely unlucky in that area. She told me that the last husband she had was worse. Since that is the case I can feel nothing against her, but as you said, she should have explained. People are odd indeed, about money that is. The best method of testing a person’s character is through money. The shocks and strains of this money-mad society are enough to ruin the purest of minds. Men are so deeply engaged in making a living that their very existence is shaped and dominated by the system of production. I’m throughly tired already, Pop. When I obtain what I need to work with, nothing could stop me from going home. That is where I will invest my money, resources, and talents. My labor shall be expanded where it will be appreciated. My taxes will go to an order and system of government that will in turn protect me and my interests. I shall not, as long as I call myself a man, compromise with tyranny. There are a few things that mean more to me than life. Though I must think of and plan for tomorrow, I cannot, I must not surrender for tomorrow all that I possess today. I can repair this loss, this morbid depression that owns a little more of my mind each day that passes. The pale and almost indistinguishable glow of the future may yet materialize to disperse the gloomy stupor that has encompassed me completely. I have been purposely kept ignorant, I have been taught what to think, instead of how to think. I have been subjected to the ordeal of hunger, thirst, name-calling, and other uncountable indignities. Danger comes even from those of my own kind. Their lack of response and unyielding adherence to ineffectual thought and action is an obstacle to my plans. I may yet surmount it, but only if I follow my call. I must obey the dictates of my mind.

Give my regards to all.


MARCH, 1965 30

Dear Father,

I haven’t read anything or studied in a week now. I have been devoting all my time to thought. I trust you are all in health. I think of my personal past quite often. This is uncomfortable sometimes but necessary. I try not to let my past mistakes bother me too much, though some seem almost unpardonable. If it were not for the few intermixed little victories, my confidence in my ability would be irreparably shaken.

Though I know I am a victim of social injustice and economic pressure and though I understand the forces that work to drive so many of our kind to places like this and to mental institutions, I can’t help but know that I proceeded wrong somewhere. I could have done a lot worse. You know our people react in different ways to this neoslavery, some just give in completely and join the other side. They join some christian cult and cry out for integration. These are the ones who doubt themselves most. They are the weakest and hardest to reach with the new doctrine. Some become inveterate drinkers and narcotic users in an attempt to gain some mental solace for the physical depravity they suffer. I’ve heard them say, “There’s no hope without dope.” Some hire on as a janitor, bellboy, redcap, cook, elevator boy, singer, boxer, baseball player, or maybe a freak at some sideshow and pretend that all is as well as is possible. They think since it’s always been this way it must always remain this way; these are the fatalists, they serve and entertain and rationalize.

Then there are those who resist and rebel but do not know what, who, why, or how exactly they should go about this. They are aware but confused. They are the least fortunate, for they end where I have ended. By using half measures and failing dismally to effect any real improvement in their condition, they fall victim to the full fury and might of the system’s repressive agencies. Believe me, every dirty trick of deception and brutality is employed without shame, without honor, without humanity, without reservation to either convert or destroy a rebellious arm. Believe me, when I say that I begin to weary of the sun. I am by nature a gentle man, I love the simple things of life, good food, good wine, an expressive book, music, pretty black women. I used to find enjoyment in a walk in the rain, summer evenings in a place like Harrisburg. Remember how I used to love Harrisburg. All of this is gone from me, all the gentle, shy characteristics of the black men have been wrung unceremoniously from my soul. The buffets and blows of this have and have-not society have engendered in me a flame that will live, will live to grow, until it either destroys my tormentor or myself. You don’t understand this but I must say it. Maybe when you remember this ten or twenty years from now you’ll comprehend. I don’t think of life in the same sense that you or most black men of your generation think of it, it is not important to me how long I live, I think only of how I live, how well, how nobly. We think if we are to be men again we must stop working for nothing, competing against each other for the little they allow us to possess, stop selling our women or allowing them to be used and handled against their will, stop letting our children be educated by the barbarian, using their language, dress, and customs, and most assuredly stop turning our cheeks.


APRIL, 1965 18

Dear Father,

Did you get my letter of April 11, last Sunday? I fear you may not have gotten that letter since therein I set down some important matters in an almost too direct manner 9 I did so thinking that if it was allowed to go through, you would have in your possession knowledge of the singular events that seem to rush upon me menacing and evil from all directions at once. You would have this information in as complete a form as the space of that single page allows, or if they had sent it back or destroyed it, nothing. This was logical in that I wanted you to know immediately. It is best to have such matters done, and related, and over with. Here in my position you know I’m not supposed to be critical, nor am I supposed to attempt to convey what goes on in here. So please acknowledge my letter. I have from you only the letters you wrote on April 1 and April 2. Have you sent others?

They are sending me to Folsom soon, so they told me. The assault charge was referred to the district attorney. He will in turn refer it to the grand jury, which will then bring what they call legal proceedings against me. Let me say here that all of this is a well-thought-out effort to frighten me and maybe even do me whatever harm they can without alarming or shocking those around me, you included, too much. I guess they want to show me and those around me here how powerless I am in their hands. But they must do this without giving rise to feelings of total insecurity on the part of the little people which could serve as stimulus to some act which would lead toward changing conditions or circumstances that threaten not just our well-being but our very existence. Thus if I or any of my kind should suffer the final hurt, it would be by accident, heart attack instead of poisoning, malnutrition instead of beating, suicide by hanging instead of being shot, or legal proceedings instead of foul play.

But I have much to say about any matter that concerns me in spite of their wishes. Fear, the emotion that stiffens and inhibits the minds of most men, causing them to be incapable of acting in their defense at the moment of trial, is totally lacking in me. I could look upon my total ruin with as detached an unconcern as I look upon theirs. The payment for life is death. I have written many a page in the book of life in spite of my limited years, and I intend to write many more. I’ll come out of this as I have everything else. I’ll see Ghana yet.

Folsom is a better prison than this. There will be found many older inmates who are more stable and less inclined to mind others’ business. I can also obtain a parole faster there or a transfer to some minimum security camp. On the assault charge I don’t think they will convict me. Maybe won’t even try me. The D.A. has to accept the case, and then the grand jury must be convinced to accept what evidence they may concoct against me.

Give Mother my regards.

Fare you well.


MAY, 1965 2

Dear Mother and Father,

I am still in isolation. Nothing has changed since I wrote you last, Robert. 10 You have a remarkable method for relieving yourself of unpleasant or weighty problems that can almost be admired, were it just a little less chancy and not so slow. You seem to just ignore the matter or pretend it doesn’t exist, hoping maybe others with more time or brains or perhaps more to lose will work something out. I have tried several times over the last few years to adopt this means of rationalization for my own relief. I tried it at the start of this last attack upon my well-being. Like you, I go to bed each night hoping that the morrow will bring about the needed change. I simply force all my awareness, all my many and monumental problems, from my remembrance. Without plans or forethought, without a hint of uneasiness, I go to bed each night, hoping, trying to avert the storm that is now coming on. I find each morning, as I found this one, freighted with possibilities of my own disaster. I still see the poverty among plenty, feel the curse of total insecurity. I still feel cramped within this cloud of ignorance which has been placed about me purposely to make me act against my interests. My bed is just as hard as it was when I went to sleep, my clothing just as coarse and inadequate. Here in the isolation cell the pitifully light breakfasts are just the same. I went supperless to bed the night before. Each morning if I can find or beg a piece of soap I wash myself. This is indeed counted as good fortune. But I mustn’t complain. It is un-American to do so. Like the rest of you I should be completely lacking in feeling for myself. I should smile and sing. Perhaps I should thank the lord in spite of the fact that I have had not one moment’s mental gratification in all my twenty-three years. I find no relief in baseball and basketball games on the TV. The charges they bring against me now could cost me my life, the last of my possessions, the only thing they have heretofore left me with. But now that I think of it, I have always been forced to fear for my life, so this is nothing new. It merely more direct.

One of you send me twenty-five dollars as soon as you can after reading this. I will get out of isolation next week and be locked up in segregation (slightly better than this because we can draw money or articles from the prison store). I want to buy some envelopes, and books that I will be needing. Important because I have nothing. Have lost everything. If you can get it here soon enough I will be allowed to draw it this month.

Well, I’ve heard it said that the darkest hour falls just before dawn, so I brace myself to my tasks, never doubting in my ability to struggle on. I feel no defeat could overcome me, and fear no evil but fear itself perhaps. I have removed this emotion from my mind completely, and I languish in misery, waiting. This is a big part of the battle: waiting for the correct moment and then having the courage and wit to move when the time is right. The living condition, though bad, have no effect upon me physically. But how much longer will this last for me in and out of prison, for you in and out of debt, for the others of our kind who suffer jail, mental institutions, and the like. How long will we be forced to live this life, where every meal is an accomplishment, where every movie or pair of shoes is a fulfillment, where circumstance never allows our children to develop past a mental age of sixteen. I’ve been patient, but where I’m concerned patience has its limits. Take it too far, and it’s cowardice.


