Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy
The Attica Prison uprising lasted five days, but the reverberations are still felt. Previous unrest in other facilities was put down without bloodshed, but the overcrowding of institutions made Attica volatile. The inmates at Attica clamored for rights for better treatment but were met with silence by guards and the warden. Racial hostility was evident in many cases. Promises of reform had been empty. Civil disobedience would lead to a lock-down, which led to the riot. Chaos ensued, and beatings were meted out to many guards, but kind acts spared some as well. By the end of the first day a standoff would begin. The prisoners had the prison, the authorities looked to retake the prison, and a group of impartial witnesses would be called to help quell the tempestuous situation. After days of back and forth, the negotiations would end. A fiery assault would lead to the deaths of forty-three people. This is only the beginning of the sorrowful story.
Heather Ann Thompson spent over a decade studying a moment in NY history that authorities would rather remain buried. Thompson would dig deep to free state secrets and craft a story about cruelty, punishment, justice, and civil rights. There are many victims in the story, from the guards to some of the prisoners, but there are also heroes as well…lawyers, bureaucrats, and journalists. This book finds a silver lining in the bleakest of times. A must-read.
Heather Ann Thompson