The BGF were allegedly the first California gang, formed in 1966 in San Quentin Penitentiary by prison revolutionary George Jackson, and his "Black Family." The organization had many roots in the Black Panthers.
The Black Guerilla Family resides predominantly in Southern California, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, but stretches across California as well as much of the United States. They are also known to use prison members of the KUMI 415 Nation as primary enforcers.
The BGF have been identified by crossed sabers, machetes, rifles and shotguns as common tattoos, as well as an image of a black dragon overtaking a prison, a prison tower or prison guard.
The Black Guerilla Family has an ideological doctrine that considers all blacks political prisoners, and has attempted to organized black advocacy by the imposition of their commands upon other inmates. Members hold cultural unity, group protection and the promotion of armed revolution above all else. They have followed readings such as George Jackson's Prison Letters and The Anarchist Cook Book, as well as various works from Mao Zedong, Eldridge, Ho Chi Minh, and Malcom X.
The BGF is para-military in structure, adhering to the Marxist political ideologies of Mao Zedong. The gang is also considered to be the prison counterpart of the Black Liberation Army, a "violent leftist gang whose members were involved in a bloody October 1981 armored car robbery in Nanuet, N.Y" (San Francisco Chronicle 18 March 1985)
Recruitment requires the new member to subsribe to a "death oath" to the Family.