The Aryan Brotherhood were formed in the late 1950s in California's San Quentin State Prison, growing out of the Blue Bird Gang of the 1950s. Newspapers report that the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas has been found throughout many Texas prisons since the 1970s. Aryan Brotherhood factions have also developed in other states, such as Arizona, New Mexico, and California, all of whom are somewhat hostile towards one other.
It was believed that the Aryan Brotherhood's presence started to grow most quickly in California prisons in the 1950's when members allied themselves with the Mexican Mafia, primarily to counter the rising threat of the Black Guerilla Family after it, too, had allied with another gang, La Nuestra Familia (Irwin, 1980). This counter-alliance made the most sense for the Aryan Brotherhood, since La Nuestra Familia was at the time, and still is largely to this day, a hostile rival of the Mexican Mafia.
It was considered a necessity at this time for the Aryan Brotherhood to strengthen its numbers in prison. The 1950's saw some of the greatest influxes of new ethnicities among prison inmates, mostly new African-American and Hispanic offenders, amidst stronger sentiments of black pride that had been growing from the civil rights movements and the writings of Malcolm X. As a wife of a San Quentin prisoner noted during the course of John Irwin's (1980) research on correctional history,
"He didn't used to be prejudiced but now he hates blacks. He and some other white friends joined a National Socialist's Group now, which I guess is a nazi group, because they hate blacks so much..."
Thus, the Aryan Brotherhood were primarily formed for the protection of whites
against blacks in prison, as black inmates continue to outnumber incarcerated
white inmates due to structural factors within the criminal
justice system. Racial beliefs often prevent Aryan Brotherhood members from
consorting with African American gangs.
Committed to white
cultural superiority, their constitution states: "Our
organization is a white supremacy group. No pretense is or
will be made to the contrary." The Aryan Brotherhood
are cheifly concerned with White-Supremacy and self-protection
from Black and Hispanic gangs. Indeed, many rivalries have
existed between the Aryan Brotherhood and other African-American
gangs such as the The D.C. Blacks, the Crips
and the Bloods.
They can often be seen displaying symbols such as Nazi Sig
Runes, Swastikas, Lightning bolts, the shamrock (as a symbol
of their originally Irish membership), the Nordic dagger on
shield with lightning bolts, and a falcon relating to Sinn
Fein, the political wing of the Irish Republican Army. Original
members traditionally had to be at least part Irish, denoting
the significance of the shamrock still worn today by Brotherhood
members, but this tradition has waned. Members have been inspired
by Nietzsche, Machiavelli, and Sun Tzu's "The Art of
The number 666 is also frequently seen as a tattoo among Aryan Brotherhood members, most likely because of its Satanic symbolism. Satanism has a special place in White Supremacist Culture, as German mythology frequently describes the power and triumph of Satan in stories, and Hitler, himself, was fascinated by the occult, as were his top aides, including Himmler. LeVey's The Satanic Bible, adhered to by many White Supremacist organizations, including Neo-Nazis, Skinheads, the Aryan Nations, and the KKK, is said to embrace the Devil as the ideal of the Obermensch (Superman or Aryan man), while the normal man is relegated to the Mensch, and the weaker-man to the ideal of the Untermensch. Recurring throughout Aryan Culture is the idea that one man is capable of altering global events with the sheer force of his will. The World Church of the Creator indeed equates race with religion, viewing its disciples as warriors in the upcoming racial holy war, or "RAHOWA". In any case, Satanism is an almost exclusively White religion, as it does not appeal strongly to racial minorities, and compatible with far-right ideologies that promise power and privelege to those who contribute to "cleansing the earth" of impurities.
The Aryan Brotherhood produced an offshoot in the 1970s
called the Nazi Low Riders, which emerged in juvenile prisons
under the jurisdiction of the California Youth Authority.
After several Aryan Brotherhood members were convicted of
murder, conspiracy and racketeering charges (some of which
went back 30 years) in 2006, a federal court judge decided
that the two members had a right to defend themselves and
present evidence during their death sentencing hearing, a
decision based on the result of Crawford vs. Washington
in 2004. The main issue in this trial is whether the accused
in death penalty cases has the right to confront his or her
accuser at the sentencing hearing.
"THE BRAND; ANNALS OF CRIME," New Yorker, 16 February 2004, GRANN, DAVID
"Prosecutors hope to smash supremacist prison gang," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 7 March
2006, By Gillian Flaccus, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS.
"Feds take aim at Aryan Brotherhood in New Mexico," Associated Press Newswires, 29 June 2007.
"Aryan Brotherhood target of massive capital case," The Columbian, 7 March 2006, 766 words, GILLIAN FLACCUS, Associated Press writer.
Irwin, John. 1980. Prisons in Turmoil. Boston: Little, Brown & Co. 277p.