The Attica Rebellion

The Attica Rebellion of September 1971 was a pivotal moment in U.S. history and had a significant impact on the evolution of prison reform. The uprising at Attica Prison also highlighted the power of collective organizing and demonstrated the agency that even the most marginalized people possess. The rebellion, which involved nearly 1200 people, was prompted by many factors, most notably the murder of George Jackson in California and the brutal treatment of prisoners by Attica guards.

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Inmates at Attica State Prison raise their fists in a show of unity during the Attica uprising. Photo courtesy of the Associated Press.

After forcibly taking over the facility, prisoners drafted a list of demands, including: improved living conditions, access to medical care, suitable food and clothing, and humane, non-discriminatory, non-abusive treatment by prison guards. The state of New York, led by Governor Nelson Rockefeller, refused to meet these demands. The uprising ended in tragedy when the national guard entered the penitentiary and killed 29 prisoners and 10 guards. Today, the Attica Rebellion remains an important frame of reference for examining the problems within prisons and the larger structural issues within society which produce prisons. Finally, the events at Attica are a reminder of the humanity of all people, including those demonized by the media and powerful government officials.

By Odia Barker

Total Liberation

A 1971 Poster by OSPAAAL, depicting the murder of Black Panther George Jackson at San Quentin prison.

We cannot foresee the future, but we should never give in to the defeatist temptation of being the vanguard of a nation which yearns for freedom, but abhors the struggle it entails and awaits its freedom as a crumb of victory.

OSPAAAL, 1967

Today in 1966, the Organization of Solidarity with the People of Asia, Africa and Latin America (OSPAAAL) was formed in Havana, Cuba and attended by delegates from 82 countries.  Their objective was simple – total liberation.  An organization of national liberation movements and shared ideology, they fought against colonialism, globalization, racial segregation and capitalism.  They had a vision that solidarity and cooperation among nations could lead to better lives for everyone; that their fate was intertwined with their neighbors across the sea.  From Cuba to Palestine, they worked to support economic development in emergent in the spirit of internationalism. Their posters were printed in several languages, folded inside the Tricontinental, and sent to subscribers around the world.

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