JUNE, 1965 9

Dear Father,

We can spend twenty-five dollars a month here at the canteen for toilet articles, a few dry goods, and food. But we can spend any amount through the mail on such things as books, typewriters, correspondence courses in all the liberal arts. I spend what you have sent me on books. Many that are of interest and value to me cannot be obtained here in the library.

Anything that you send me in the way of finances is a good investment, the returns will be forthcoming after the successful conclusion of the wars.

Mao Tse-tung, leader of the Chinese Communist party, has written many works on politics and war. Please ascertain the exact titles of his works and who they are published by and how much each costs. Also the price of the Encyclopedia Africana by William Du Bois. How many volumes are there in the set? Who publishes them? It is very important that I have the publisher’s name and address, because if I come by the money to purchase these books I need the exact titles and publishers. To read and study the major works of these two authors would be the climax of my education, and education in itself. Du Bois was a mere fool in his earlier days; but right at the close of his eventful life he gave up this life of toil, deprivation, and tears to join his own kind. He left the United States, went to Ghana, and wrote the Encyclopedia Africana.

It is difficult, very difficult to get any facts concerning our history and our way of life. The lies, half-truths, and propaganda have won total sway over the facts. We have no knowledge of our heritage. Our economic status has reduced our minds to a state of complete oblivion. The young black who comes out of college or the university is as ignorant and unlearned as the white laborer. For all practical purposes he is worse off than when he went in, for he has learned only the attitudes and ways of the snake, and a few well-worded lies. The ruling culture refuses to let us know how much we did to advance civilization in our lands long ago. It refuses to recognize and appreciate our craft and strength and allow us some of the fruits of our labor. All this has left an emptiness in our lives, a void, a vacuum that must soon be filled by hostilities. I am most certainly committed, until the day I’m sent to the warrior’s rest. By the ruling culture’s acts of greed and barbarism the uncommitted will soon learn that compromise with such an enemy is impossible. Our two fortunes move along a collision course. I’m prepared in every aspect, I have nothing, I can lose nothing!


JUNE, 1965

Dear Mother,

Even though I have plenty of time now, I don’t write more regularly because of my studies. I get involved in some aspect of the subjects that interest me and before I can extract myself the lights are going off and it is twelve o’clock. You know the last thing we discussed just before you people left me when you were up here last, well I’ve decided to go into it-now.

My life here is slowly becoming one of complete alienation. I talk to fewer convicts every day. Just one lieutenant here has tried to do anything for me. He got me out of segregation twice last year. The die is cast now though, I guess, thumbs down on me. My future is about as sound as a three-dollar bill. I thank whatever forces there are working for me that I’m still able to write you. I’m joking of course, it isn’t that serious.

Nothing will help me now though but patience and I have developed plenty. There is nothing left to me now but to await whatever may come. I go back to the board October or is it December. Nine months from March would be December. Yes! Perhaps the fog will lift and I will see some ray of hope by then. You know the thing which they have locked me up for now could mean spending my next few years in confinement here. It would be merely a flight from reality to think that I could get a date this year. I would be happy though to just know how long I will be held, even if it was 10 years. I’d feel better knowing.

Take care of yourself.


JUNE, 1965

Dear Father,

One of those tall ultrabright electrical fixtures used to illuminate the walls and surrounding area at night casts a direct beam of light in my cell at night. (I moved to a different cell last week). Consequently I have enough light, even after the usual twelve o’clock lights-out, to read or study by. I don’t really have to sleep now if I choose not to. The early hours of morning are the only time of the day that one can find any respite from the pandemonium caused by these the most uncultured of San Quentin inmates. I don’t let the noise bother me even in the evenings when it rises to maddening intensity, because I try to understand my surroundings. I’ve asked myself, as I do about all the other aspects of life, why — why do white cons act and react as if they were animals of a lower order than we black men (some blacks get foolish also but we don’t refer to them as “men”)? Why just because they look like shaved monkeys must they also act like them? It’s frayed nerves, caused by the harsh terms that defeat brought when they went against the system, the same system that runs this place. I must ask myself why did they go against the system and why are the terms so harsh? Could it be that a man will most always pursue his interests, system or no? But why should so many people’s interests lie outside the system? Why doesn’t the system encompass the needs and requirements of all or, to be realistic, the majority. We now come to the part of the question around which the whole contention pivots: Why are the terms so harsh, the price of defeat so high? What is it that causes a man to become power-mad, to deify exploitation and mendacity and vilify the compatible, harmonious things of nature, how many times have you heard that “everyone should help fight the evils of communism,” etc.?


JULY, 1965


I write this letter to inform you that the people who hold me here read that letter sent them. They read it and smiled with satisfaction and triumph. You are under a grave illusion, I must now admit. You didn’t think they would inform me of it, did you? But you are in serious error. They let me read it. Apparently every petty official in the prison has read it, all to my embarrassment. For it sounded like something out of Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

It didn’t just cause me embarrassment. It also has caused me to be put in a cell that has the lock welded closed. Can it possibly be? Is it within the scope of feasibility that you did not know that to tell these people I was “bent on self-destruction” (to use your reference) would cause me harm? Are you so feeble of mind as to “report,” after a visit with me, that I am bent on violent self-destruction and think it would cause me no harm!

I have always respected and loved you people, and hated myself, cried bitter tears of remorse, when, because of circumstances and conditions, which I didn’t understand, I let you down. Even after I discovered the true cause of my ills, when I found that this social order had created, through its inadequacies and its abandonment of our interest, the basis for my frustrations, I forgave you for not preparing me; for not warning me, for pretending that this was the best of all possible worlds. I forgave you for misleading me. I forgave that catholic school thing. I tried to understand your defeat complex and your loyalty to institutions contrary to the blacks’ interest.

I’ve traveled widely over this country and some in Mexico. I’ve met and have had exchanges with hundreds of thousands of people. I’ve read extensively in the fields of social-economic and political theory and development, all of this done against serious resistance from all sides. But because I knew one day that I would find what I’m after, and answer some of the questions that beset my mind with confusion and unrest and fear, I pushed ahead in spite of the foolish conformity that I saw in you people. Now I have arrived at a state of awareness that (because of the education system) few Negroes reach in the U.S. In my concern for you, I try to share the benefits of my experience and my observations, but am rewarded by being called madman. Thank you for the vote of confidence you displayed in that letter to the warden. I’ll never forget it! All my younger life you betrayed me. Like I said, I could forgive. At first you may not have known any better, but over the last two years I’ve informed you of many things. I’ve given you my best and you have rejected me for my enemies. With this last act, you have betrayed my bosom interest, even though I warned you not to say anything at all. I will never forgive you this. Should we live forever I’ll never trust you again. Your mind has failed you completely. To take sides against your son! You did it in ’58 and now again. There will not be a third time. The cost to me is too great. Father against son, and brother against brother. This is truly detestable. You are a sick man.


JULY, 1965

Dear Father,

I am perplexed and hard pressed in finding a solution or reason that will adequately explain why we are so eager to follow Charlie. Why we are so impressed with his apparent know-how. A glance at his history shows that it has been one long continuous war. At no time in European history has there been a period of peace and harmony. Every moment of his past has been spent in the breakdown of civilization by causing war, disruption, disease, and artificial famine. You send me a date from the moment he emerged from his cave-dwelling days and I’ll tell you which of his tribes were at war, either on us or on themselves. The whole of the Western European’s existence here in the U.S. has been the same one long war with different peoples. This is the only thing they understand, the only thing they respect — the only thing they can do with any dexterity. Do you accept this miscreant as the architect of the patterns that must guide your future life! If so, we must part company, and it is best we do so now, before the trouble begins. But please stop and think so that you can turn yourself around in time, so that the developments to come won’t shock you so badly. I have not wasted my time these last three or four years. I speak with some authority and people are listening. People like me are going to be shaping your tomorrows. So just sit back, open your mind, and watch, since you can’t marshal the fundamentals to help me.

Yes, my friend, I remember everything, the reason that Delora and I had to spend that summer and winter in Harrisburg is known and remembered by me. I remember the garbage right under the side and back of our place on Racine. Mama having to wash and wring clothes by hand, carrying Penny and Jon while some fat redheaded mama sat on her behind. I remember how strange people looked to me when I finally had to be sent to Skinner School. You never knew why I was almost killed the first day I went, but I do. I remember how the rent and clothes for us children kept you broke and ragged. All of us hungry, if not for food — the other things that make life bearable. After you and Mama settled down you had no recreational outlets whatever. And everyone on Warren Blvd. knows how you would beat me all the way home from our baseball games in the alley. Robert, can you see how absurd you sound to me when you speak on “the good life,” or something about being a free adult? I know you have never been free. I know that few blacks over here have ever been free. The forms of slavery merely changed at the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation from chattel slavery to economic slavery. If you could see and talk to some of the blacks I meet in here you would immediately understand what I mean, and see that I’m right. They are all average, all with the same backgrounds, and in for the same thing, some form of food getting. About 70 to 80 percent of all crime in the U.S. is perpetrated by blacks, “the sole reason for this is that 98 percent of our number live below the poverty level in bitter and abject misery”! You must take off your rose-colored glasses and stop pretending. We have suffered an unmitigated wrong! How do you think I felt when I saw you come home each day a little more depressed than the day before? How do you think I felt when I looked in your face and saw the clouds forming, when I saw you look around and see your best efforts go for nothing — nothing. I can count the times on my hands that you managed to work up a smile.


