Faculty Sponsor

Diana Gildea


The resistance and political action taken by the incarcerated in prisons like Attica Correctional Facility during the post-civil rights era (1968 -1972) faced an unprecedented state-led, counterinsurgent force. The socio-historical context of this suppression is a time of crisis for the U.S. as it struggled to maintain capitalist hegemony in the face of anti-systemic movements from the New Left. The post-civil rights era was a moment in US history that saw the strongest and most radical challenge to racial capitalism to date in the form of a social movement led by prisoners, yet the historical legacy of radical prison organizing continues to be suppressed because the state treated the politics and tactics the incarcerated mobilized behind as a threat to the massive securitization strategy and neoliberal capitalist reconfiguration of the 1970s. I first compare the popular retelling of the civil rights movement as compared to the radical prison movement (in media, education, and collective memory) and then analyze the Attica Manifesto and Soledad Brother by George Jackson to understand the contents of radical prison politics and its subsequent suppression. Coming to understand the potential of the incarcerated as a source of a powerful anti-capitalist politic requires us to dispel the idea that history is a form of truth-telling. History is a form of state-mediated collective memory, rather than a “truth,” that justifies the state’s agenda of securitization in the interest of protecting capital.