Blood in the Water: Book summary and reviews of Blood in the Water by Heather Ann Thompson

Blood in the Water

The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy

by Heather Ann Thompson

Blood in the Water by Heather Ann Thompson X
Blood in the Water by Heather Ann Thompson

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Book Summary

The first definitive history 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, the prisoners negotiated with officials for improved conditions during the four long days and nights that followed.

On September 13, the state abruptly sent hundreds of heavily armed troopers and correction officers to retake the prison by force. Their gunfire killed thirty-nine men—hostages as well as prisoners—and severely wounded more than one hundred others. In the ensuing hours, weeks, and months, troopers and officers brutally retaliated against the prisoners. And, ultimately, New York State authorities prosecuted only the prisoners, never once bringing charges against the officials involved in the retaking and its aftermath and neglecting to provide support to the survivors and the families of the men who had been killed.
 
Drawing from more than a decade of extensive research, historian Heather Ann Thompson sheds new light on every aspect of the uprising and its legacy, giving voice to all those who took part in this forty-five-year fight for justice: prisoners, former hostages, families of the victims, lawyers and judges, and state officials and members of law enforcement. Blood in the Water is the searing and indelible account of one of the most important civil rights stories of the last century.

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Book Awards

  • award image Pulitzer Prize for Letters, Drama and Music, 2017

Reviews

Media Reviews

National Book Award Finalist
Los Angeles Times book Prize Finalist
New York Times Notable Book for 2016
Newsweek Best Book of the Year
Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year
Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year


"Starred Review. Thompson's superb and thorough study serves as a powerful tale of the search for justice in the face of the abuses of institutional power." - Publishers Weekly

"Starred Review. Compelling . . . Sensitive . . . Impressively authoritative and thoughtfully composed." - Kirkus Reviews

"Gripping ... It's Ms. Thompson's achievement, in this remarkable book, to make us understand why this one group of prisoners [rebelled], and how many others shared the cost." - The New York Times

"Chilling, and in places downright shocking ... [Thompson] tells the story of the riot and its aftermath with precision and momentum." -The Wall Street Journal

"A masterly account ... Essential ... Blood in the Water restores [the prisoners'] struggle to its rightful place in our collective memory." - The New York Times Book Review

"A long, memorable chronicle ... dense with new information ... Thompson's capacity for close observation and her honesty [are] impressive." - The New Yorker

"Masterful." - The Nation

"Thompson's book is a masterpiece of historical research; it is thoroughly researched, extensively documented and reads like a novel ... Magnificent." - The Christian Science Monitor

"Heather Ann Thompson tracked down long-hidden files related to the tragedy at Attica—some of which have since disappeared—to tell the saga in its full horror." - New York Post

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Author Information

Heather Ann Thompson

Heather Ann Thompson is an award-winning historian at the University of Michigan. She has written on the history of mass incarceration and its current impact for The New York Times,Time, The Atlantic, Salon, Dissent, New LaborForum, and The Huffington Post, as well as for various scholarly publications. 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 this subject. Thompson 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.

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