JULY, 1965

Dear Father,

Well I guess you know that I’m aware that this is not the best of all possible lives. You also know that I thank you for trying to cushion the shocks and strains that history has made it our lot to have to endure. But the make-believe game has ended now. I don’t think it necessary for me to burden myself with listing strains we’ve endured. You are intelligent enough to know. At each phase of this long train of tyrannies, we have conducted ourselves in a very meek and civilized manner, with only polite please for justice and moderation, all to no avail. We have shown a noble indisposition to react with the passion that each new oppression engenders. But any fool should be able to see that this cannot be allowed to continue. Any fool should be able to see that nature allows no such imbalances as this to exist for long. We have petitioned for judicial redress. We have remonstrated, supplicated, demonstrated, and prostrated ourselves before the feet of our self-appointed administrators. We have done all that we can do to circumvent the eruption that now comes on apace. The point of no return in our relationship has long been passed. I know what must and will take place so I follow my ends through to their most glorious conclusion. Don’t make me waste my time and energy winning you to a position that you should already support with all your sympathies. The same forces that have made your life miserable, the same forces that have made your life senseless and unrewarding, threaten me and all our posterity. I know the way out. If you cannot help, sit back and listen, watch. You are charged with the responsibility of acknowledging the truth, my friend, and supporting it with whatever means, no matter how humble, are in your power. I am charged to right the wrong, lift the burden from the backs of future generations. I will not shrink from my duties. I will never falter or waver before the task, but we will go forward — to resolve this conflict once and forever. Of all the twenty thousand known years of advanced civilization, the years that are now coming on will be the most momentous.


AUGUST, 1965

Dear Father,

Although I’m still between the life-death cycle, I feel a lot better. How is the teeth situation with you?

I know you stay pretty busy and have a very bad memory, but try to remember to answer this question in your next letter. You told me once when I was at home there never to sleep more than six hours a day. You said that four was really enough. Why did you say this? On what authority? Experience or just something you read? What would be the effects of getting too much sleep?

I’ve been carrying out some very interesting experiments with myself in here. I quite definitely do not believe in a strict regimen. By strict I mean absolute patterns for thinking and living. But I cannot help feeling there is a judicious mean somewhere. I have been forced to seek the judicious mean, due to the circumstances that history has thrown me into here — now. You see it isn’t as simple as you implied. “Thinking and reading” won’t fill a twenty-four-hour day. I have something real deep running through me, a burning thing of the mind. I have observed myself pass into a state of anger over something that happened as far away as Rhodesia or the Union of South Africa. And I didn’t sleep for two days when those children and women were being murdered down there in your part of the world last week. I’ve told myself uncountable times that anger is an emotion, a degenerative emotion, unnecessary and controllable, but I couldn’t control it until a few days ago when I observed myself being consumed by the force of my own weight. So, my friend, I started conducting these experiments with myself. Why can’t I rid myself of the sorrow and emotion that awareness has brought me? I get rid of the self-destructive force of error and ignorance only to be torn and miserable by what I discover. It happened that I knew all along that some imbalance did exist, or I’ll say a few imbalances existed, that disallowed me from progressing further in my development. I put my head in my hands and wondered why do I make myself sick, why can’t I overcome this, maybe I’m just human after all? I believe that is what got it! I am what I am, and that’s all I am. I knew this morbid depression must have some human explainable cause, an imbalance somewhere. The mind and body cannot be separated, a physical imbalance can precipitate effects that could eventually lead to some mental imbalance. Too much sleep, too little, the wrong kind of food, too much, too little, too much reading in the wrong position, too much study, or too long an application to one subject, results in imbalances, conflicts, struggles. I was looking for a solution from one direction only, when no event, no effect in nature, has a single cause. It’s a collection of causes! So I look at myself and I discover new ways of knowing myself, seeing and placing myself in the vast scheme. The struggle is almost over, my friend, complete and harmonious development can be mine, everyone’s. Only one-fourth of the sorrow in each man’s life is caused by outside uncontrollable elements, the rest is self-imposed by failing to analyze and act with calmness.


AUGUST, 1965

Dear Father,

I’ve been on five hours sleep a day and one-and-one-half hours exercise. The rest of my time is divided proportionally between my work and what little pleasure I can make for myself in here. This isn’t too much to speak of, a little light fiction, or the radio. The experiment seems to be bringing me some benefits; the tenseness that brings about emotional unrest has left.

I hope you are not too uncomfortable with your teeth being worked on. I will have to have mine worked on also when I leave here. The longer I wear these shoes you sent me the more comfortable they become. You should try some. Of course I haven’t too far to walk in here, but I make the best of what I have. I do my best thinking on my feet, so I walk this little ten feet I have rather diligently sometimes.

I was just thinking yesterday how far I have fallen from glory, how very much of my “physical” freedom they have taken from me (I still have mental freedom). I realized how few of the pleasures of life I have tasted. Trouble, difficulties, and sorrow have pervaded these twenty-four years. Twenty-four years without one moment’s mental gratification. For us it is always tomorrow; tomorrow we’ll have enough money to eat better; tomorrow we’ll be able to buy this necessary article of clothing, to pay that debt. Tomorrow, it never really gets here. “To every one who has will more be given . . . but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” I like this life, I can never reconcile myself to it, or rationalize the fact that I have been basely used, hated, and repressed as if it were the natural order of things. Life is at best a nebulous shadow, a vague contingency, the merest of possibilities to begin with. But men in general (myself most emphatically included), being at best complete and abject fools, have rendered even what small possibilities there were to love and learn null and void! But I refuse to excite myself about my past, or our future. I have simply taken up a task and I am preparing myself for its execution. I absolutely refuse to give way to emotional involvement or any undisciplined or dogmatic beliefs. Life is too uncertain, and dogmas and beliefs are the product of this sick man who now transgresses against us and the world. If I can bend circumstances to my will I succeed. If not — I’m off the cycle.

You know that the U.S. power elite, the 7 percent who own and run this country and influence the policies of the rest of the European world, want to attack and destroy China in the next four or five years. China has become too strong and it is influencing the rest of the Afro-Asian world too heavily with anti-Western philosophy (self-determination and economic independence). All that stands in the way of the power elite is a few dissenting factions which are daily being won over, and having their opinions molded for them by the communications media, and, second, the domestic unrest and near-revolutionary atmosphere in the black slums of all the large U.S. cities. Do you add well? Can you see what may be in the making? They cannot attack China unless the blacks here in the U.S. support their war effort. What if some black voice denounced the war? Many blacks would go for this. What would happen if large numbers of blacks refused to fight or make weapons, or even say attempted to subvert the U.S. war effort? Remember the Jews of Germany! From what I observe in here, where they don’t have to hide their contempt, we’re moving toward this eventuality.



Dear Father,

This is about six letters I’ve written in two weeks. Did you get my answer to your last one? In the future I will put the exact date on them and double-check with you on them. You say you got none of these recent letters? When they stop them, they usually send them back to me. I can’t say exactly what happened, but I guess these things are to be expected.

I mentioned in one of those other letters that I went before one of these committees last month made up of the top officials here. They informed me that I “can forget about the board transfer or the main population facilities here in the prison.” These were their words. So, my friend, I’ll be in this little cell for a while yet. I hope you note that all this is done without any proof, and without allowing me to face my accuser. But I guess these things are to be expected.

I want you to send me a portable typewriter and of course the carrying case. We can have them here, and I can use one to build my spelling and vocabulary. It will give me something to do in here. Send a lesson book also. A used one will be all right. Although they sell ribbons here you will have to send a couple of rolls because I have no way of buying any. I’ve had to secure permission to send out for the typewriter, of course. It took over a month to have it approved, so send it as soon as you are able.

They just turned the lights out. It’s 12:15 (A.M., Tuesday). Take it easy.


SEPTEMBER, 1965 12

Dear Mama,

Robert tells me that you are not well. I’m sorry to hear this, but I guess we’re all lucky to have lived as long as we have. The many years you spent without proper clothing for the cold wet weather back East, with improper food, not enough food, and lack of expert medical attention, is enough misfortune to leave the strongest person ill.

