New York Prisons Unbans Attica Uprising Book After Trial

A book about the 1971 Attica Correctional Facility uprising saw its ban removed by New York authorities that prevented state prison inmates from reading the book after a lawsuit brought by its author.

Critically Acclaimed Book Banned in Prison

Heather Ann Thompson, who is the author of the Pulitzer-prize winning book Blood in the Water: The Attica Uprising of 1971 sued the state’s prison for banning her book. She is also a historian and a professor at the University of Michigan. 

Blood in the Water: book ban NYC prisons
Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy

State officials have removed the book from the banned list but it will still be censored. A two-page map of Attica will be removed before it is sent into the prisons. Everything else in the book will be left as it is.

The book was published in 2016 and covered the uprising in Attica prison meticulously. Over 1300 inmates participated in the uprising in the upstate New York prison to protest years of mistreatment. State troopers and guards had to get involved and ended the uprising by shooting tear gas into the prison year and followed that by firing hundreds of rounds into the smoke.

A Right to History

32 inmates and 11 staff members were killed in the uprising. No law enforcement officers were put on trial for the uprising or the deaths that followed. 

The states attorney general’s office sent a letter to a U.S. judge in Manhattan last week saying the ban would be lifted but only in paperbacks where the map was removed. Prison officials are legally required to send Thompson a notice if a correctional facility denies a request for the book.

“People have a right to read, and people have a right to history,” Thompson said. “We also have a right to have our books read. It’s a shame we live in a country where we censor people and ideas.”

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