Blood in the Water by Heather Ann Thompson 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. 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 more than one hundred were severely injured. After the prison was secured, troopers and officers brutally retaliated against the prisoners during the weeks that followed.
Thompson offers an overwhelming and damning indictment of how the state of New York—from police on the ground all the way up to Governor Rockefeller’s administration—handled the uprising at Attica. Despite facing resistance from New York State officials, Thompson spent over ten years researching Attica, working her way through oral histories, letters, newspaper articles, memoirs, and extensive interviews. The most shocking information she uncovered was found in a cache of boxes in a Buffalo, NY courthouse in 2006, which included documents never made public: sealed grand jury transcripts, files from the criminal trials, minutes from secret meetings held by the Governor, and documents from inside the official Attica Investigation. As a result, BLOOD IN THE WATER reveals, for the first time, the crimes committed during the uprising and its aftermath, who committed them, and how they were covered up.
Thompson thus 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 long 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.
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Book signing immediatlely following the event.