The Blood of Gabriel Prosser

dbc800687ab340532cb0d53335f34479 (1)dbc800687ab340532cb0d53335f34479Josh Bingham, center, born in 1871, was the first free descendant of his great-grandfather, the slave blacksmith Gabriel. Photo courtesy Yvonne Walker

Near 15th and Broad streets, Haskell Bingham unveiled the historic marker recognizing his ancestor , Gabriel, in 2004.

Haskell Bingham’s earliest known ancestor in Virginia was given a name he couldn’t keep.
The African man, born in 1703, came to the James River plantation of Robert “King” Carter with the name “Bingham” — bestowed upon him by the captain of the slave ship that brought him to America. His new owner renamed him John, however, and so the family name that survives today was passed along in secret.

Crossroads of Freedom

As the dedicated family historian of his generation, Bingham has spent a half-century researching the varying branches of his bloodline, a lineage that also passes through Richmond’s famed renegade slave Gabriel, whose failed insurrection in 1800 could have changed history as we know it. At 81, Bingham, a retired former vice president for academic affairs at Virginia State University, has completed the genealogical component of his family history. He’s working to finish a narrative buttressed by court and tax records, plantation journals, genealogy and family tradition and estimates another two years before he’ll complete his life’s work.

“As a boy, my father would take me with him, to visit Bingham descendants,” he says. “They’d bring Bibles and records, and stuff written down on grocery-bag paper, and deal with their relationships. He’d ask me, ‘You got that, boy?’ I was the record keeper at 13.”

Bingham grew up in Mississippi during the thick of the civil rights era. While a student at Jackson State University he canvassed for black voter registration.
On a 1956 university-related trip to Rhodesia, he traveled to Durban, South Africa, to visit the private library of renowned archivist Margaret Roach Killie Campbell to track down his family’s origins. He walked the earth of his ancestors.

Bingham accepted a position with VSU in 1984, in part because he wanted to further his research through his family’s Virginia connection.
As Bingham learned, John was sent to one of Carter’s 40 plantations along the James River, Hill Quarter Plantation in Lancaster County, and given a slave wife, Easter. They had four children: Gay, Jacob, Stephen and Tom, who all grew to have children as well.

Through Stephen, Bingham is a descendant of the slave blacksmith and evangelist, Gabriel, who was born in 1776 and was owned by the Prossers of Henrico County. At the age of 7 in 1783, Gabriel watched his father dragged away to his death, accused of treason for attempting to encourage slaves to join the British during the Revolution.
Inheriting his father’s fighting spirit, Gabriel became a tradesman slave who, despite laws forbidding it, gained a level of literacy. He didn’t bend to white arrogance and rejected the association of the slaveholder’s name with his own. According to Bingham, once in Richmond some bystanders pointed to him as Prosser’s Gabriel. He corrected them in no uncertain terms: “My name is Gabriel.”
As a contract laborer, Gabriel also gained a proscribed freedom and access to some money. He associated with fellow tradesmen of all stripes. He learned of the slave revolt in Haiti and the displeasure of some whites about the Alien and Sedition Acts of President John Adams’ administration.


Talk of civil war in city taverns could have urged Gabriel to action , His resolve to end slavery may have been further quickened after an altercation with a neighboring plantation owner over a stolen pig; in the fracas, Gabriel bit off part of the man’s left ear. The assault was punishable by death. Gabriel used a legal loophole to save his life by reciting a section of Biblical scripture. Instead, he was punished with the branding of his left hand and a month’s confinement.He began organizing a revolt by disguising organization amid fish fries and religious gatherings. Gabriel’s ambitious plan involved taking Gov. James Monroe as a hostage and demanding the freedom of Virginia’s slaves. Quakers, Methodists, Frenchmen and poor whites would be spared violence to be visited on some slaveholder families.

On Aug. 30, 1800, a torrential rain forestalled the march. The delay unnerved a couple of participants who told authorities of an imminent revolt. Monroe called out the militia, and posses formed to hunt the alleged conspirators. Gabriel, found on a schooner bound for Norfolk, was hauled back to Richmond for trial and execution. He was viewed as an imposing, unbroken man who refused to confess anything except to Gov. Monroe. More than 20 people — including family members — were hanged at 15th and Broad streets and likely buried nearby. Gabriel died last, on Oct. 10. He left behind his wife, Nancy, pregnant with a son, Samuel Joshua. She, like many who were spared for sympathy with Gabriel, was sold off far from Richmond, to a plantation near Louisville, Ky., where Samuel Joshua was turned into a breeder slave.
The first freeborn descendant of Gabriel was Joshua Bingham, born 1871, a tenant farmer in Bennettsville, S.C., who owned a horse and buggy that he and wife Julia took for Friday visits into town.

As for Gabriel’s resting place, Bingham is uncertain. Stories conflict. “Some say he was cut up by white doctors and his brain weighed against a white man’s. Others say the whites didn’t want him in Virginia soil. I don’t think anybody really knows where he is.”

Ref Source

Power Anywhere , Where There’s People 1969 – Chairman Fred Hampton

Black August 30th 1948 Fred Hampton SR is Born

We are presenting the speeches here as part of our Reprint Seriespart of our contribution to the effort to overcome the obstacles placed before the regeneration of a New Afrikan revolutionary movement by historical discontinuity.

The present activity surrounding the rebuilding of the national liberation movement constitutes the making of history / social development, and, we believe, along with Regis Debray, that In practice, history, because it is profoundly dialectical, o0nly allows of innovations which develop from an earlier state of affairs, or an earlier stage of development, already familiar to the masses of the people



Power anywhere where theres people. Power anywhere where theres people. Let me give you an example of teaching people. Basically, the way they learn is observation and participation. You know a lot of us go around and joke ourselves and believe that the masses have PhDs, but thats not true. And even if they did, it wouldnt make any difference. Because with some things you have to learn by seeing it or either participating in it. And you know yourselves that there are people walking around your community today that have all types of degrees that should be at this meeting but are not here. Right? Because you can have as many degrees as a thermometer. If you dont have any practice, they you cant walk across the street and chew gum at the same time.

Let me tell you how Huey P. Newton, the leader, the organizer, the founder, the main man of the Black Panther Party, went about it.

The community had a problem out there in California. There was an intersection, a four-way intersection; a lot of people were getting killedcars running over them, and so the people went down and redressed their grievances to the government. Youve done it before. I know you people in the community have. And they came back and the pigs said No! You cant have any Oh, they dont usually say you cant have it theyve gotten a little hipper than that now. Thats what those degrees on the thermometer will get you. They tell you Okay, well deal with it; why dont you come back next meeting and waste some time.

And they get you wound up in an excursion of futility, and you be in a cycle of insaneness, and you be goin back and goin back, and goin back, and goin back so many times that youre already crazy.

So they tell you, they say, Okay niggers, what you want? And they you jump up and you say, Well, its been so long, we dont know what we want, and then you walk out of the meeting and youre gone and they say,
Well, you niggers had your chance, didnt you?

Let me tell you what Huey P. Newton did.

Huey Newton went and got Bobby Seale, the chairman of the Black Panther Party on a national level. Bobby Seale got his 9mmthats a pistol. Huey P. Newton got his shotgun and got some stop signs and got a hammer. Went down to the intersection, gave his shotgun to Bobby, and Bobby had his 9mm. He said, You hold this shotgun; anybody mess with us, blow their brains out. He put those stop signs up.

There were no more accidents, no more problem.

Now they had another situation. Thats not that gogd you see, because its two people dealing with a problem. Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, no matter how bad they may be, cannot deal with the problem. But let me explain to you who the real heroes are.

Next time, there was a similar situation, another four-way corner. Huey went and got Bobby, went and got his 9mm, got his shotgun, got his hammer and got more stop signs. Placed those stop signs up, gave the shotgun to Bobby, told Bobby If anybody mess with us while were putting these stop signs up, protect the people and blow their brains out. What did the people do? They observed it again. They participated in it. Next time they had another four-way intersection. Problems there; they had accidents and death. This time, the people in the community went and got their shotguns, got their hammers, got their stop signs

Now, let me show you how were gonna try to do it in the Black Panther Party here. We just got back from the south side. We went out therewe went out there and we got to arguing with the pigs or the pigs got to arguing—he said, Well, Chairman Fred, you supposed to be so bad, why dont you go and shoot some of those policemen? You always talking about you got your guns and got this, why dont you go shoot some of them?

And Ive said, Youve just broken a rule. As a matter of fact, even though you have on a uniform it doesnt make me any difference. Because I dont care if you got on nine uniforms, and 100 badges. When you step outside the realm of legality and into the realm of illegality, then I feel that you should be arrested. And I told him, You being what they call the law of entrapment, you tried to make me do something that was wrong, you encouraged me, you tried to incite me to shoot a pig. And that aint coo, Brother, you know the law, dont you?

I told that pig that, I told him You got a gun, pig? I told him, You gotta get your hands up against the wall. Were gonna do what they call a citizens arrest. This fool dont know what this is. I said, Now you be just as calm as you can and dont make too many quick moves, cause we dont wanna have to hit you.

And I told him like he always told us, I told him, Well, Im here to protect you. Dont worry about a thing, Im here for your benefit. So I sent another Brother to call the pigsyou gotta do that in a citizens arrest. He called the pigs. Here come the pigs with carbines and shotguns, walkin out there. They came out there talking about how theyre gonna arrest Chairman Fred. And I said, No fool. This is the man you got to arrest. Hes the one that broke the law. And what did they do? They bugged their eyes, and they couldnt stand it. You know what they did? They were so mad, they were so angry that they told me to leave.

