This article focuses upon the work of prison author and activist George Jackson and his work with the Black Panther Party. Thus far, historians' emphasis upon Jackson's relationship with Bay Area radicals has eclipsed the importance of his work on behalf of African American prisoners and especially his role within the Black Panther Party. In focusing so heavily upon events outside California's prisons, they have failed to explain his evolution from a petty criminal to political activist; we do not yet understand the wider historical context within which he emerged as a spokesperson for the most oppressed and vilified group of the 1960s and 1970s: African American prisoners. This article therefore offers a more expansive view of Jackson's life and situates him within the wider social and political milieu of California's penal system during the 1960s and 1970s. It is only by exploring the environment in which Jackson lived that we can start fully to appreciate the origins and significance of his revolutionary ideology, as well as his relationship with black activism inside and outside the prison walls.