Heather Ann Thompson’s minute-by-minute account of the 1971 Attica uprising is my pick for best nonfiction book of the past decade. With over 100 pages of end notes, Blood in the Water is exhaustively researched and chillingly relevant. Thompson brings humanity and context to an event that has become for too many of us a glossed-over historical touchstone.— Rebecca
Winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in History
Winner of the 2017 Bancroft Prize
National Book Award finalist
Los Angeles Times book prize finalist
New York Times notable book for 2016
Named a best book of the year by the Boston Globe, Newsweek, Kirkus, and Publishers Weekly
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 39 men - hostages as well as prisoners - and severely wounded more than 100 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 45-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.