And what happened? All those people were out there on 63rd Street. What did they do? They were around there laughing and talking with me while I was making the arrest. They looked at me while I was rapping and heard me while I was rapping. So the next time that the pig comes on 63rd Street, because of the thing that our Minister of Defense calls observation and participation, that pig might be arrested by anybody!

Wo what did we do? We were out there educating the people. How did we educate them? Basically, the way people learn, by observation and participation. And thats what were trying to do. Thats what we got to do here in this community. And a lot of people dont understand, but theres three basic things that you got to do anytime you intend to have yourself a successful revolution.

A lot of people get the word revolution mixed up and they think revolutions a bad word. Revolution is nothing but like having a sore on your body and then you put something on that sore to cure that infection. And Im telling you that were living in an infectious society right now. Im telling you that were living in a sick society. And anybody that endorses integrating into this sick society before its cleaned up is a man whos committing a crime against the people.

If you walk past a hospital room and see a sign that says Contaminated and then you try to lead people into that room, either those people are mighty dumbyou understand me, cause if they werent, theyd tell you that you are an unfair, unjust leader that does not have your followers interests in mind. And what were saying is simply that leaders have got to becomeweve got to start making them accountable for what they do. Theyre goin around talking about so-and-sos an Uncle Tom so were gonna open up a cultural center and teach him what blackness is. And this n****r is more aware than you and me and Malcolm and Martin Luther King and everybody else put together. Thats right. Theyre the ones that are most aware. Theyre most aware, cause theyre the ones that are gonna open up the center. Theyre gonna tell you where bones come from in Africa that you cant even pronounce the names. Thats right. Theyll be telling you about Chaka, the leader of the Bantu freedom
fighters, and Jomo Kenyatta, those dingo-dingas. Theyll be running all of that down to you. They know about it all. But the point is they do what theyre doing because it is beneficial and it is profitable for them.

You see, people get involved in a lot of things thats profitable to them, and weve got to make it less profitable. Weve got to make it less beneficial. Im saying that any program thats brought into our community should be analyzed by the people of that community. It should be analyzed to see that it meets the relevant needs of that community. We dont need no n*****s coming into our community to be having no company to open business for the n*****s. Theres too many n*****s in our community that cant get crackers out of the business that theyre gonna open.

We got to face some facts. That the masses are poor, that the masses belong to what you call the lower class, and when I talk about the masses, Im talking about the white masses, Im talking about the black masses, and the brown masses, and the yellow masses, too. Weve got to face the fact that some people say you fight fire best with fire, but we say you put fire out best with water. We say you dont fight racism with racismwere gonna fight racism with solidarity. We say you dont fight capitalism with no black capitalism; you fight capitalism with socialism.

We aint gonna fight no reactionary pigs who run uip and down the street being reactionary; were gonna organize and dedicate ourselves to revolutionary political power and teach ourselves the specific needs of resisting the power structure, arm ourselves, and were gonna fight reactionary pigs with INTERNATIONAL PROLETARIAN REVOLUTION. Thats what it has to be. The people have to have the powerit belongs to the people.

We have to understand very clearly that theres a man in our community called a capitalist. Sometimes hes black and sometimes hes white. But that man has to be driven out of our community, because anybody who comes into the community to make profit off the people by exploiting them can be defined as a capitalist. And we dont care how many programs they have, how long a dashiki they have. Because political power does not flow from the sleeve of a dashiki; political power flows from the barrel of a gunit flows from the barrel of a gun!

A lot of us running around talking about politics dont even know what politics is. Did you ever see something and pull it and you take it as far as you can and it almost outstretches itself and it goes into something else? If you take it so far that its two things? As a matter of fact, some things if you stretch it so far, itll be another thing. Did you ever cook something so long that it turns into something else? Aint that right?

Thats what were talking about with politics.

That politics aint nothing, but if you stretch it so long that it cant go no further, then you know what you got on your hands? You got an antagonistic contradiction. And when you take that contradiction to the highest level and stretch it as far as you can stretch it, you got what you call war. Politics is war without bloodshed, and war is politics with bloodshed. If you dont understand that, you can be a Democrat, Republican, you can be Independent, you can be anything you want to, you aint nothing.

We dont want any of those n*****s and any of these hunkies and nobody else, radicals or nobody talking about, Im on the Independence ticket. That means you sell out the republicans; Independent means youre out for graft and youll sell out to the highest bidder. You understand?

We want people who want to run on the Peoples Party, because the people are gonna run it whether they like it or not. The people have proved that they can run it. They run it in China, theyre gonna run it right here. They can clal it what they want to, they can talk about it. They can call it communism, and think that thats gonna scare somebody, but it aint gonna scare nobody.

We had the same thing happen out on 37th Road. They came out to 37th road where our Breakfast for children program is, and started getting those women who were kind of older, around 58—thats, you know, I call that older cause Im young. I aint 20right, right! But you see, theyre gonna get them and brainwash them. And you aint seen nothin t9ill you see one of them beautiful Sisters with their hair kinda startin getting grey, and they aint got many teeth, and they were tearin them policemen up! They were tearing em up! The pigs would come up to them and say You like communism?

The pigs would come up to them and say, You scared of communism? And the Sisters would say, Noscared of it, I aint never heard of it.

You like socialism?

Noscared of it I aint never heard of it.

The pigs, they be crackin up, because they enjoyed seeing these people frightened of these words.

You like capitalism?

Yeah, well, thats what I live withI lie it.

You like the Breakfast For Children program, n****r?

Yeah, I like it.

And the pigs say, Oh-oh. The pigs say, well, the Breakfast For Children program is a socialistic program. Its a communistic program.

And the women said, Well, I tell you what, boy. Ive been knowing you since you were knee-high to a grasshopper, n****r. and I dont know if I like communism and I dont know if I like socialism. But I know that that Breakfast For Children program fees my kids, n****r. And if you put your hands on that Breakfast For Children program, Im gonna come off this can and Im gonna beat your ass like a .

Thats what they be saying. Thats what they be saying, and its a beautiful thing. And thats what the Breakfast For Children program is. A lot of people think its charity, but what does it do? It takes the people from a stage to another stage. Any program thats revolutionary is an advancing program. Revolution is change. Honey, if you just keep on changing, before you know itin fact not even knowing what socialism isyou dont have to know what it istheyre endorsing it, theyre participating in it, and theyre supporting socialism.

And a lot of people will tell you, way, Well, the people dont have any theory, they need some theory. They need some theory even if they dont have any practice. And the Black Panther Party tells you that if a man tells you that hes the type of man who has you buying candy bars and eating the wrapping and throwing the candy away, hed have you waling East when youre supposed to be walking West. Its true. If you listen to what the pig says, you be walkin outside when the sun is shining with your umbrella over your head. And when its raining youll be goin outside leaving your umbrella inside. Thats right. You gotta get it together. Im saying thats what they have you doing.

Now, what do WE do? We say that the Breakfast For Children program is a socialistic program. It teaches the people basically that by practice, we thought up and let them practice that theory and inspect that theory. Whats more important? You learn something just like everybody else.

Let me try to break it down to you.

You say this Brother here goes to school 8 years to be an auto mechanic. And that teacher who used to be an auto mechanic, he tells him, Well, n****r, you gotta go on what we call on-the-job-training. And he says, Damn, with all this theory I got, I gotta go to on-the-job-training? What for?

He said, On on-the-job-training he works with me. Ive been here for 20 years when I started work they didnt even have auto mechanics. I aint got no theory, I just got a whole bunch of practice.

What happened? A car came in making a whole lot of funny noise. This Brother here go get his book. He on page one, he aint got to page 200. Im sitting here listening to the car. He says, What do you think it is?

I say, I think its the carburetor.

He says, No I dont see anywhere in here where it says a carburetor make no noise like that. And he says, How do you know its the carburetor?

I said, Well, n****r, with all them degreesas many as a thermometer around 20 years ago, 19 to be exact, I was listening to the same kind of noise. And what I did was I took apart the voltage regulator and it wasnt that. Then I took apart the alternator and it wasnt that. I took apart the generator brushes and it wasnt that. I took apart the generator and it wasnt that. I took apart the generator and it wasnt even that. After I took apart all that I finally got to the carburetor and when I tot to the carburetor I found that thats what it was.
And I told myself thatfool, next time you hear this sound you better take apart the carburetor first.

How did he learn? He learned through practice.

I dont care how much theory you got, if it dont have any practice applied to it then that theory happens to be irrelevant. Right? Any theory you get, practice it. And when you practice it you make some mistakes. When you make a mistake, you correct that theory, and then it will be corrected theory that will be able to be applied and used in any situation. Thats what weve got to be able to do.

Every time I speak in a church I always try to say something, you know, about Martin Luther King. I have a lot of respect for Martin Luther King. I think he was one of the greatest orators that the country ever produced. And I listened to anyone who speaks well, because I like to listen to that. Martin Luther King said that it might look dark sometime, and it might look dark over here on the North Side. Maybe you thought the room was going to be packed with people and maybe you thought you might have to turn some people away and you might not have enough people here. Maybe some of the people you think should be here are not here and you think that, well if theyre not here then it wont be as good as we thought it could have been. And maybe you thought that you need more people here than you have here. Maybe you think that the pigs are going to be able to pressure you and put enough pressure to squash your movement even before it starts. But Martin Luther King said that he heard somewhere that only when its dark enough can you see the stars. And were not worried about it being dark. He said that the arm of the moral universe is long, but it bens toward heaven.

We got Huey P. Newton in jail, and Eldridge Cleaver underground. And Alprentice Bunchy Carter has been murdered; Bobby Hutton and John Huggins been murdered. And a lot of people think that the Black Panther Party in a sense is giving up. But let us say this: That weve made the kind of commitment to the people that hardly anyone else has ever made.

