Heather Ann Thompson

discusses

Blood in the Water:
The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy

in conversation with RANDALL KENNEDY

This event includes a book signing

Date

Oct
25
Tuesday
October 25, 2016
7:00 PM

Location

Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Tickets

This event is free; no tickets are required.

Harvard Book Store, Mass Humanities, and the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research welcome award-winning historian HEATHER ANN THOMPSON, editor of Speaking Out: Activism and Protest in the 1960s and 1970s, and Harvard Law School professor RANDALL KENNEDY for a discussion of Thompson's latest book, Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy.

About Blood in the Water

This is the first definitive account of the infamous 1971 Attica Prison uprising, the state's violent response, and the victims' decades-long quest for justice—including information never released to the public—published to coincide with the forty-fifth anniversary of this historic event.

On September 9, 1971, nearly 1,300 prisoners took over the Attica Correctional Facility in upstate New York to protest years of mistreatment. Holding guards and civilian employees hostage, during the four long days and nights that followed, the inmates negotiated with state officials for improved living conditions. On September 13, the state abruptly ended talks and sent hundreds of heavily armed state troopers and corrections officers to retake the prison by force. In the ensuing gunfire, thirty-nine men were killed—hostages as well as prisoners—and close to one hundred were severely injured. After the prison was secured, troopers and officers brutally retaliated against the prisoners during the weeks that followed. For decades afterward, instead of charging any state employee who had committed murder or carried out egregious human rights abuses, New York officials prosecuted only the prisoners and failed to provide necessary support to the hostage survivors or the families of any of the men who'd been killed.  Heather Ann Thompson sheds new light on one of the most important civil rights stories of the last century, exploring every aspect of the uprising and its legacy from the perspectives of all of those involved in this forty-five-year fight for justice: the prisoners, the state officials, the lawyers on both sides, the state troopers and corrections officers, and the families of the slain men. 

Praise

“Gripping . . . Not all works of history have something to say so directly to the present, but Heather Ann Thompson’s Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy, which deals with racial conflict, mass incarceration, police brutality and dissembling politicians, reads like it was special-ordered for the sweltering summer of 2016. But there’s nothing partisan or argumentative about Blood in the Water. The power of this superb work of history comes from its methodical mastery of interviews, transcripts, police reports and other documents, covering 35 years, many released only reluctantly by government agencies . . . It’s Ms. Thompson’s achievement, in this remarkable book, to make us understand why this one group of prisoners [rebelled], and how many others shared the cost.” —Mark Oppenheimer, The New York Times

“Blood in the Water is extraordinary—a true gift to the written history of civil rights and racial justice struggles in America.” —Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

“Writing with cinematic clarity from meticulously sourced material, [Thompson] brilliantly exposes the realities of the Attica prison uprising . . . Thompson’s superb and thorough study serves as a powerful tale of the search for justice in the face of the abuses of institutional power.” —Publishers Weekly

Heather Ann Thompson
Heather Ann Thompson

Heather Ann Thompson

Heather Ann Thompson is an award-winning historian at the University of Michigan. She has written on the history of mass incarceration, as well as its current impact, for The New York Times, Time, The Atlantic, Salon, Dissent, New Labor Forum, and The Huffington Post. She served on a National Academy of Sciences blue-ribbon panel that studied the causes and consequences of mass incarcerations in the United States and has given Congressional briefings on this subject. Thompson is also the author of Whose Detroit?: Politics, Labor, and Race in a Modern American City and editor of Speaking Out: Activism and Protest in the 1960s and 1970s.

Photo credit: Graham MacIndoe

Randall Kennedy
Randall Kennedy

Randall Kennedy

Randall Kennedy is the Michael R. Klein Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. He received his undergraduate degree from Princeton and his law degree from Yale. He attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar and is a former clerk to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. He is the author of Race, Crime, and the Law, a winner of the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award; Interracial Intimacies: Sex, Marriage, Identity, and Adoption; Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word; Sellout: The Politics of Racial Betrayal; The Persistence of the Color Line: Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency; and For Discrimination: Race, Affirmative Action, and the Law.

Photo credit: Martha Stewart

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Co-Sponsored by Mass Humanities

Mass Humanities

Mass Humanities conducts and supports programs that use history, literature, philosophy, and the other humanities disciplines to enhance and improve civic life in Massachusetts. Learn more at masshumanities.org.

Co-Sponsored by the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research

The Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard University supports research on the history and culture of people of African descent the world over and provides a forum for collaboration and the ongoing exchange of ideas. Learn more at hutchinscenter.fas.harvard.edu.

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