Black Power, White Blood: The Life and Times of Johnny Spain

Lori B. Andrews, Author Pantheon Books $24 (0p) ISBN 978-0-679-42918-0
Johnny Spain was one of the ""San Quentin Six,"" who was convicted of a conspiracy to escape the prison. His life story, reconstructed by lawyer and author Andrews, has moments both sad and stirring. The son of a liaison between his married white mother and a black lover, Spain was sent from Jim Crow Mississippi to live with a black family in California, but he found neither love nor peace. Convicted in 1966 of a murder committed during an impetuous robbery, Spain was thrust into California's prison system, where authorities cultivated racial animosities among inmates and where guards shot to kill. There, Spain learned the brutal ropes and became radicalized. Also, thanks to Black Panthers George Jackson and Elaine Brown, Spain grew to accept his white heritage. Despite strong evidence that Spain's conspiracy conviction was illegitimate, he gained no reprieve from the court system; rather, he became a peacemaker among prisoners, and ultimately reconciled with his mother. Finally, in 1988, he was granted parole. Spain now works in community relations in San Francisco. Given Spain's impressive journey out of prison, the reader wishes for more information on his doings since 1988 and his reflections on current debates about prison and race. Photos not seen by PW. (July)
Reviewed on: 07/01/1996
Release date: 07/01/1996
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