We have decided that although some of us come from what some of you would call petty-bourgeois families, though some of us could be in a sense on what you call the mountaintop. We could be integrated into the society working with people that we may never have a chance to work with. Maybe we could be on the mountaintop and maybe we wouldnt have to be hidiin when we go to speak places like this. Maybe we wouldnt have to worry about court cases and going to jail and being sick. We say that even though all of those luxuries exist on the mountaintop, we understand that you people and your problems are right here in the valley.

We in the Black Panther Party, because of our dedication and understanding went into the valley knowing that the people are in the valley, knowing that our plight is the same plight as the people in the valley, knowing that our enemies are on the mountaintopour friends are in the valley, and even though its nice to be on the mountaintop, were going back to the valley. Because we understand that theres work to be done in the valley, and when we get through with this work in the valley, then we got to go to the mountaintop. Were going to the mountaintop because theres a motherfucker on the mountaintop thats playing King, and hes been bullshitting us. And weve got to go up on the mountain top not for the purpose of living his life style and living like he lives. Weve got to go up on the mountain top to make this motherfucker understand, goddamnit, that we are coming from the valley!




Women in Prison: How it is With Us 1978 – Assata Shakur

Women in Prison: How It Is With Us

Assata Shakur / Joanne Chesimard
published in The Black Scholar, April 1978

Assata Shakur was a member of the Black Panther Party who went underground to evade police repression, joining the Black Liberation Army. She was captured in 1973 and held as a political prisoner until 1979 (one year after this article was written), when she was broken out of prison by a unit of the Black Liberation Army. She made her was to Cuba where she lives to this day, despite increasing pressure from the United States for her extradition.

We sit in the bull pen. We are all black. All restless. And we are all freezing. When we ask, the matron tells us that the heating system cannot be adjusted. All of us, with the exception of a woman, tall and gaunt, who looks naked and ravished, have refused the bologna sandwiches. The rest of us sit drinking bitter, syrupy tea. The tall, fortyish woman, with sloping shoulders, moves her head back and forth to the beat of a private tune while she takes small, tentative bites out a bologna sandwich. Someone asks her what she’s in for. Matter of factly, she says, “They say I killed some nigga. But how could I have when I’m buried down in South Carolina?” Everybody’s face gets busy exchanging looks. A short, stout young woman wearing men’s pants and men’s shoes says, “Buried in South Carolina?” “Yeah,” says the tall woman. “South Carolina, that’s where I’m buried. You don’t know that? You don’t know shit, do you? This ain’t me. This ain’t me.” She kept repeating, “This ain’t me” until she had eaten all the bologna sandwiches. Then she brushed off the crumbs and withdrew, head moving again, back into that world where only she could hear her private tune.

Lucille comes to my tier to ask me how much time a “C” felony conviction carries. I know, but i cannot say the words. I tell her i will look it up and bring the sentence charts for her to see. I know that she has just been convicted of manslaughter in the second degree. I also know that she can be sentenced up to fifteen years. I knew from what she had told me before that the District Attorney was willing to plea bargain: Five years probation in exchange for a guilty pleaø a lesser charge.

Her lawyer felt that she had a case: specifically, medical records which would prove that she had suffered repeated physical injunes as the result of beatings by the deceased and, as a result of those beatings, on the night of her arrest her arm was mutilated (she must still wear a brace on it) and one of her ears was partially severed in addition to other substantial injunes Her lawyer felt that her testimony, when she took the stand in her own defense, would establish the fact that not only had she been repeatedly beaten by the deceased, but that on the night in question he told her he would kill her, viciously beat her and mauled her with a knife. But there is no self defense in the state of New York.

The District Attorney made a big deal of the fact that she drank. And the jury, affected by t.v. racism, “law and order”, petrified by crime and unimpressed with Lucille as a “responsible citizen,” convicted her. And i was the one who had to tell her that she was facing fifteen years in prison while we both silently wondered what would happen to the four teenage children that she had raised almost single-handedly.

Spikey has short time, and it is evident, the day before she is to be released, that she does not want to go home. She comes to the Bing (Administrative Segregation) because she has received an infraction for fighting. Sitting in front of her cage and talking to her i realize that the fight was a desperate, last ditch effort in hope that the prison would take away her “good days.” She is in her late thirties. Her hands are swollen. Enormous. There are huge, open sores on her legs. She has about ten teeth left. And her entire body is scarred and ashen. She has been on drugs about twenty years. Her veins have collapsed. She has fibrosis epilepsy and edema. She has not seen her three children in about eight years. She is ashamed to contact home because she robbed and abused her mother so many times.

When we talk it is around the Christmas holidays and she tells me about her bad luck. She tells me that she has spent the last four Christmases in jail and tells me how happy she is to be going home. But i know that she has no where to go and that the only “friends” she has in the world are here in jail. She tells me that the only regret she has about leaving is that she won’t be singing in the choir at Christmas. As i talk to her i wonder if she will be back. I tell her good bye and wish her luck. Six days later, through the prison grapevine, i hear that she is back. Just in time for the Christmas show.

We are at sick call. We are waiting on wooden benches in a beige and orange room to see the doctor. Two young women who look only mildly battered by life sit wearing pastel dresses and pointy-toed state shoes. (Wearing “state” is often a sign that the wearer probably cannot afford to buy sneakers in commissary.) The two are talking about how well they were doing on the street. Eavesdropping, i find out that they both have fine “old men” that love the mess out of them. I find out that their men dress fly and wear some baad clothes and so do they. One has 40 pairs of shoes while the other has 100 skirts. One has 2 suede and 5 leather coats. The other has 7 suedes and 3 leathers. One has 3 mink coats, a silver fox and a leopard. The other has 2 minks, a fox jacket, a floor length fox and a chinchilla. One has 4 diamond rings and the other has 5. One lives in a duplex with a sunken tub and a sunken living room with a water fall. The other describes a mansion with a revolving living room. I’m relieved when my name is called. I had been sitting there feeling very, very sad.

There are no criminals here at Riker’s Island Correctional Institution for Women, (New York), only victims. Most of the women (over 95%) are black and Puerto Rican. Many were abused children. Most have been abused by men and all have been abused by “the system.”

There are no big time gangsters here, no premeditated mass murderers, no godmothers. There are no big time dope dealers, no kidnappers, no Watergate women. There are virtually no women here charged with white collar crimes like embezzling or fraud. Most of the women have drug related cases. Many are charged as accessories to crimes committed by men. The major crimes that women here are charged with are prostitution, pick-pocketing, shop lifting, robbery and drugs. Women who have prostitution cases or who are doing “fine” time make up a substantial part of the short term population. The women see stealing or hustling as necessary for the survival of themselves or their children because jobs are scarce and welfare is impossible to live on. One thing is clear: amerikan capitalism is in no way threatened by the women in prison on Riker’s Island.

One gets the impression, when first coming to Riker’s Island that the architects conceived of it as a prison modelled after a juvenile center. In the areas where visitors usually pass there is plenty of glass and plenty of plants and flowers. The cell blocks consist of two long corridors with cells on each side connected by a watch room where the guards are stationed, called a bubble. Each corridor has a day room with a t.v., tables, multi-colored chairs, a stove that doesn’t work and a refrigerator. There’s a utility room with a sink and a washer and dryer that do not work.

Instead of bars the cells have doors which are painted bright, optimistic colors with slim glass observation panels. The doors are controlled electronically by the guards in the bubble. The cells are called rooms by everybody. They are furnished with a cot, a closet, a desk, a chair, a plastic upholstered headboard that opens for storage, a small book case, a mirror, a sink and a toilet. The prison distributes brightly colored bedspreads and throw rugs for a homey effect. There is a school area, a gym, a carpeted auditorium, two inmate cafeterias and outside recreation areas that are used during the summer months only.

The guards have successfully convinced most of the women that Riker’s Island is a country club. They say that it is a playhouse compared to some other prisons (especially male): a statement whose partial veracity is not predicated upon the humanity of correction officials at Riker’s Island, but, rather, by contrast to the unbelievably barbaric conditions of other prisons. Many women are convinced that they are, somehow, “getting over.” Some go so far as to reason that because they are not doing hard time, they are i really in prison.

This image is further reinforced the pseudo-motherly attitude many of the guards; a deception which all too often successfully reverts women children. The guards call the women inmates by their first names. The women address the guards either as Officer, Mis — or by nicknames, (Teddy Bear, Spanky, Aunt Louise, Squeeze, Sarge, Black Beauty, Nutty Mahogany, etc.). Frequently, when a woman returns to Riker’s she will make the rounds, gleefully embracing her favorite guard: the prodigal daughter returns.

If two women are having a debate about any given topic the argument will often be resolved by “asking the officer.” The guards are forever telling the women to “grow up,” to “act like ladies,” to “behave” and to be “good girls.” If an inmate is breaking some minor rule like coming to say “hi” to her friend on another floor or locking in a few minutes late, a guard will say, jokingly, “don’t let me have to come down there and beat your butt.” It is not unusual to hear a guard tell a woman, “what you need is a good spanking.” The tone is often motherly, “didn’t I tell you, young lady, to…”; or, “you know better than that”; or, “that’s a good girl.” And the women respond accordingly. Some guards and inmates “play” together. One officer’s favorite “game” is taking off her belt and chasing her “girls” down the hall with it, smacking them on the butt.

But beneath the motherly veneer, the reality of guard life is every present. Most of the guards are black, usually from working class, upward bound, civil service oriented backgrounds. They identify with the middle class, have middle class values and are extremely materialistic. They are not the most intelligent women in the world and many are extremely limited.