You need to see a specialist. If we were not blacks and consequently poor, you would be able to enjoy the benefits of science. But you are probably seeing some disinterested, half-trained parasite who knows no more about your ailment or the curing of it than I do. Robert doesn’t make enough in two years to allow you to get the best attention (that is, here in our present surroundings). His scope doesn’t extend any farther than the boundaries of the U.S. Those lies and the propaganda he reads in Life, Reader’s Digest, and Look, have completely undressed his mind. I feel very sorry for all of you. I’m locked in a cell 24 hours a day, but I still know my potential, I still feel my strength, I still thumb my nose at the caveman. Because my mind is still my own, no one can lie to me anymore. I know where my interest lies.

For now though, I’m going to be a good boy, as Robert and most of the blacks we see around us are all good boys. I’m going to smile, and I’m going to pretend to accept the small compensations they hand out in return for our soul and our freedom. I’m going to be a good boy and eat what is put before me. I’m going to do this so that I’ll stay alive long enough to take care of you. You deserve a lot better than you have had and more than you will have. You don’t know it but there is a better life, regardless of what the Reader’s Digest says. Believe me there is a better life.

Take care of yourself.


OCTOBER, 1965 3

Dear Robert,

I have the typewriter in my possession here, so all is well. They didn’t, however, produce the instruction book or paper. They let me have the two extra ribbons. I can get an instruction book. Paper isn’t too much of a problem. All things considered, it turned out very well.

You can take a chance if you care to on the shorthand book. Put it in an envelope like you say, but also write a letter stating right in the front, in the first lines, that it is a shorthand book. Mail the letter and the book together. If they don’t think it’s some kind of cryptogram we have going, it may be allowed or overlooked, but you can’t just leave it up to them to figure out what it is. That would be asking for too much.

Just read in the Monitor that “.6 parts of insecticide to one billion parts of water will kill most all marine animals in salt water or fresh”!

Be sure to look into the course on speed reading. It costs sixty cents. I know it is a great help. I would be nice for me to have someone to talk to.

Take care, and keep your eyes open,


NOVEMBER, 1965 7

Dear Robert,

Nothing has changed. I’m still losing. I’m alive though, so there’s still the possibility. . . .

How is Georgia? Don’t tell her anything about my condition. 11 It isn’t necessary for you to reveal to her all that I tell you. She doesn’t need to know. It can only worry her needlessly.

I hope you are well.


NOVEMBER, 1965 13

Dear Mother,

I am alive and well, and am at present working my way through the adjustment center here. It is an overall improvement in my condition. The prospects of getting out or getting a transfer to a more habitable prison are now better.

I will relish the transfer part. All of the officers here have preconceived notions about my patterns of behavior now. Consequently it is somewhat hard for me to avoid falling under suspicion for almost every misdeed perpetrated by a black. But no matter, if I do have to stay here I am determined to circumvent the little traps.

I sincerely hope your health is improving, or at least becoming no worse. I feel awful disconcerted that I am unable to render any assistance. However, I feel this inability is only temporary. I intend to surge back with a tenacity uncontainable in its relentlessness.

Fortune must soon smile on me because sincere effort is always rewarded. Nature allows no such imbalances as this. I am assured and completely self-possessed in the knowledge that all contradictions and conflicts must one day be resolved.

Give my love to all the women there, please take care of yourself.



DECEMBER, 1965 23

Dear Mother,

I got the food you sent me today; it was very nice, and fills a real need. I almost didn’t get it though. You see we are supposed to send out a slip to the correspondent when we wish someone to send us something and you are supposed to send the package with this slip you get from me as proof that you are an authorized correspondent. I didn’t send a slip out this year because of the trouble it might involve for you, and the money could possibly have been better placed.

I hope your health is improving. I am doing quite well in that respect, all things considered. You may not know me when you next see me. I find a few new gray hairs every time I look in the mirror. If I live to be thirty, I guess it will be all white.

I’ll start writing Jon a couple of letters a week. If you would like me to, let me know. I would tell him as much of the truth as is advisable in one of these letters, but if you don’t feel that what I represent is correct for him, then I’ll refrain. How old is he now?

I guess I’ll be getting a transfer, or going out to the main population soon. A couple of months more of this and I think they will let up on me. About parole, I can’t say, but I am not alone. I don’t feel so distressed when I look around me and see others like myself experiencing the same thing. The uniformity of our condition seems to lend support to each of us. I don’t think the administrators fully understand. I have the strangest feeling that they may not understand how this atmosphere they foster nurtures a mindless, hopeless mass. It is suicidal incompetence. The strong can afford to be incompetent or wrong sometimes without loss of face. Even the mightiest and most capable of men are only human. But he who attributes to himself omnipotence must never be wrong. For once a weakness is found, no matter how small, in one who claims omnipotence he is completely exposed. The fall from omnipotence ends only with insignificance.

May this New Year coming be your year, our year.

Take care,



DECEMBER, 1965 29

Dear Robert,

The photographs were nice. Penny sent me one of her baby also. I thought him very beautiful. Send me her address, also send Delora’s. Delora looks well. Tell her I love her and that the baby looks just like her. She has two babies now hasn’t she? I’m an uncle three times.

Jon should be the main concern now. By now you should have seen enough to know how to proceed with his development. He doesn’t look too healthy to me. He looks thin, pale, and soft. Those weights would improve his circulation and make his veins stand out. If he works out in the backyard in the sun every evening in a year, he could be a paragon. He needs that and he needs to be told the truth. He can get these things only from you. That school won’t teach him anything except possibly a few Latin prayers, but if you haven’t caught on yet, nothing I can say in this letter will help. Don’t forget I’ve been over the road he is straining on now. Maybe it is a little different now with him. You can afford to give him bikes and baseball gloves, but the loose-living thing is going to seem awfully exciting to him in a few years when he compares it against the artificial world of those catholics.

I’m doing all right here I guess. You take it easy.


JANUARY, 1966 1

Dear Robert,

I received your gratifying letter. Was it an expression of your love, an indication of your gracious sympathy for the position we were both born into, and that I am presently feeling the cramping convulsions of? I got the money. If I feel like a burden to you, it is best that we suspend exchanges until I’ve struggled on back to my feet. You probably don’t feel that you owe me anything, and I guess you don’t since you have accepted the values and customs of these people we live among. In that light, I owe to you the unquestionable honor of my struggle within this American dream.

What can I say to you, my friend? I’ve been wondering if it would be best to lie to you and hide myself, say only what I know so well that you like to hear. I hesitate to do this because you have been lied to so much already. To add to this may be my last and greatest and most unpardonable crime against you. You are the older of the two of us. You are a man in your way and there is much merit in the manner you have conducted yourself these last 25 years. To have lived through the period of your early youth is in itself a qualifier for respect. The following shocks and strains were surely enough to drive the strongest man to distraction. All the honor that you are due I freely give. However, we, the humble representatives of the future generations, have at our disposal all the accumulated knowledge and experiences of all past generations to build our thoughts. I have made no mark as yet to be sure, but why is it that we cannot communicate? What is it that bars our efforts to exchange thoughts and ideas? The fault could lie in my presentation. If so, I will make every effort to correct my deficiency because it is to the interest of us both that we meet on the same level. Can you understand that a meeting of the minds will have to precede any advancement of our combined fortunes? The question is whether we will be able to overcome the macilious efforts and forces that divide us and be able to put group interests before personal petty prejudice and preconceived notions. Or will we all end by turning our backs on each other and going our way in anger?

I’m tired, my friend, real tired. I’ve got a pain deep in my stomach and I’m tired pretending that the obvious doesn’t exist and that this is the best of all possible lives. It is not, and if a concentrated effort isn’t made to finally learn and use the lessons set forth in history, unthinkable chaos will result!

I know that it probably will not come true, but may this be your year, our year to realize the promise that being born a man brings.


FEBRUARY, 1966 23

Dear Mama,

I have been hoping that you would write and acknowledge my last letter. I hope it doesn’t worry you too much that I will not be considered for release for some time yet. It worries me enough. I hope your health gets no worse at least. I’ll be with you as soon as I can. I’ve got some clean time in now already and plan to do as well for the rest of this year so that in December they will let me go. They have promised me this anyway. I don’t put any confidence whatever in what they say, but the hope remains.

I am in the main population now. I was released from the adjustment center lockup today (because of good conduct) and have a good program set up for me, one conducive to parole consideration. I have learned something by the experience: never again to look for mercy, never again to expect or hope for justice, never to look for quarter without strings being attached. The last illusion has been shattered; I know the way from here; ask no quarter of fate and give none.

That thing you mentioned concerning Frances has had me perturbed for a week. Some just are not going to make it, some of us have just slipped too far to ever get back. This guy, I promise you, will be sorry a long, long time. Right here at this juncture of time we as a people have nothing, absolutely nothing but each other, some fresh air, the blue and gold of day and silver at night, a clean conscience, and the promise of cloudless days to come. But some do not enjoy these things enough, don’t understand the nature of our circumstances and commit unpardonable crimes, unnatural crimes that must in the end bar them from partaking in the benefits of the liberation that is planned for tomorrow. In the end a requiem will be sung over the whole vast complex of disorder.

