Winner of a 2017 Pulitzer Prize, historian Heather Ann Thompson sheds new light on the infamous 1971 Attica Prison riot as one of the most important civil rights stories of the last century. Chronicling the horrific conditions that led to 1,300 prisoners taking over the upstate New York correctional facility and how the state violently retook the prison—killing thirty-nine men and severely wounding more than a hundred others—Blood in the Water also confronts the gruesome aftermath. From brutal retaliation against the prisoners, to corrupt investigations and cover-ups, and civil and criminal lawsuits, Thompson meticulously follows the ensuing forty-five-year fight for justice. In a conversation with Kelly Lytle Hernandez, a professor and director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA, Thompson discusses the impact of what this tragic historic moment can teach us about racial conflict, failures in mass incarceration, and police brutality in America today.
Heather Ann Thompson is an award-winning historian at the University of Michigan. Her most recent book, Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy, won the Pulitzer Prize in History, the Bancroft Prize, the Ridenhour Book Prize, and the J. Willard Hurst Prize. She is also the author of Whose Detroit?: Politics, Labor, and Race in a Modern American City and the editor of Speaking Out: Activism and Protest in the 1960s and 1970s. She served on a National Academy of Sciences blue-ribbon panel that studied the causes and consequences of mass incarceration in the United States and has given congressional staff briefings on the subject.
Professor Kelly Lytle Hernandez is the Director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA and one of the nation’s leading experts on race, immigration, and mass incarceration. She is the author of the award-winning book, Migra! A History of the U.S. Border Patrol; and City of Inmates: Conquest, Rebellion, and the Rise of Human Caging in Los Angeles. Currently, Professor Lytle Hernandez is the research lead for the Million Dollar Hoods project, which maps how much is spent on incarceration per neighborhood in Los Angeles County.