Most are aware that there is no justice in the amerikan judicial system and that blacks and Puerto Ricans are discriminated against in every facet of amerikan life. But, at the same time, they are convinced that the system is somehow “lenient.” To them, the women in prison are “losers” who don’t have enough sense to stay out of jail. Most believe in the boot strap theory – anybody can “make it” if they try hard enough. They congratulate themselves on their great accomplishments. In contrast to themselves they see the inmate as ignorant, uncultured, self-destructive, weak-minded and stupid. They ignore the fact that their dubious accomplishments are not based on superior intelligence or effort, but only on chance and a civil service list.

Many guards hate and feel trapped by their jobs. The guard is exposed to a certam amount of abuse from co-workers, from the brass as well as from inmates, ass kissing, robotizing and mandatory overtime. (It is common practice for guards to work a double shift at least once a week.) But no matter how much they hate the military structure, the infighting, the ugliness of their tasks, they are very aware of how close they are to the welfare lines. If they were not working as guards most would be underpaid or unemployed. Many would miss the feeling of superiority and power as much as they would miss the money, especially the cruel, sadistic ones.

The guards are usually defensive about their jobs and indicate by their behavior that they are not at all free from guilt. They repeatedly, compulsively say, as if to convince themselves, “This is a job just like any other job.” The more they say it the more preposterous it seems.

The major topic of conversation here is drugs. Eighty percent of inmates have used drugs when they were in the street. Getting high is usually the first thing a woman says she’s going to do when she gets out. In prison, as on the streets, an escapist culture prevails. At least 50 percent of the prison population take some form of psychotropic drug. Elaborate schemes to obtain contraband drugs are always in the works.

Days are spent in pleasant distractions: soap operas, prison love affairs, card playing and game playing. A tiny minority are seriously involved in academic pursuits or the learning of skills. An even smaller minority attempt to study available law books. There are no jail house lawyers and most of the women lack knowledge of even the most rudimentary legal procedures. When asked what happened in court, or, what their lawyers said, they either don’t know or don’t remember. Feeling totally helpless and totally railroaded a woman will curse out her lawyer or the judge with little knowledge of what is being done or of what should be done. Most plead guilty, whether they are guilty or not. The few who do go to trial usually have lawyers appointed by the state and usually are convicted.

Here, the word lesbian seldom, if ever, is mentioned. Most, if not all, of the homosexual relationships here involve role playing. The majority of relationships are either asexual or semi-sexual. The absence of sexual consummation is only partially explained by prison prohibition against any kind of sexual behavior. Basically the women are not looking for sex. They are looking for love, for concern and companionship. For relief from the overwhelming sense of isolation and solitude that pervades each of us.

Women who are “aggressive” or who play the masculine roles are referred to as butches, bulldaggers or stud broads. They are always in demand because they are always in the minority. Women who are “passive,” or who play feminine roles are referred to as fems. The butch-fem relationships are often oppressive, resembling the most oppressive, exploitative aspect of a sexist society. It is typical to hear butches threatening fems with physical violence and it is not uncommon for butches to actually beat their “women.” Some butches consider themselves pimps and go with the women who have the most commissary, the most contraband or the best outside connections. They feel they are a class above ordinary women which entitles them to “respect.” They dictate to fems what they are to do and many insist the fems wash, iron, sew and clean their cells for them. A butch will refer to another butch as “man.” A butch who is well liked is known as “one of the fellas” by her peers.

Once in prison changes in roles are common. Many women who are strictly heterosexual in the street become butch in prison. “Fems” often create butches by convincing an inmate that she would make a “cute butch.” About 80 percent of the prison population engage in some form of homosexual relationship. Almost all follow negative, stereotypic male/ female role models.

There is no connection between the women’s movement and lesbianism. Most of the women at Riker’s Island have no idea what feminism is, let alone lesbianism. Feminism, the women’s liberation movement and the gay liberation movement are worlds away from women at Riker’s.

The black liberation struggle is equally removed from the lives of women at Riker’s. While they verbalize acute recognition that amerika is a racist country where the poor are treated like dirt they, nevertheless, feel responsible for the filth of their lives. The air at Riker’s is permeated with self-hatred. Many women bear marks on their arms, legs and wrists from suicide attempts or self-mutilation. They speak about themselves in self-deprecating terms. They consider themselves failures.

While most women contend that whitey is responsible for their oppression they do not examine the cause or source of that oppression. There is no sense of class struggle. They have no sense of communism, no definition of it, but they consider it a bad thing. They do not want to destroy Rockefella. They want to be like him. Nicky Barnes, a major dope seller, is discussed with reverence. When he was convicted practically everyone was sad. Many gave speeches about how kind, smart and generous he was; no one spoke about the sale of drugs to our children.

Politicians are considered liars and crooks. The police are hated. Yet, during cop and robber movies, some cheer loudly for the cops. One woman pasted photographs of Farrah Fawcett Majors all over her cell because she “is a baad police bitch.” Kojak and Barretta get their share of admiration.

A striking difference between women and men prisoners at Riker’s Island is the absence of revolutionary rhetoric among the women. We have no study groups. We have no revolutionary literature around. There are no groups of militants attempting to “get their heads together.” The women at Riker’s seem vaguely aware of what a revolution is but generally regard it as an impossible dream. Not at all practical.

While men in prison struggle to maintain their manhood there is no comparable struggle by women to preserve their womanhood. One frequently hears women say, “Put a bunch of bitches together and you’ve got nothin but trouble”; and, “Women don’t stick together, that’s why we don’t have nothin.” Men prisoners constantly refer to each other as brother. Women prisoners rarely refer to each other as sister. Instead, “bitch” and “whore” are the common terms of reference. Women, however, are much kinder to each other than men, and any form of violence other than a fist fight is virtually unknown. Rape, murder and stabbings at the women’s prison are non-existent.

For many, prison is not that much different from the street. It is, for some, a place to rest and recuperate. For the prostitute prison is a vacation from turning tricks in the rain and snow. A vacation from brutal pimps. Prison for the addict is a place to get clean, get medical work done and gain weight. Often, when the habit becomes too expensive, the addict gets herself busted, (usually subconsciously) so she can get back in shape, leave with a clean system ready to start all over again. One woman claims that for a month or two every year she either goes jail or to the crazy house to get away from her husband.

For many the cells are not much differt from the tenements, the shooting galleries and the welfare hotels they live in on the street. Sick call is no different from the clinic or the hospital emergency room. The fights are the same except they are less dangerous. The police are the same. The poverty is the same. The alienation is the same. The racism is the same. The sexism is the same. The drugs are the same and the system is the same. Riker’s and is just another institution. In childhood school was their prison, or youth houses or reform schools or children shelters or foster homes or mental hospitals or drug programs and they see all institutions as indifferent to their needs, yet necessary to their survival.

The women at Riker’s Island come there from places like Harlem, Brownsville, Bedford-Stuyvesant, South Bronx and South Jamaica. They come from places where dreams have been abandoned like the buildings. Where there is no more sense of community. Where neighborhoods are transient. Where isolated people run from one fire trap to another. The cities have removed us from our strengths, from our roots, from our traditions. They have taken away our gardens and our sweet potato pies and given us McDonald’s. They have become our prisons, locking us into the futility and decay of pissy hallways that lead nowhere. They have alienated us from each other and made us fear each other. They have given us dope and television as a culture.

There are no politicians to trust. No roads to follow. No popular progressive culture to relate to. There are no new deals, no more promises of golden streets and no place else to migrate. My sisters in the streets, like my sisters at Riker’s Island, see no way out. “Where can I go?”, said a woman on the day she was going home. “If there’s nothing to believe in,” she said, “I can’t do nothin except try to find cloud nine.”

What of our Past? What of our History? What of our Future?

I can imagine the pain and the strength of my great great grandmothers who were slaves and my great great grandmothers who were Cherokee Indians trapped on reservations. I remembered my great grandmother who walked every where rather than sit in the back of the bus. I think about North Carolina and my home town and i remember the women of my grandmother’s generation: strong, fierce women who could stop you with a look out the corners of their eyes. Women who walked with majesty; who could wring a chicken’s neck and scale a fish. Who could pick cotton, plant a garden and sew without a pattern. Women who boiled clothes white in big black cauldrons and who hummed work songs and lullabys. Women who visited the elderly, made soup for the sick and shortnin bread for the babies.

Women who delivered babies, searched for healing roots and brewed medicines. Women who darned sox and chopped wood and layed bricks. Women who could swim rivers and shoot the head off a snake. Women who took passionate responsibility for their children and for their neighbors’ children too.

The women in my grandmother’s generation made giving an art form. “Here, gal, take this pot of collards to Sister Sue”; “Take this bag of pecans to school for the teacher”; “Stay here while I go tend Mister Johnson’s leg.” Every child in the neighborhood ate in their kitchens. They called each other sister because of feeling rather than as the result of a movement. They supported each other through the lean times, sharing the little they had.

The women of my grandmother’s generation in my home town trained their daughters for womanhood. They taught them to give respect and to demand respect. They taught their daughters how to churn butter; how to use elbow grease. They taught their daughters to respect the strength of their bodies, to lift boulders and how to kill a hog; what to do for colic, how to break a fever and how to make a poultice, patchwork quilts, plait hair and how to hum and sing. They taught their daughters to take care, to take charge and to take responsibility. They would not tolerate a “lazy heifer” or a “gal with her head in the clouds.” Their daughters had to learn how to get their lessons, how to survive, how to be strong. The women of my grandmother’s generation were the glue that held family and the community together. They were the backbone of the church. And of the school. They regarded outside institutions with dislike and distrust. They were determined that their children should survive and they were committed to a better future.

I think about my sisters in the movement. I remember the days when, draped in African garb, we rejected our foremothers and ourselves as castrators. We did penance for robbing the brother of his manhood, as if we were the oppressor. I remember the days of the Panther Party when we were “moderately liberated.” When we were allowed to wear pants and expected to pick up the gun. The days when we gave doe-eyed looks to our leaders. The days when we worked like dogs and struggled desperately for the respect which they struggled desperately not to give us. I remember the black history classes that did mention women and the posters of our “leaders” where women were conspicuously absent We visited our sisters who bore the complete responsibility of the children while the Brotha was doing his thing. Or had moved on to bigger and better things.