Please inform me of any new developments there. Help Jon to become a man. Fare you well.


MARCH, 1966 3

Dear Mama,

Always good to hear from you, though it makes me sad to know that you are not well. Just hold on though and circumstances will take a definite turn for the better, no ifs or ands about this. The way lies open for us. I’m not just talking or hoping. I know there is a better life for us. I know what there is to be had and of all there is to be had I plan to claim for us the lion’s share.

You are right of course in what you contend. The black woman has in the past few hundred years been the only force holding us together and holding us up. She has absorbed the biggest part of the many shocks and strains of existence under a slave order. The men can think of nothing more effective than pimping, gambling, or petty theft. I’ve heard men brag about being pimps of black women and taking money from black women who are on relief. Things like this I find odious, disgusting — you are right, the black men have proven themselves to be utterly detestable and repulsive in the past. Before I would succumb to such subterfuge I would scratch my living from the ground on hands and knees, or die in a hail of bullets! My hat goes off to every one of you, you have my profoundest respect. I have surrendered all hope of happiness for myself in this life to the prospect of effecting some improvement in our circumstances as a whole. I have a plan, I will give, and give, and give of myself until it proves our making or my end. The men of our group have developed as a result of living under a ruthless system a set of mannerisms that numb the soul. We have been made the floor mat of the world, but the world has yet to see what can be done by men of our nature, by men who have walked the path of disparity, of regression, of abortion, and yet come out whole. There will be a special page in the book of life for the men who have crawled back from the grave. This page will tell of utter defeat, ruin, passivity, and subjection in one breath, and in the next, overwhelming victory and fulfillment.

So take care of yourself, and hold on.



MARCH, 1966 20

Dear Mama,

We have to order books from a bookstore owned by one of the staff here. It is contrary to institution policy for someone to send us books from outside. This is the rule, the law, so I guess it cannot be helped. Situations of this type are what this country is built on, the wonderful system that made it great.

I’ve read as much St, Augustine as I could stomach. If you don’t know about him and Jerome, Leibniz, and the rest of that lunatic fringe yet, my love, you are hurting. Why do you say things like that to me? You know how I feel about those people. You know that I am completely aware of all of them. I can never be deceived again by them. I know their awesome capacity for evil, I’m victim of it now. That Pope Pius XII, the guy you let us pray for, gave Mussolini his blessing as he was about to embark upon his misadventure in Ethiopia. I could give you thousands of examples of this type. I have explained my feeling to you many, many times, so I won’t go any further with this. If children being blown out of this existence while attending church services, men being lynched for a gesture, colonialism, the inquisition, and H-bombs haven’t affected you, nothing I say here can help you. If you could live my life one week and see the things I see, feel the pain I feel, and die a little bit each day as I do, all your illusions and apparitions would vanish. You talk to me like I was born yesterday, like I was still a little boy. All my life now you have told me about European gods and European christians who were supposed to be knowledgeable. When do you plan to say something that will help me? You may not know any better. If not, I am wrong in saying what I have, but I find it hard to admit that my mother could be so insensitive to the truth! You disrespect me, Mama, when you talk to me like that. It’s like you saying to me, “George, you’re a fool. You do not have eyes to see, ears to hear, and a brain to interpret, so I’ll tell you any kind of outrageous story.” Ordinary people, the mediocre, need to feel or believe in something greater than themselves. It gives them false security and it makes them feel that help may be forthcoming. This is self-delusion in the extreme. I cannot partake in any foolishness. Do you want me to be mediocre like the rest of the herd! When I need strength, Mama, I reach down within myself. I draw out of the reserves I’ve built — the necessary endurance to face down my opposition. I call on myself, I have faith in myself. This is where it must always come from in the end — yourself. I place no one and nothing above myself. What any man has done before me I can do. If there is a god, Mama, he hates me and I’ll have to resist what he or it is doing to us. All my life, Mama, I’ve had to work things out for myself. I’ve had help from no quarter. I’ve been alone now for a long time. This is why I’ve had so much pain and trouble. Robert gave me nothing. You gave me god and that horrible church. Even god managed to take something away from me. I have nothing left but myself.



APRIL, 1966 17

Dear Mama,

I received, your card, nice of you to think of me on Easter. Getting that card sure made me feel a lot better. You know how important Easter is to me.

Are you any better? Have you resolved the insurance problem? Don’t worry too much about these things; solutions cause new and sometimes even worse problems to spring up. All of our difficulties will never be worked out. I guess perhaps this existence is merely a constant choosing of the lesser evil.

Penny came to see me last week; I recall a time when all she wanted was to get away from the family group, but now that she’s on her own, she didn’t want to talk about anything else but you and the past. She is devoted to you. She is a sweet, well-balanced, and wonderful woman, deserving of much more than this life here offers us.

But the weather is fine here, plenty of sun lately. I exercise in the sun an hour every day, I’m getting very big and very black.

Fare you well,


MAY, 1966 8

Dear Mama,

All is well here, I’m going to night school again, and have encountered no trouble of late.

Are you well? They say that today is Mother’s Day. I can’t make much sense out of it, though. I love mine every day. But these guys around me here seem to like being told when to celebrate this and that, so should you also feel this way, let me acknowledge the custom and wish you as pleasant a Mother’s Day as is possible under our circumstances.

Take care of yourself. . . .




Dear Mama,

Hope you are better; the typewriter is being repaired so this comes by hand.

We are in agreement on many things. All is as well as it is possible to be between two who are human and subject to human error. You have done much for me and I am sincerely in your debt; your returns will be soon forthcoming. That which you didn’t do I never expected, for you are after all a woman and think as a woman should.

The attitudes and methods that I have developed on my own have no reflection on you, but on the nature of our life circumstances and situational pressures.

Is Jon in health? I have some pictures of you on your trip back East. You surely look well and unchanged.

I go to the board in December and as I have stated before I have met all of their terms. My release is almost assured.

What is Penny’s new address? I will send her a letter on her birthday and discuss things as they are said to be, and as they really are. She must be having a pretty bad time; that guy seems to be pretty Anglo-Americanized.

Take care of yourself.



SEPTEMBER, 1966 16

Dear Mama,

I wish you many happy returns in the birthday department. It sounds pretty empty I know but that’s all I have to offer right now, a wish; I have broad plans for the future though. A large villa for you in the Maldive Islands, with an extra-deep bomb shelter.

All is the same here. Each day that comes and goes is like the one before; being a good boy, going to church, reading about the saints, and getting good ratings on my job for the proper attitudes.

Are you well, are you getting any of the pleasant things that life in these United States offers? That reminds me of a thing I read recently concerning China. One of the top political leaders came to an elementary school to lecture (they take education pretty seriously). He told the children to put their heads on the desk and pray to god for ice cream. After fifteen minutes of serious and sincere effort all the children lost interest and grew restive. He then told them to pray to him and the party for ice cream, whereupon a few minutes later they raised their heads from their desks and found, guess what, ice cream. Isn’t that disgusting, Mama, to distort the thinking of children like that. . . . Now how is Jon? How much does he weigh?

You don’t say much about the folks in the Midwest, are they well? Take care of yourself.



SEPTEMBER, 1966 25

Dear Robert,

What has happened to Penny? Is she having troubles with her man? You were going to send me her address, have you forgotten?

I have been trimming down my weight some, more exercise and less food, I’m getting ready for December. I don’t want to stand out. I must fit in with the rest of the herd and look as ordinary as possible. I want my system to grow accustomed to little or no food at all without it causing me the normal distress that it causes others. You would be surprised how little food an adult really needs. I went for two weeks on nothing but three slices of bread and “one” tumbler of water a day without noticeable loss mentally or physically.

Are you well, my friend? Glad to hear you are becoming interested in things of the mind. The school idea is truly out of the ordinary. Most others of your caste and peer group have given up. There are two or three things that I would like to take, but cannot take them here in prison: language (Chinese and Arabic), electronics, and chemicals. Maybe I’ll get out next year and if I still feel the inclination I’ll buy a few courses. Take care of yourself.


OCTOBER, 1966 20

Dear Robert,

Just received your letter of October 15, good to hear that Jon is well, and that your studies are coming along.

I wanted to exhaust the possibilities of getting that free course in drafting here. I wanted to know if I was going to remain here in this prison at least until board before I asked you to put yourself out in sending it. Well it is conclusive that I will not be able to take it here. The school is carrying the course but there is no room for folks like me, just right now, maybe next year. I have found conclusively that I will not be transferred either. So, my friend, if you will, and whenever you can, send the course from LaSalle. I will be able to finish much sooner than you think. My math is excellent and I have nothing but time. I’ll suspend my other endeavors in deference to the speedy and satisfactory completion of this course. Upon closer examination of all the facts involved in my doing something like this in here I also find that plastic tools are not necessary. I can have and use anything necessary for the course. LaSalle sends all of these tools right along with the course, so things are not as complicated as I thought them at first to be.

