The Attica Prison Rebellion
On September 9, 1971, prisoners at Attica took over much of the state prison in Attica, New York, to protest conditions at the maximum security prison. Then Governor Nelson Rockefeller ordered state police to storm the facility on the morning of September 13.
Troopers shot more than 2,000 rounds of ammunition for 10 minutes, killing 39 male prisoners and guards. When the shooting stopped, police began mercilessly beating and torturing hundreds more prisoners, initially, denying them any medical attention.
After 25 years of legal struggles, the state of New York eventually awarded the surviving prisoners of Attica $8 million in damages to compensate more than 500 inmates and relatives for the abuse that the prisoners suffered.
This an excerpt from a September 9, 2011 commemoration at Riverside Church in Harlem, New York, entitled “Attica Is All of Us,” featuring Cornel West, professor of religion and African American studies at Princeton University.
Cornel Ronald West (born June 2, 1953) is an American philosopher, academic, activist, author, public intellectual, and prominent member of the Democratic Socialists of America. The son of a Baptist minister, West received his undergraduate education at Harvard University, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in 1973, and received a Ph.D at Princeton University in 1980, becoming the first African American to graduate from Princeton with a Ph.D in philosophy.
The bulk of West’s work focuses on the role of race, gender, and class in American society and the means by which people act and react to their “radical conditionedness.” West draws intellectual contributions from multiple traditions, including Christianity, the black church, Marxism, neopragmatism, and transcendentalism. Among his most influential books are Race Matters (1994) and Democracy Matters (2004).