Most of us rejected the white women’s movement. Miss ann was still Miss ann to us whether she burned her bras or not. We could not muster sympathy for the fact that she was trapped in her mansion and oppressed by her husband. We were, and still are, in a much more terrible jail. We knew that our experiences as black women were completely different from those of our sisters in the white women’s movement. And we had no desire to sit in some consciousness raising group with white women and bare our souls.

Women can never be free in a country that is not free. We can never be liberated in a country where the institutions that control our lives are oppressive. We can never be free while our men are oppressed. Or while the amerikan government and amerikan capitalism remain intact.

But it is imperative to our struggle that we build a strong black women’s movement. It is imperative that we, as black women, talk about the experiences that shaped us; that we assess our strengths and weaknesses and define our own history. It is imperative that we discuss positive ways to teach and socialize our children.

The poison and pollution of capitalist cities is choking us. We need the strong medicine of our foremothers to make us well again. We need their medicines to give us strength to fight and the drive to win. Under the guidance of Harriet Tubman and Fannie Lou Hamer and all of our foremothers, let us rebuild a sense of community. Let us rebuild the culture of giving and carry on the tradition of fierce determination to move on closer to freedom.

Ref source _20160829_224311

Mutope Duguma Without a fight it can’t be no struggle

quickgrid_2016829185426316Mutope Duguma Without a fight it can’t be no struggle

Posted on 08/26/2012 by californiaprisonwatch
From: SF Bay View, Aug. 20th 2012

By by Mutope Duguma

We as New Afrikan Revolutionary Nationalist Freedom Fighters have won a major court victory toward throwing off the shackles of mental oppression. The First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco has ruled in a 3-0 decision that alleged members and associates of the New Afrikan revolutionary leftist organization titled the Black Guerrilla Family (BGF) and all New Afrikan prisoners have a First Amendment right to expression of their United States constitutional rights to speak to the New Afrikan nationalist revolutionary man ideology. The California Prison Intelligence Units (PIU), i.e., the Office of Correctional Safety (OCS) and the Investigative Services Unit (IGI), have now been instructed to comply with the ruling by Justice James Lambden.

These are clearly our political beliefs, synonymous with the various ideological developments:

New Afrikan Revolutionary Nationalism (NARN),
New Afrikan Nation (NAN),
New Afrikan Nationalist Revolutionary Man (NANRM),
Black Revolutionary Nationalism (BRN),
Revolutionary Nationalism (RN),
Black Nationalism,
New Afrikan Revolutionary Nationalist Freedom Fighter (NARNFF),
New Afrikan Ethnic Group (NAEG),
New Afrikan Revolutionary Guerrilla Nationalist Resistance Movement (NARGRM),
New Afrikan Socialist Man/Woman (NASMW).

They are stated in the Writ of Habeas Corpus, Case No. HCPB 10-5298, dated Dec. 26, 2010 and the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco’s Case No. A131276. Three justices ruled unanimously against Pelican Bay State Prison and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation personnel G.D. Lewis, K.L. McGuyer, J. Silveira, G. Wise, K.J. Allen and D. Foster.

The First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco has ruled in a 3-0 decision that alleged members and associates of the New Afrikan revolutionary leftist organization titled The Black Guerrilla Family (BGF) and all New Afrikan prisoners have a First Amendment right to expression of their United States constitutional rights to speak to the New Afrikan nationalist revolutionary man ideology.

Yes, my Brothers and Sisters, we have only begun to struggle for our ideological beliefs on all fronts. Therefore, file your grievances, complaints and direct your claims to the state and federal courts forthwith!

Following is a declaration that I personally believe was very instrumental in winning this case due to James T. Campbell establishing clearly our New Afrikan struggle here in Amerika since 1619.

I can only hope that this ruling can allow the many New Afrikans throughout this nation, held in these prisons, general populations as well as solitary confinement torture units, to express our New Afrikan Revolutionary Nationalist ideology free of any attacks by overzealous prison intelligence units.

United we stand!

Mutope Duguma

Declaration of James T. Campbell

[photo: Stanford Professor James T. Campbell]

1. I am over 18 years of age and fully competent to make this declaration. I have personal knowledge of the matters described here unless otherwise noted.

2. I am currently the Edgar E. Robinson Professor in United States History at Stanford University. My research focuses on African American history and the wider history of the black Atlantic. I am particularly interested in African American intellectual and political history, including the long history of interconnections and exchange between Africa and America.

3. In my quarter century teaching at Stanford University, Brown University, Northwestern University, and the University of the Witwatersrand I have taught the following courses: Slavery and Freedom in American History; The Politics of Retrospective Justice; The Harlem Renaissance; History and Legacy of the Civil Rights Movement; The Life and Work of W.E.B. Du Bois; Celluloid America: History and Film; as well as survey courses in American and South African history. My curriculum vitae is attached as Exhibit A.

4. I was contacted by the Prison Law Office to review a letter dated April 11, 2010, written by James Crawford, along with some of his other writings. I was asked if I could determine whether the contents of the letter and, in particular, the terms “New Afrika” and “New Afrikan Nationalist Revolutionary Man” communicated genuine political ideas about Black Nationalism in the context of African American history, which is an area I have studied extensively.

5. After reviewing the letter carefully, I reached the conclusion that Mr. Crawford is rooted in a political tradition with deep roots in African American intellectual and political history, a tradition that stretches from the first African emigration movements in the era of the American Revolution, through the classical Black Nationalist tradition of the nineteenth century, and extending through the twentieth century in such incarnations as Marcus Garvey Universal Negro Improvement Association, the Black Panthers, and the Republic of New Afrika. The language that Mr. Crawford uses to communicate his ideas reflects a thorough immersion in and understanding of this history and ideological tradition.

6. Mr. Crawford’s use of the terms “New Afrika” and “New Afrikan” are consistent with the movement in the 1960s and 1970s to allow African Americans the right of self-determination to decide whether to form a Republic of New Afrika in the South. The Republic of New Afrika was one of the movements that popularized the usage of Afrika with a “k.”

7. As is characteristic of Black Nationalist thought in American history, Mr. Crawford’s letter does not appear to trace back to a single source but rather reflects a synthesis of a range of ideologies and movements stretching over the entirety of American history, with particular emphasis on the Black Nationalist movements of the 1960s and early 1970s.

8. Although I have no personal knowledge of what Mr. Crawford was trying to communicate in his April 11, 2010, letter apart from reading it, in my judgment he is a serious political thinker using terms such as “New Afrikan” and “New Afrikan Nationalist Revolutionary Man” that were ubiquitous in Black urban life in the 1960s and 1970s and that to my knowledge have no particular connection to prison gangs.

I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the State of California that the foregoing is true and correct. Executed July 3, 2011, in Palo Alto, California.

Mutope Duguma, a frequent contributor to the Bay View, is the author of “The call: Hunger strike to begin July 1,” “Pelican Bay SHU prisoners plan to resume hunger strike Sept. 26,” “We are willing to sacrifice ourselves to change our conditions,” “They took the 15 of us hunger strikers to ASU-Hell-Row,” “We’ve taken their power away by uniting as one,” “The solitary confinement profiteers“ and many more. Send our brother your congratulations and some love and light: Mutope Duguma (s/n James Crawford), D-05996, PBSP SHU D1-117, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532.

Dred Scott & Blow Plantation South Hampton County Virginia , Dred Scott Case Still Relevant, Are Afrikans Citizens of The U.S.


dredDred-painting-face-close-upBeside the Buckhorn Quarters plaque was an additional and intriguing marker. It notes the Southampton County roots of the famous Supreme Court plaintiff Dred Scott. Scott’s famous case in 1857 ruled that congress could not legislate slavery and that African Americans could not be citizens. The Dred Scott Decision threw yet another log on the sectional fire and brought the country closer to civil war.

There is so much important history in this still largely rural southeastern Virginia county.

d Scott decision, formallyDred Scott v. John F.A. Sandford, legal case in which the U.S. Supreme Court on March 6, 1857, ruled (7–2) that a slave (Dred Scott) who had resided in a free state and territory (whereslavery was prohibited) was not thereby entitled to his freedom; thatAfrican Americans were not and could never be citizens of the United States; and that the Missouri Compromise (1820), which had declared free all territories west of Missouri and north of latitude 36°30′, was unconstitutional. The decision added fuel to the sectional controversy and pushed the country closer to civil war.

Haki Kweli Shakur 8-29-51ADM 16 August Third Collective NAPLA NAIM


Members of the Black Panther Party, stripped, handcuffed, and arrested after Philadelphia police raided the Panther headquarters, August, 1970.