Very likely I will be given a parole date this year. If so, or perhaps to increase the possibility, I should have a job offer here on record. You could correspond with some machine shops or the like right now and tell them that I have completed or am just about to complete an accredited course in drafting, and I need a statement from them on record here to be released. Don’t worry about me not being prepared by then. I have thought everything out. But any offer from almost any area will suffice to get me out. If you are not able to get someone to send me in a job offer then there should be a lengthy statement here on record that you are willing to support me while I go to school. I hope you understand what I am saying. I have to have something on record for the board to gain the impression all is secure financially for my release. It may be less difficult just to state officially that I am going to school and that you plan to pay my way completely through it upon my release. We must decide now what will be said for their benefit upon this matter now. Let me know in your next letter which will be easier for you to do. Get me a job offer or state that our plans include school with your full backing. Send it to the Department of Corrections in Sacramento.

Take care of yourself,


DECEMBER, 1966 2

Dear Robert,

The typewriter is being repaired again. Never buy a plastic typewriter. Though good for some things, plastic is too flexible for that type of machinery. It keeps the parts out of trim.

I received your letter and nothing that develops from this mess will surprise me. I have taken all possibilities into account, in advance. I have nothing going for me and any good or favorable turn of event will be only luck, good fortune. You don’t really think that I mind not being liked by them, do you? I sincerely feel that it is a tribute to my character that they do not. I said what I did only to help you understand my position, and in turn understand any future action I may undertake. But I don’t want you to trouble your mind, or lose any sleep about the seriousness of my position either. When things become too hard for everyone else, that’s when I start enjoying myself. Just understand in the light of future events that I am guided by necessity and that my needs are different than yours.

The board meets during the last few days of the month.

Take care of yourself, my friend,


DECEMBER, 1966 3

Dear Robert,

I am worried about Penny. Does she still write you? Have you let her know that should she need a refuge or a strong arm she can find them in her father. Women need to know these things. It is tormenting to them to know that they are alone, can look to no quarter for string-free aid. If Penny felt that she had no choice in the matter, no help, she would accept ill treatment forever. But then an offer of help must seem freely and honestly given to be of value.

Are you well, my friend? The climate here is terrible, and I am not talking about the weather, each day is a trial. I stay close to my cell these days, reading, working on my book. Take care of yourself.


JANUARY, 1967 3

Dear Mama,

I have at least another fourteen or eighteen months to do. Of course I could do the rest of my life here, not taking into account a possible change in the system of government and economics, a change of hands, that is.

They gave me no consideration at the board, the same people that gave me their promise last year. I was not surprised, I was completely prepared for this.

Take care of yourself.


JANUARY, 1967 12

Dear Mama,

Your letter was well received; it left me feeling better than I have felt for years. I have never felt as close to any human as I do to you now. Your thoughts mirror mine exactly. Why have you left me alone to my struggle so long? I know the answer to this must be that we hesitate to reveal or acknowledge the existence of ugliness to the ones we love, even though the knowledge of such may better equip them to resist the effects of evil.

I am going into my seventh year here. I have learned as much as I possibly could in this time; I have studied myself closely, I have studied people, human and inhuman, wanting to know and understand. I am given to understand that it is the strong who rule the weak but, in turn, the wise rule over the strong. So you see that I recognize the value of what you have stated concerning faith and wisdom. What is happening to me here, what has happened, what will happen, can never surprise or upset me again. My nerves have been fractured, my sensibilities outraged, for the last time. It’s all a matter of course to me now. My outlook is clear and the future holds no more terrors for me. Just existing, life without joy, without real meaning does not appeal to me at all. I am very tired of waking up each morning wondering if I will be worked for nothing again today, or wondering if I will be insulted, humiliated, injured, or even done to death today. There are a few things that I must be decisive about, a few things that I know to be so, then there are things which my faith tells me could possibly be so. I have faith in the fact that we, the majority of peoples (5 to 1) on earth, can live with and complement each other’s existence if we rid the earth of the barbarous influence spread by this inhuman, unnatural minority! My faith in life holds still to the principle that we men of color will soon make a harmonious world out of this chaotic travesty of fact. But first we must destroy the malefactor and root out all of his ideals, moralities, and institutions. It is to this end that I have long since dedicated myself, to extinguish forever the lights of a perverted science in any way that I can, by any and all means. To accomplish this we can no longer woo false gods or invoke half measures. Please understand that though I would miss you and all the others, though I love you dearly, I do not want to live in this world as it is. I do not think of myself as one small person among so many. I know what I can do, I know I can build and can cause things to happen, but I also can be hurt.

L. is my closest consort, a true friend, the most trustworthy man I have ever met. This is saying a lot, believe me, trust is a difficult thing to build between men brought up under Anglo-American or Western cultures. I learned much from him. He is also tired of seeing himself through the eyes of others on Amos `n’ Andy and I Spy. This individual comes to you with my highest recommendation. He will help me. You help him to help me. His intelligence and character are unquestionable.


JANUARY, 1967 23

Dear Robert,

I tried to write several times these last couple of weeks but my letters all came back with a note attached explaining what I can and cannot say.

Have you been well? How old are you now, pop? Where were you and what were you doing when you were my age, twenty-five? I’ll bet you were not doing too much better than I am now. You probably were not in prison. Well, I know you were not, but was your standing socially and economically speaking any better than mine? I guess it was, since you at least had limited freedom of movement. I have none here.

Although I would very much like to get out of here in order to develop a few ideas that have occurred to me — although I would not like to leave my bones here on the hill if it is a choice between that and surrendering the things that make me a man, the things that allow me to hold my head erect and unbowed, then the hill can have my bones. Many times in the history of our past — I speak of the African here in the U.S. — many times we were presented with this choice, too many times, too many of us choose to live the crippled existence of the near-man, the half-man. Well, I don’t care how long I live. Over this I have no control, but I do care about what kind of life I live, and I can control this. I may not live but another five minutes, but it will be five minutes definitely on my terms.


JANUARY, 1967 31

Dear Frances,

Sorry to have neglected you for so long; things are very complicated for me here. I stay very busy, all of the time. I never have enough time to do the things that I must.

I have made inroads into political economy, geography, forms of government, anthropology, archaeology and the basics of three languages, and when I can get hold of them some of the works on urban guerrilla warfare.

I can use some assistance on the language aspect, though. Next time you pass a bookstore ask about a book dealing with Swahili, a self-teaching Swahili book. Get the proper title and the publisher’s name and also a good self-teaching book on Arabic.

Last year Mama suggested that a lawyer could possibly help me get out of here, by sitting in and representing me at the board. I wish I had gone along with it. A couple of people have gotten out like that. There is a lady lawyer up here in San Francisco who specializes in that. She says a grand in her hand, several months before the board, is all that is required to get a date, if a person has his minimum in. My minimum is one year, so I’ve got seven times more than necessary. Talk to Robert about this. If she doesn’t get a client out, she returns his money. If Robert borrowed it and got me out I would of course return it.

If I don’t get a new sentence for the stuff I am locked up for now, that is what we must do. Just discuss it with Robert for now. I’ll let you know in a few months if you should take definite steps in that direction. First I must ascertain whether or not they plan to fix me with the blame for these recent events.

I must now start doing all that is humanly possible to get out of prison. I can see great ill forecast for me if I don’t find some way to extract myself from these people’s control. “If we must die let it not be like hogs, hunted and pinned in an inglorious spot, while around us bark the mad and hungry dogs making their mock at our accursed lot; if we must die then let us nobly die, so that our precious blood may not be shed in vain. Then even the monsters we defy shall be constrained to honor us though dead. We kinsmen must meet the common foe, though far outnumbered, let us show us brave, and for their thousand blows, deal one death blow. What though before us lies the open grave, like men we’ll face the murderous pack, pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back.” I don’t mind dying but I’d like to have the opportunity to fight back. Take care.


FEBRUARY, 1967 1

Dear Mother,

Things are normal here, the usual turmoil. I hope you are well. I hope you are doing enough light exercise each day to work up some perspiration and not eating the wrong things — pork, sugar, white bread, etc. I’m very careful in this respect and enjoy almost perfect health and great reserves of energy and strength in spite of my circumstances. But I do heavy exercises, maybe two hours worth a day, every day. In close confinement where I cannot get to any workout facilities, as now, I work out somewhat differently. I take neat piles of books and magazines tied together and exercise with them. For you I imagine some deep knee bends, touch your toes, and say some push-ups would be fine. You would do five sets of ten of each exercise. For example, start by doing ten push-ups, rest a minute or two, do ten more, rest a few minutes, etc., until you get to five sets, then go to the next exercise. Stay young and firm that way. Resistance to bodily disorders stays high, or builds up.

