Cornell University

Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy

Tuesday, March 7, 2017 at 4:45pm

Hollis E. Cornell Auditorium, 132 Goldwin Smith Hall

Award-winning historian Heather Ann Thompson will discuss her new, ground-breaking book on the Attica prison revolt.

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.

Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and its Legacy was a finalist for the National Book Award and was named one of the best human rights books of 2016.

Thompson has written extensively on the history of policing, mass incarceration and the current criminal justice system. Thompson’s piece in the Atlantic Monthly on how mass incarceration has distorted democracy in America was named a finalist for a best magazine article award in 2014.

Buffalo Street Books will provide books for sale at the event.

FB event link:

Event Type

Lecture, Author Appearance


American Studies Program


amstcal, freedominterrupted, CUHistory, isscal, mical


Contact E-Mail

Contact Name

Adrienne Clay

Contact Phone



Heather Ann Thompson

Speaker Affiliation

University of Michigan

Open To

Free & open to the public

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