1472487429760#BlackAugust 29th – 31st 1970 Philadelphia Black Panther Party Attacked One policeman killed and six wounded in confrontation between police and Black Panther activists in Philadelphia …

Members of the Black Panther Party, stripped, handcuffed, and arrested after Philadelphia police raided the Panther headquarters, August, 1970. “The Black Panther Party had its local Philadelphia headquarters in a storefront on Columbia Avenue, from which a group of young men and women went forth to sell the party’s news paper and in other ways agitate for the Panthers” Ten Point Program, calling for ‘land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice, and peace.” When the party decided on Philadelphia as the site of its Revolutionary People’s Constitutional Convention – to begin to draft ‘a constitution that serves the people, not the ruling class, the Church of the Advocate was the location for the convention’s registration center, 1970. On the Saturday before the convention a murder was committed when a Philadelphia policeman was shot and killed in a Fairmont Park guardhouse. There were also other attacks on policemen. Police Commissioner Frank Rizzo used this opportunity to attack the Black Panther Party in Philadelphia. At dawn, August 31, 1970, heavily armed police raided three Panther Offices in the city, 2935 Columbia Avenue, 3625 Wallace Street, and 428 W. Queen Lane. Around the world flashed news photos of young black men arrested in the raids, who were ordered to strip. One photo showing them in their underwear and another showing them stripped naked at gunpoint.” Reggie Schell, local defense captain, organizer for the party remembers it this way, “Each cop took an individual Panther and placed their pistol up the back of our neck and told us to walk down the street backyard. They told us if we stumble or fall they’re gonna kill us. Then they lined us up against a wall and a cop with a .45 sub would fire over our heads so the bricks started falling down. Most of us had been in bed, and they ripped the goddamned clothes off everyone, women and men. They had the gun, they’d just snatch your pants down and they took pictures of use like that. #PoliceTerrorism

Black Liberation Army Political Prisones Nuh Washington & Jalil Muntaqim Captured Black August 28th 1971

#BlackAugust 28th 1971
#FreeJalil #RipNuhWashington BLA
My mother taught us [my sister and I] that we are African. She made that a very important lesson for us; she said, “You are African, don’t let anybody call you anything other than that.” … In our house we used to have pictures of H. Rap Brown, Stokely Carmichael, Malcolm X – so these individuals, these were our icons in the household – jalil Muntaqim

On August 28, 1971, Jalil Abdul Muntaqim, and Albert “Nuh” Washington were arrested for the alleged attempted murder of a San Francisco police sergeant. New York police charged Muntaqim, Washington, and another BPP and BLA member, Herman Bell, with the May 21, 1971, killings of two New York City police officers. The shootout came after George Jackson was killed by guards during an escape attempt in San Quentin Prison in 1971, which was the possible substantiation for a motive for retaliation.

George Jackson’s lawyer Stephen Bingham was accused of arming Jackson in prison with a 9mm gun. Bingham, who was white, fled and went into exile until 1984, when he was found innocent of any wrongdoing. Who brought the hand gun to George Jackson is still up for debate but many activists still suggest foul play on the Government’s side.

Muntaqim remains active in his support of political prisoners and their civil rights and means of social justice. In 1976, he founded the National Prisoners Campaign to petition the United Nations to recognize the existence of political prisoners in the United States. He is also involved in the National Prisoners Afrikan Studies Project, an organization that educates inmates on their rights.

Muntaqim and Bell remain incarcerated in New York, while Albert Washington died of liver cancer in April 2000, in New York’s Coxsackie Correctional Facility.

In July 2009, Muntaquim pleaded no contest to conspiracy to commit voluntary manslaughter becoming the second person to be convicted in the alleged attempted murder case of the San Francisco police sergeant.
#blackaugustresistance #BLA #BlackLiberationArmy

Haki Kweli Shakur 8-28-51ADM August Third Collective NAPL NAIM1472401166413


Black August George Jackson Tribute/ August 28th 1971 Funeral

#BlackAugust George Jackson funeral services at St. Augustine’s Church here, August 28. Jackson, a convict at San Quentin Prison, was slain August 21 in an abortive escape attempt in which three guards and three inmates were killed, an three guards wounded. Note part of crowd, estimated at 1,200 persons, giving the black power salute.

Video by RBG Street Scholar

1472403233572Haki KweliShakur 8-28-51ADM 16 August Third Collective NAPLA Long Live The Dragon 🐉🐉🐉

RBG-GEORGE JACKSON TRIBUTE FILM| “Death of a Revolutionary”


Mingoe The Revolutionary 1691 Rebellion/ Middlesex & Rappahannock Virginia /Land of Rebellion – Haki Kweli Shakur

#StiffResistance Long Live Mingoe and The Spirit of Rebellion! 1691 – A slave named Mingoe, who had fled his master in Middlesex County, Virginia, gathered a large number of followers and ravaged plantations, particularly in Rappahannock County. These Negroes not only took cattle and hogs, but “two guns, a Carbyne & other things.” What became of this incident of rebellion in not recorded. (MS. Order Book, Middlesex County, 1680-1694, pp. 526-27.) Mingoe the revolutionary who and a comrade led rebellious raid on plantations in Middlesex and Rappahannock counties in Virginia. (There were several other Virginia Rebellions. There were recorded 84 rebellions in that colony making it the land of rebellion during slavery.

Haki Kweli Shakur 8-27-51ADM 16

Augushqdefaultt Third Collective NAPLA NAIM

Black August Slavery is Mass Incarceration, Slavery Never Ended, Every New Afrikan/Black is a Political Prisoner in The U.S.

Slavery is Mass Incarceration, Slavery Never Ended, Every New Afrikan is a Political Prisoner

“You may call me crazy [but I believe] that because of our socioeconomic conditions, every Black man and woman in prison is, in fact, a political prisoner. Every one, bar none. If you’ve got money, you’re not going to prison,” – Geronimo Pratt Ji Jaga

13th Amendment to the Constitution declared that “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction”


Mass incarceration of New Afrikan people started early for profits and capitalism, The prison industrial complex (pic) is the overlapping interest of government and industry as business partners infused together that uses surveillance, policing and imprisonment as solutions to economic,social, political problems, and they get that by targeting one area of people usually black and brown communities.



Rethinking the ‘race question’ in the US

Not one but several ‘peculiar institutions’ have successively operated to define, confine, and control African-Americans in the history of the United States. The first is chattel slavery as the pivot of the plantation economy and inceptive matrix of racial division from the colonial era to the Civil War. The second is the Jim Crow system of legally enforced discrimination and segregation from cradle to grave that anchored the predominantly agrarian society of the South from the close of Reconstruction to the Civil Rights revolution which toppled it a full century after abolition. America’s third special device for containing the descendants of slaves in the Northern industrial metropolis is the ghetto, corresponding to the conjoint urbanization and proletarianization of African-Americans from the Great Migration of 1914–30 to the 1960s, when it was rendered partially obsolete by the concurrent transformation of economy and state and by the mounting protest of blacks against continued caste exclusion, climaxing with the explosive urban riots chronicled in the Kerner Commission Report. [1]

The fourth, I contend here, is the novel institutional complex formed by the remnants of the dark ghetto and the carceral apparatus with which it has become joined by a linked relationship of structural symbiosis and functional surrogacy. This suggests that slavery and mass imprisonment are genealogically linked and that one cannot understand the latter—its timing, composition, and smooth onset as well as the quiet ignorance or acceptance of its deleterious effects on those it affects—without returning to the former as historic starting point and functional analogue.

Viewed against the backdrop of the full historical trajectory of racial domination in the United States (summed up in Table 1), the glaring and growing ‘disproportionality’ in incarceration that has afflicted African-Americans over the past three decades can be understood as the result of the ‘extra-penological’ functions that the prison system has come to shoulder in the wake of the crisis of the ghetto and of the continuing stigma that afflicts the descendants of slaves by virtue of their membership in a group constitutively deprived of ethnic honour (Max Weber’s Massehre).

Not crime, but the need to shore up an eroding caste cleavage, along with buttressing the emergent regime of desocialized wage labour to which most blacks are fated by virtue of their lack of marketable cultural capital, and which the most deprived among them resist by escaping into the illegal street economy, is the main impetus behind the stupendous expansion of America’s penal state in the post-Keynesian age and its de facto policy of ‘carceral affirmative action’ towards African-Americans. [2]

Labour extraction and caste division

America’s first three ‘peculiar institutions’, slavery, Jim Crow, and the ghetto, have this in common: they were all instruments for the conjoint extraction of labour and social ostracization of an outcast group deemed unassimilable by virtue of the indelible threefold stigma it carries. African-Americans arrived under bondage in the land of freedom. They were accordingly deprived of the right to vote in the self-appointed cradle of democracy (until 1965 for residents of the Southern states). And, for lack of a recognizable national affiliation, they were shorn of ethnic honour, which implies that, rather than simply standing at the bottom of the rank ordering of group prestige in American society, they were barred from it ab initio. [3]

1. Slavery (1619–1865). Slavery is a highly malleable and versatile institution that can be harnessed to a variety of purposes, but in the Americas property-in-person was geared primarily to the provision and control of labour. [4] Its introduction in the Chesapeake, Middle Atlantic and Low Country regions of the United States in the 17th century served to recruit and regulate the unfree workforce forcibly imported from Africa and the West Indies to cater to their tobacco, rice and mixed-farming economy. (Indentured labourers from Europe and native Indians were not enslaved because of their greater capacity to resist and because their servitude would have impeded future immigration as well as rapidly exhausted a limited supply of labour.) By the close of the 18th century, slavery had become self-reproducing and expanded to the fertile crescent of the Southern interior, running from South Carolina to Louisiana, where it supplied a highly profitable organization of labour for cotton production and the basis for a plantation society distinctive for its feudal-like culture, politics, and psychology. [5]

An unforeseen by-product of the systematic enslavement and dehumanization of Africans and their descendants on North American soil was the creation of a racial caste line separating what would later become labelled ‘blacks’ and ‘whites.’ As Barbara Fields has shown, the American ideology of ‘race’, as putative biological division anchored by the inflexible application of the ‘one-drop rule’ together with the principle of hypodescent, crystallized to resolve the blatant contradiction between human bondage and democracy. [6] The religious and pseudo-scientific belief in racial difference reconciled the brute fact of unfree labor with the doctrine of liberty premised on natural rights by reducing the slave to live property—three-fifths of a man according the sacred scriptures of the Constitution.