You know when they locked me up this time all my personal property came up missing. I’ll have to replace everything — two personal chess sets, toilet articles, the black sweat shirts. I had four of these but saved only the one I had on. Even the plastic tumblers I used to drink with in the cell, everything is gone. I’m not sure about the typewriter, I can’t get any information on it. I know that I don’t have it here; whether it is safe somewhere else I don’t know. Then, too, several of us blacks were locked up at the same time for just about the same thing. They go to the small adjustment center yard each day for two hours; I am forced to remain in my cell, no fresh air, no sun, twenty-four hours a day in here. It doesn’t bother me, though. I’ve trained myself not to be disorganized by any measure they take against me. I exercise in here, and pursue my studies. That fills my day out nicely. Since I know that I am the original man and will soon inherit this earth, I am content to just prepare myself and wait, nothing can stop me now! But I do sometimes wonder just exactly how they got the way they are. I know beyond question the extent of the evil that lurks in their hearts; I see the insane passion, inherent in their characters, to dominate all that they come in contact with. What aggressive psychosis impells a man to want his dessert and mine too, to want to feast at every table, to want to cast his shadow over every land? I don’t know what they are; some folks call them devils (doers of evil). I don’t know if this is an adequate description. It goes much deeper. From their footprints I see that they are descendants of Pithecanthropus erectus like ourselves, but here the similarity ends. I refuse to compare myself with a man who for one truth will tell ninety-nine lies; with a vampire who cannot stand in the sun and do a day’s work; and with someone who thrives upon the blood, sweat, and tears of any who fall within his power. But doomsday is dawning; on this most awesome day all imbalances and contradictions must be resolved, and it will be some of us who will be left to rebuild this world and people these lands with civil men.


MARCH, 1967

Dear Mother,

I guess Robert told you what happened to me here. My comrades have prevailed upon me to desist for a time, but I must decide for myself. In any event I won’t lose my head. This is a terrible price to pay just to stay alive, or I should say just to exist; I have never really lived.

You know I have grown very, very tired of talking, and listening to talk. King and his kind have betrayed our bosom interests with their demagogic delirium. The poor fool knows nothing of the antagonist’s true nature and has not the perception to read and learn by history and past events. In a nonviolent movement there must be a latent threat of eruption, a dormant possibility of sudden and violent action if concessions are to be won, respect gained, and the established order altered. That nonviolent theory is practicable in civilized lands among civilized people, the Asians and Africans, but a look at European history shows that anything of great value that ever changed hands was taken by force of arms.

I cannot let my feelings become involved. I must not fall victim to a play of emotions, because it would limit my ability to act in my defense.

You know the world. The depressed peoples of the world are very shortly going to grow tired of being wooed and lulled into passivity and quiet endurance by chromium and neon lights. The soft music from the many well-placed public-address loudspeakers and car radios will no longer serve as balm to the thwarted hopes, defeated aims, and brutal suppression of needed change. They’ll come out of their coma with a bloodlust and justified indignation for social injustice that will sweep the asphalt right from under the empire builders. This is the only reason I hang on. I want to be in the vanguard.

My cell partner puts it this way: “Every sickness ain’t death, every good-bye ain’t gone, and every big man ain’t strong.”

I say: “Let Rome in Tiber melt, and the wide arch of the ranged empire fall” and “The jungle is still the jungle be it composed of trees or skyscrapers, and the law of the jungle is bite or be bitten.”

Take care.


MARCH, 1967 26

Dear Mama,

Papa 12 has had the “true release, and at last the clasp of peace.” For him to have received this at such a great age and without violence is no small consolation. I loved him dearly and thought of him as one of our most practical and level-headed kin. You probably don’t remember the long walks and talks Papa and I used to take, or the long visits when he lived on Lake Street and we lived on Warren. But I remember. He used to say things, probably just thinking aloud, sure that I wasn’t listening or would not comprehend. But I did, and I think I knew him better than most. Do you remember how I used to answer “What” to every question put to me, and how Papa would deride me for this? He later in the course of our exchanges taught me to answer questions with “Why” instead of “What.”

Another of our games helped me greatly with my powers of observation. When we would walk, he told me to always look at the large signboards as deeply as possible and after we had passed one, he would make me recite all that was on it. I would never remember as much detail as he, but I did win a kind word or two on occasion. We played this same game at his house with pictures and objects spread out on the table or bed.

I wish he could have survived to see and enjoy the new world we plan to create from this chaos. If I could have gotten out of here last year he would never have gone out on sardines and crackers. I don’t know how anyone else views the matter and don’t care, but now for me his is one more voice added to the already thunderous chorus that cry from their unmarked and unhallowed graves for vindication.

Don’t wait for me to change or modify my attitudes in the least. I cannot understand, as you put it, or as you would have me understand. I am a man, you are a woman. Being a woman, you may expect to be and enjoy being tyrannized. Perhaps you actually like walking at the heel of another, or otherwise placing yourself beneath another, but for me this is despicable. I refuse to even attempt to understand why I should debase myself or concede or compromise any part, the smallest part, of anything on earth to anyone who is not of my kind in thought and form. I love you, Mama, but I must be frank. Why did Papa die alone and hungry? Why did you think me insane for wanting a new bicycle instead of the old one I stole piece by piece and put together? Why did you allow us to worship at a white altar? Why even now, following tragedy after tragedy, crisis after crisis, do you still send Jon to that school where he is taught to feel inferior, and why do you continue to send me Easter cards? This is the height of disrespect you show me. You never wanted me to be a man nor Jon either. You don’t want us to resist and defeat our enemies. What is wrong with you, Mama? No other mama in history has acted the way you act under stress situations.

I won’t be a good boy ever.



MARCH, 1967 26

Dear Robert,

Why, my friend, did Papa go out alone and hungry. Did Frances and Mama ever talk to you of his condition when they returned from Illinois last year. Was it ever put to him that he could stay with you people and eat when you ate and fast when you fasted, I wonder? “When poverty comes in at the door, love flies out of the window.”

Can you see the division among us and its effect? This is our greatest obstacle. I sometimes wonder how this will turn out. Before we can ever effectively face down the foe, we must have had long since learned to share, trust, communicate, and live harmoniously with each other.

Our new state governor has decreed that the daily food allowance for each convict be cut exactly in half. We get almost no “grade one” protein now.

Stuff like eggs, meat, and milk products is seldom seen now. So my experiments in self-discipline are now paying off. Everyone else is hungry now, while I feel nothing. And this is just the beginning: the reactionary, repressive forces presently at work will bring things to such a crisis soon that Baldwin’s warning of “The fire next time” must soon be borne out with all its sinister accompaniments.

Take care of yourself, Pop. Comfort Mom as well as you can and tell her I’m all right, healthy, happy, content. Of course, this is a lie, but she likes to be lied to.


MARCH, 1967 27

Dear Mama,

Please don’t take what I expressed in my last letter too seriously. I was feeling extremely bad. Try to relax; the mental depression you are presently gripped by comes from a very common cause, particularly among us blacks here in the U.S. As a defense, we look at life through our rose-colored glasses, rationalizing and pretending that things are not so bad after all, but then day after day — tragedy after tragedy strikes and confuses us, and our pretense fails to aid or dispel the nagging feeling that we cannot have security in an insecure society, especially when one belongs to an insecure caste within this larger society. I believe sincerely that you will be a very unhappy and perplexed woman for as long as you try to pretent that you have anything in common with this culture, or better, that this culture has anything in common with you, and as long as you pretend that there is no difference between men, and as long as you try to be more English than the English, while the English ignore your attempts and use your humility to their advantage.

I suggest no action, no physical action that is, for I know you have never been a woman of action, but I do suggest that you purge your mind little by little of some of your Western notions. Direct your nervous animosity at the right people and their system, and stop, for your own sake please stop blaming yourself. If you were, right now, walking toward your kitchen with the whole family’s life savings in your hand, let’s say, and I sneaked up behind you and pulled the rug from under you and you fell and broke your arm, leg, nose, and the money flew into the burning fireplace, would you get up blaming me for pulling the rug, or would you just lay there and blame yourself and pretend that you didn’t really fall, or that the whole thing made no difference anyway? The analogy is perfect.

Do you know who I blame for what has happened to me the last 25 years, and before to my ancestors? I would be narrow-minded indeed if I blamed any of you, my folks. I don’t blame you for not teaching me how to get what I wanted without getting put in jail, nor do I blame myself. I was born knowing nothing and am a product of my total surroundings. I blame the capitalistic dog, the imperialistic, cave-dwelling brute that kidnapped us, pulled the rug from under us, made us a caste within his society with no vertical economic mobility. As soon as all this became clear to me and I developed the nerve to admit it to myself, that we were defeated in war and are now captives, slaves or actually that we inherited a neoslave existence, I immediately became relaxed, always expecting the worst, and started working on the remedy. Can you play chess? It relaxes, builds foresight, alertness, concentration, and judgment. Learn, so we can play next year.