2. Jim Crow (South, 1865–1965). Racial division was a consequence, not a precondition, of US slavery, but once it was instituted it became detached from its initial function and acquired a social potency of its own. Emancipation thus created a double dilemma for Southern white society: how to secure anew the labour of former slaves, without whom the region’s economy would collapse, and how to sustain the cardinal status distinction between whites and ‘persons of colour,’ i.e, the social and symbolic distance needed to prevent the odium of ‘amalgamation’ with a group considered inferior, rootless and vile. After a protracted interregnum lasting into the 1890s, during which early white hysteria gave way to partial if inconsistent relaxation of ethnoracial strictures, when blacks were allowed to vote, to hold public office, and even to mix with whites to a degree in keeping with the intergroup intimacy fostered by slavery, the solution came in the form of the ‘Jim Crow’ regime. [7] It consisted of an ensemble of social and legal codes that prescribed the complete separation of the ‘races’ and sharply circumscribed the life chances of African-Americans while binding them to whites in a relation of suffusive submission backed by legal coercion and terroristic violence.

Imported from the North where it had been experimented within cities, this regime stipulated that blacks travel in separate trains, streetcars and waiting rooms; that they reside in the ‘darktown’ slums and be educated in separate schools (if at all); that they patronize separate service establishments and use their own bathrooms and water fountains; that they pray in separate churches, entertain themselves in separate clubs and sit in separate ‘nigger galleries’ in theatres; that they receive medical care in separate hospitals and exclusively from ‘coloured’ staff; and that they be incarcerated in separate cells and buried in separate cemeteries. Most crucial of all, laws joined mores in condemning the ‘unspeakable crime’ of interracial marriage, cohabitation or mere sexual congress so as to uphold the ‘supreme law of self-preservation’ of the races and the myth of innate white superiority. Through continued white ownership of the land and the generalization of sharecropping and debt peonage, the plantation system remained virtually untouched as former slaves became a ‘dependent, propertyless peasantry, nominally free, but ensnared by poverty, ignorance, and the new servitude of tenantry’. [8] While sharecropping tied African-American labour to the farm, a rigid etiquette ensured that whites and blacks never interacted on a plane of equality, not even on the running track or in a boxing ring—a Birmingham ordinance of 1930 made it unlawful for them to play at checkers and dominoes with one another. [9] Whenever the ‘colour line’ was breached or even brushed, a torrent of violence was unleashed in the form of periodic pogroms, Ku Klux Klan and vigilante raids, public floggings, mob killings and lynchings, this ritual caste murder designed to keep ‘uppity niggers’ in their appointed place. All this was made possible by the swift and near-complete disenfranchisement of blacks as well as by the enforcement of ‘Negro law’ by courts which granted the latter fewer effective legal safeguards than slaves had enjoyed earlier by dint of being both property and persons.

3. Ghetto (North, 1915–68). The sheer brutality of caste oppression in the South, the decline of cotton agriculture due to floods and the boll weevil, and the pressing shortage of labour in Northern factories caused by the outbreak of World War 1 created the impetus for African-Americans to emigrate en masse to the booming industrial centers of the Midwest and Northeast (over 1.5 million left in 1910–30, followed by another 3 million in 1940–60). But as migrants from Mississippi to the Carolinas flocked to the Northern metropolis, what they discovered there was not the ‘promised land’ of equality and full citizenship but another system of racial enclosure, the ghetto, which, though it was less rigid and fearsome than the one they had fled, was no less encompassing and constricting. To be sure, greater freedom to come and go in public places and to consume in regular commercial establishments, the disappearance of the humiliating signs pointing to ‘Coloured’ here and ‘White’ there, renewed access to the ballot box and protection from the courts, the possibility of limited economic advancement, release from personal subservience and from the dread of omnipresent white violence, all made life in the urban North incomparably preferable to continued peonage in the rural South: it was ‘better to be a lamppost in Chicago than President of Dixie,’ as migrants famously put it to Richard Wright. But restrictive covenants forced African-Americans to congregate in a ‘Black Belt’ which quickly became overcrowded, underserved and blighted by crime, disease, and dilapidation, while the ‘job ceiling’ restricted them to the most hazardous, menial, and underpaid occupations in both industry and personal services. As for ‘social equality’, understood as the possibility of ‘becoming members of white cliques, churches and voluntary associations, or marrying into their families’, it was firmly and definitively denied. [10]

Blacks had entered the Fordist industrial economy, to which they contributed a vital source of abundant and cheap labour willing to ride along its cycles of boom and bust. Yet they remained locked in a precarious position of structural economic marginality and consigned to a secluded and dependent microcosm, complete with its own internal division of labour, social stratification, and agencies of collective voice and symbolic representation: a ‘city within the city’ moored in a complexus of black churches and press, businesses and professional practices, fraternal lodges and communal associations that provided both a ‘milieu for Negro Americans in which they [could] imbue their lives with meaning’ and a bulwark ‘to “protect” white America from “social contact” with Negroes’.[11] Continued caste hostility from without and renewed ethnic affinity from within converged to create the ghetto as the third vehicle to extract black labour while keeping black bodies at a safe distance, to the material and symbolic benefit of white society.

The era of the ghetto as paramount mechanism of ethnoracial domination had opened with the urban riots of 1917–19 (in East St. Louis, Chicago, Longview, Houston, etc.). It closed with a wave of clashes, looting and burning that rocked hundreds of American cities from coast to coast, from the Watts uprising of 1965 to the riots of rage and grief triggered by the assassination of Martin Luther King in the summer of 1968. Indeed, by the end of the sixties, the ghetto was well on its way to becoming functionally obsolete or, to be more precise, increasingly unsuited to accomplishing the twofold task historically entrusted to America’s ‘peculiar institutions.’ On the side of labour extraction, the shift from an urban industrial economy to a suburban service economy and the accompanying dualization of the occupational structure, along with the upsurge of working-class immigration from Mexico, the Caribbean and Asia, meant that large segments of the workforce contained in the ‘Black Belts’ of the Northern metropolis were simply no longer needed. On the side of ethnoracial closure, the decades-long mobilization of African-Americans against caste rule finally succeeded, in the propitious political conjuncture of crisis stemming from the Vietnam war and assorted social unrest, in forcing the federal state to dismantle the legal machinery of caste exclusion. Having secured voting and civil rights, blacks were at long last full citizens who would no longer brook being shunted off into the separate and inferior world of the ghetto.[12]

But while whites begrudgingly accepted ‘integration’ in principle, in practice they strove to maintain an unbridgeable social and symbolic gulf with their compatriots of African descent. They abandoned public schools, shunned public space, and fled to the suburbs in their millions to avoid mixing and ward off the spectre of ‘social equality’ in the city. They then turned against the welfare state and those social programmes upon which the collective advancement of blacks was most dependent. A contrario, they extended enthusiastic support for the ‘law-and-order’ policies that vowed to firmly repress urban disorders connately perceived as racial threats. [13] Such policies pointed to yet another special institution capable of confining and controlling if not the entire African-American community, at least its most disruptive, disreputable and dangerous members: the prison.

The ghetto as prison, the prison as ghetto

To grasp the deep kinship between ghetto and prison, which helps explain how the structural decline and functional redundancy of the one led to the unexpected ascent and astonishing growth of the other during the last quarter-century, it is necessary first to characterize accurately the ghetto.[14] But here we come upon the troublesome fact that the social sciences have failed to develop a robust analytic concept of the ghetto; instead they have been content to borrow the folk conceptcurrent in political and popular discourse at each epoch. This has caused a good deal of confusion, as the ghetto has been successively conflated with—and mistaken for—a segregated district, an ethnic neighbourhood, a territory of intense poverty or housing blight and even, with the rise of the policy myth of the ‘underclass’ in the more recent period, a mere accumulation of urban pathologies and antisocial behaviours. [15]

A comparative and historical sociology of the reserved Jewish quarters in the cities of Renaissance Europe and of America’s ‘Bronzeville’ in the Fordist metropolis of the twentieth century reveals that a ghetto is essentially a sociospatial device that enables a dominant status group in an urban setting simultaneously to ostracize and exploit a subordinate group endowed with negative symbolic capital, that is, an incarnate property perceived to make its contact degrading by virtue of what Max Weber calls ‘negative social estimation of honour.’ Put differently, it is a relation of ethnoracial control and closure built out of four elements: (i) stigma; (ii) constraint; (iii) territorial confinement; and (iv) institutional encasement. The resulting formation is a distinct space, containing an ethnically homogeneous population, which finds itself forced to develop within it a set of interlinkedinstitutions that duplicates the organizational framework of the broader society from which that group is banished and supplies the scaffoldings for the construction of its specific ‘style of life’ and social strategies. This parallel institutional nexus affords the subordinate group a measure of protection, autonomy and dignity, but at the cost of locking it in a relationship of structural subordination and dependency.

The ghetto, in short, operates as an ethnoracial prison: it encages a dishonoured category and severely curtails the life chances of its members in support of the ‘monopolization of ideal and material goods or opportunities’ by the dominant status group dwelling on its outskirts. [16] Recall that the ghettos of early modern Europe were typically delimited by high walls with one or more gates which were locked at night and within which Jews had to return before sunset on pain of severe punishment, and that their perimeter was subjected to continuous monitoring by external authorities.[17] Note next the structural and functional homologies with the prison conceptualized as ajudicial ghetto: a jail or penitentiary is in effect a reserved space which serves to forcibly confine a legally denigrated population and wherein this latter evolves its distinctive institutions, culture and sullied identity. It is thus formed of the same four fundamental constituents—stigma, coercion, physical enclosure and organizational parallelism and insulation—that make up a ghetto, and for similar purposes.