MAY, 1967 9

Dear Robert,

That’s great about the classes. You passed the exams pretty easy, didn’t you? It’s wonderful to have a pop with brains.

I was approved for a transfer, but it is not official yet. When it is I’ll inform you of the details.

I’ve been getting a lot of work done lately. My mind is fast becoming clear and I am slowly harnessing my emotions, I can go days without speaking a word. With the pursuit of food and shelter relegated to the state, I have been able to channel all my thoughts to important things, significant things, So I attempt to bend this experience to our benefit rather than let them weaken and destroy me, as they would like. You are aware that these places, this one in particular, will either bring out the best in an individual or ruin him entirely.

Wherever they send me, Robert, I will try as hard as my character will allow to avoid all involvement in those situations that lead to trouble. But I can promise nothing, the future holds no surprises for me. I expect anything, including trouble, especially trouble, considering the times. I have adopted, these last several months, a new attitude, however, that will limit the scope of my troubles.

Take care of yourself.


MAY, 1967 16

Dear Robert,

That is good reasoning concerning the school issue. It was a wise decision in every way you look at it. The other way (catholic school) you pay more for less education, plus they make emotional pansies of the boys with that sanctimonious dogma. Dear Pop, I’m not just talking for the sake of talking. I am deeply concerned for Jon and you all. Much thought goes into all I attempt to convey. Whenever a man builds an image of himself and of his surroundings that he cannot live up to and that does not conform to the de facto situation, the end result must be confusion and emotional breakdown. If my instructor tells me that the world and its affairs are run as well as they possibly can be, that I am governed by wise and judicious men, that I am free and should be happy, and if when I leave the instructor’s presence and encounter the exact opposite, if I actually sense or see confusion, war, inflation, recession, depression, death, and decay, is it not reasonable that I should become perplexed? If my instructor tells me that sex is evil, bad, base, and I happen to like sex, is it not reasonable to assume that I will develop mixed emotions concerning sex? If this instructor relates to me that sex is bad, thinking of it is lustful, and lust is a sign of my moral decay, what opinion will I have of myself? This is what they will do to Jon at that catholic school. But that is just part of it. He will also learn that J.C. was white, which is a lie. That the Egyptians were white, which is a lie. That the people of India are white under their black skin. That Chinese are yellow, when they range from brown to the blackest black. He will get a lot of this misinformation in public school too, but not nearly as much. With a little effort after school from you this can be corrected. Tell him that these men don’t always tell the truth. Make him read histories by Ronald Segal, Du Bois, etc. Make him read the pro-Eastern writers, so that he will have a good cross section of all there is to be heard. Show him how to masturbate, and explain to him that making love with a woman is the most natural thing on earth. Explain how he can do so without getting the girl pregnant. Tell him that “there is no hell, no heaven, and no immortality, and that all things are permissible,” as long as the next man’s feelings are considered.

None of those at home who contest you in your judgment know nearly as much about life as you. So you must be firm and decisive. None of the Western European cultures know anything about philosophy (love of knowledge). They know nothing of the proper way that men should carry on their relations with other men. Proof of this — who originated the passport laws, tariff laws, atom bomb, competitive enterprise, etc., etc. They only excel in one area, technology. So let Jon learn chemistry at school. You give him his economics, history, and philosophy at home!!


MAY, 1967 21

Dear Robert,

Penny was here again last week. She has taught the little guy how to say Uncle George. So “Uncle George” was ringing the length of the visiting hall for a couple of hours. However, I was less than pleased. I tried to get him to change it to “Comrade George,” but he didn’t seem to understand. Uncle George is too much like Uncle Tom and Uncle Ben (of rice-box fame) for comfort!

I trust you are well. I am holding off the ill effects of the concentration camp as best I can. It seems a losing battle, however. I’ve had to take to wearing glasses of considerable strength due to failure of my eyesight. Living in this constant half-light, I guess.

When you told me a while back of Frances’ serious eye problem, I resolved upon my release to have one of mine transplanted into her head. But this will no longer be any bargain for her.

I have been having trouble with my eyes for a year. When I finally was able to maneuver an eye test, I was surprised at the amount of money they took from my account (money that you have sent me that I have not used yet). I was even more surprised when I finally got the glasses two months later with their strength and how much they improved my vision.

Speaking of money and accounts, Pop, I’m flush for now, by flush I mean I have stocked up on envelopes and toothpaste, I’ve come to realize that I don’t need much to eat to stay alive and I don’t smoke. I can get fat on what the average man may starve on. So the money you have been sending me can be put to use at home there, your books, or perhaps something for Jon, he also needs supplementry reading material. I am sorry that you and Mama don’t make each other happy. European-Anglo-American brainwashing is at the bottom of it. Those empty pseudo-middle-class ideas that we have adopted from the opposition make us unhappy in the same way the middle class itself is unhappy. Then too when poverty comes in at the door, loves leaves by the window. We all know who has caused our poverty. I have experienced the same thing with women and men. All the women I’ve had tried to use me, tried to secure through me a soft spot in this cutthroat system for themselves. All they ever wanted was clothes and money and to be taken out to flash these things. I no longer have time for such small ideas or small people. Blacks that I’ve met here who exhibit such characteristics I disdain and ignore. The same with any woman I may have when I get out. She must let me retrain her mind or no deal.


MAY, 1967 28

Sawed-Off Shot Gun

You’re a sawed-off Shot Gun

I’m a thirty-aught-six hollow-point tip

You hide under trench coats with your serial number filed away

I am licensed C.C.W. and registered with the NRA

Your nothing but a thug from the hood

Up to no good

Niggardly Bastard

I’m a Gang Starr, Real American Sniper Hazard

Your little wooden rabbit can’t stand the lick of my flames

I’m pure liquid Nitrogen, just warming up my game

I shoot in the Day Light, with Infrared vision at night

You ain’t nothing but Elmer Fudd, can’t do nothing right

Uh, What’s up Doc? Porky Pig winks…

That left turn @ Albuquerque threw you for one

The difference between military grade rifles & a sawed-off shot gun

I owe you One, Son

Well Read, Well Bred

I am amazed at the punctuality of ignorance

Its uncanny ability to puncture and wound the learned

Read not, Know not, Want knot

But dare you challenge the Same Red from which you were Bred?

Yes, fools rush in where Lion’s dare to tread

Cocked and loaded with zero info on their own ammo

Did you bother to check the shipping label?

Did you read the instructions?

Do you know the ingredients of your dough?

Beware the Leaven of the Pharisees

For they see not

Blinded by one little dot

A period


Following the letter of your law?

Got the code book in your back ass pocket?

You Socket Wrench You

Gideon’s Poo-Poo

Brown Turdy Doo-Doo

No Scooby Snacks for you

Pope’s Peter & Paul

Already called Saul

And he’s wearing a caul

Just Like old Bruce Wayne

That Familiar Orphaned Rich Pain

Who really killed his parents?

Funny how he ended up with all the Money

But doesn’t like the Taste of Honey


Is that you?

Your Star don’t shine too bright Boo

The Grand Dragon of DEFCON1

A Deaf Con with no won

You can’t win

Against your own Twin

O’ Mighty Dark Evil One

Well Red and Well Bread

Your just rising dough like Pillsbury

Sold us out for a bowl of porridge

Esau’s Tribe


Jacob’s Ladder

Follow the money

To Sunny Philly

That’s the Dilly

One True Pickle Tickle

Of wholesome Brotherly Love


Victory Swirl

There is a taste in my mouth

So sweet, So Vintage

The Irony is perfection in itself

See there is this thing called persecution

It isn’t fair, but Life doesn’t care

So those of us un-spotted suffer for all

It ain’t because we should though

It is just because we do though

The good die young

Because the bad never want to

But they don’t mind someone else doing it though

Nonetheless, the taste of that sweet wine

Your own blood in your mouth

Because a familiar one’s heart went south

What a wine

So fine

But then refined

By the fire of covetous envy

Unwarranted, unjust, ‘frenemy

Or family

Or whatever principality or power

The spiritual host of wickedness occupies at the moment

It doesn’t matter

I still taste the blood

The true heart tested by conditional l.o.v.e.

The Un-because

I let it swirl voraciously in my mouth

Mmmmm, savory, sweet




PLANET EARTH= “Plane On Which Two Hearts Cross.”

(Where boy meets girl on the ‘XY-Axis’)


What is ‘EARTH’?

What is a ‘PLAN(E)(T)’?

K.I.S.S.=Keep it Simple Stupid

So if we KISS this question, we get these following solutions:

*EARTH= ‘HEART‘ with the ‘H‘ on the tail end.

*PLAN(E) (T)=A Plane which crosses itself where two HEART’s meet.


*PLANET=The place where roots are established orPLANTED‘.

PLANET EARTH=Home is where the heart is, and whatever you may plant in your heart, will too sprout from where your chest parts.”