Much as the ghetto protects the city’s residents from the pollution of intercourse with the tainted but necessary bodies of an outcast group in the manner of an ‘urban condom,’ as Richard Sennett vividly put it in his depiction of the ‘fear of touching’ in sixteenth-century Venice, [18] the prison cleanses the social body from the temporary blemish of those of its members who have committed crimes, that is, following Durkheim, individuals who have violated the sociomoral integrity of the collectivity by infringing on ‘definite and strong states of the collective conscience.’ Students of the ‘inmate society’ from Donald Clemmer and Gresham Sykes to James Jacobs and John Irwin have noted time and again how the incarcerated develop their own argot roles, exchange systems and normative standards, whether as an adaptive response to the ‘pains of imprisonment’ or through selective importation of criminal and lower-class values from the outside, much like residents of the ghetto have elaborated or intensified a ‘separate sub-culture’ to counter their sociosymbolic immurement. [19] As for the secondary aim of the ghetto, to facilitate exploitation of the interned category, it was central to the ‘house of correction’ which is the direct historical predecessor of the modern prison and it has periodically played a major role in the evolution and operation of the latter. [20] Finally, both prison and ghetto are authority structures saddled with inherently dubious or problematic legitimacy whose maintenance is ensured by intermittent recourse to external force.

By the end of the seventies, then, as the racial and class backlash against the democratic advances won by the social movements of the preceding decade got into full swing, the prison abruptly returned to the forefront of American society and offered itself as the universal and simplex solution to all manners of social problems. Chief among these problems was the ‘breakdown’ of social order in the ‘inner city,’ which is scholarly and policy euphemism for the patent incapacity of the dark ghetto to contain a dishonoured and supernumerary population henceforth viewed not only as deviant and devious but as downright dangerous in light of the violent urban upheavals of mid-sixties. As the walls of the ghetto shook and threatened to crumble, the walls of the prison were correspondingly extended, enlarged and fortified, and ‘confinement of differentiation’, aimed at keeping a group apart (the etymological meaning ofsegregare), gained primacy over ‘confinement of safety’ and ‘confinement of authority’—to use the distinction proposed by French sociologist Claude Faugeron. [21] Soon the black ghetto, converted into an instrument of naked exclusion by the concurrent retrenchment of wage labour and social protection, and further destabilized by the increasing penetration of the penal arm of the state, became bound to the jail and prison system by a triple relationship of functional equivalency, structural homology and cultural syncretism, such that they now constitute a single carceral continuum which entraps a redundant population of younger black men (and increasingly women) who circulate in closed circuit between its two poles in a self-perpetuating cycle of social and legal marginality with devastating personal and social consequences.[22]

Now, the carceral system had already functioned as an ancillary institution for caste preservation and labour control in America during one previous transition between regimes of racial domination, that between slavery and Jim Crow in the South. On the morrow of Emancipation, Southern prisons turned black overnight as ‘thousands of ex-slaves were being arrested, tried, and convicted for acts that in the past had been dealt with by the master alone’ and for refusing to behave as menials and follow the demeaning rules of racial etiquette. Soon thereafter, the former confederate states introduced ‘convict leasing’ as a response to the moral panic of ‘Negro crime’ that presented the double advantage of generating prodigious funds for the state coffers and furnishing abundant bound labour to till the fields, build the levees, lay down the railroads, clean the swamps, and dig the mines of the region under murderous conditions. [23] Indeed, penal labour, in the form of the convict-lease and its heir, the chain gang, played a major role in the economic advancement of the New South during the Progressive era, as it ‘reconciled modernization with the continuation of racial domination’. [24]

What makes the racial intercession of the carceral system different today is that, unlike slavery, Jim Crow and the ghetto of mid-century, it does not carry out a positive economic mission of recruitment and disciplining of the workforce: it serves only to warehouse the precarious and deproletarianized fractions of the black working class, be it that they cannot find employment owing to a combination of skills deficit, employer discrimination and competition from immigrants, or that they refuse to submit to the indignity of substandard work in the peripheral sectors of the service economy—what ghetto residents commonly label ‘slave jobs.’ But there is presently mounting financial and ideological pressure, as well as renewed political interest, to relax restrictions on penal labour so as to (re)introduce mass unskilled work in private enterprises inside American prisons: putting most inmates to work would help lower the country’s ‘carceral bill’ as well as effectively extend to the inmate poor the workfare requirements now imposed upon the free poor as a requirement of citizenship. [25] The next decade will tell whether the prison remains an appendage to the dark ghetto or supersedes it to go it alone and become America’s fourth ‘peculiar institution.’

Race making and social death

Slavery, the Jim Crow system and the ghetto are ‘race making’ institutions, which is to say that they do not simply process an ethnoracial division that would somehow exist outside of and independently from them. Rather, each produces (or co-produces) this division (anew) out of inherited demarcations and disparities of group power and inscribes it at every epoch in a distinctive constellation of material and symbolic forms. And all have consistently racialized the arbitrary boundary setting African-Americans apart from all others in the United States by actively denying its cultural origin in history, ascribing it instead to the fictitious necessity of biology.

The highly particular conception of ‘race’ that America has invented, virtually unique in the world for its rigidity and consequentiality, is a direct outcome of the momentous collision between slavery and democracy as modes of organization of social life after bondage had been established as the major form of labour conscription and control in a underpopulated colony home to a precapitalist system of production. The Jim Crow regime reworked the racialized boundary between slave and free into a rigid caste separation between ‘whites’ and ‘Negros’—comprising all persons of known African ancestry, no matter how minimal—that infected every crevice of the postbellum social system in the South. The ghetto, in turn, imprinted this dichotomy onto the spatial makeup and institutional schemas of the industrial metropolis. So much so that, in the wake of the ‘urban riots’ of the sixties, which in truth were uprisings against intersecting caste and class subordination, ‘urban’ and black became near-synonymous in policy making as well as everyday parlance. And the ‘crisis’ of the city came to stand for the enduring contradiction between the individualistic and competitive tenor of American life, on the one hand, and the continued seclusion of African-Americans from it, on the other. [26]

As a new century dawns, it is up to the fourth ‘peculiar institution’ born of the adjoining of the hyperghetto with the carceral system to remould the social meaning and significance of ‘race’ in accordance with the dictates of the deregulated economy and the post-Keynesian state. Now, the penal apparatus has long served as accessory to ethnoracial domination by helping to stabilize a regime under attack or bridge the hiatus between successive regimes: thus the ‘Black Codes’ of Reconstruction served to keep African-American labour in place following the demise of slavery while the criminalization of civil rights protests in the South in the 1950s aimed to retard the agony of Jim Crow. But the role of the carceral institution today is different in that, for the first time in US history, it has been elevated to the rank of main machine for ‘race making.’

Among the manifold effects of the wedding of ghetto and prison into an extended carceral mesh, perhaps the most consequential is the practical revivification and official solidification of the centuries-old association of blackness within criminality and devious violence. Along with the return of Lombroso-style mythologies about criminal atavism and the wide diffusion of bestial metaphors in the journalistic and political field (where mentions of ‘superpredators’, ‘wolf-packs’, ‘animals’ and the like are commonplace), the massive over-incarceration of blacks has supplied a powerful common-sense warrant for ‘using colour as a proxy for dangerousness’. [27] In recent years, the courts have consistently authorized the police to employ race as ‘a negative signal of increased risk of criminality’ and legal scholars have rushed to endorse it as ‘a rational adaptation to the demographics of crime’, made salient and verified, as it were, by the blackening of the prison population, even though such practice entails major inconsistencies from the standpoint of constitutional law. Throughout the urban criminal justice system, the formula ‘Young + Black + Male’ is now openly equated with ‘probable cause’ justifying the arrest, questioning, bodily search and detention of millions of African-American males every year.

In the era of racially targeted ‘law-and-order’ policies and their sociological pendant, racially skewed mass imprisonment, the reigning public image of the criminal is not just that of ‘a monstruum—a being whose features are inherently different from ours’, but that of a black monster, as young African-American men from the ‘inner city’ have come to personify the explosive mix of moral degeneracy and mayhem. The conflation of blackness and crime in collective representation and government policy (the other side of this equation being the conflation of blackness and welfare) thus re-activates ‘race’ by giving a legitimate outlet to the expression of anti-black animus in the form of the public vituperation of criminals and prisoners. As writer John Edgar Wideman points out:

It’s respectable to tar and feather criminals, to advocate locking them up and throwing away the key. It’s not racist to be against crime, even though the archetypal criminal in the media and the public imagination almost always wears ‘Willie’ Horton’s face. Gradually, ‘urban’ and ‘ghetto’ have become codewords for terrible places where only blacks reside. Prison is rapidly being re-lexified in the same segregated fashion. [28]

Indeed, when ‘to be a man of colour of a certain economic class and milieu is equivalent in the public eye to being a criminal’, being processed by the penal system is tantamount to being made black, and ‘doing time’ behind bars is at the same time ‘marking race’. [29]

By assuming a central role in the post-Keynesian government of race and poverty, at the crossroads of the deregulated low-wage labour market, a revamped ‘welfare-workfare’ apparatus designed to support casual employment, and the vestiges of the ghetto, the overgrown carceral system of the United States has become a major engine of symbolic production in its own right. It is not only the pre-eminent institution for signifying and enforcing blackness, much as slavery was during the first three centuries of US history. Just as bondage effected the ‘social death’ of imported African captives and their descendants on American soil, mass incarceration also induces the civic death of those it ensnares by extruding them from the social compact. [30] Today’s inmates are thus the target of a threefold movement of exclusionary closure:

  1. Prisoners are denied access to valued cultural capital: just as university credentials are becoming a prerequisite for employment in the (semi)protected sector of the labour market, inmates have been expelled from higher education by being made ineligible for Pell Grants, starting with drug offenders in 1988, continuing with convicts sentenced to death or lifelong imprisonment without the possibility of parole in 1992, and ending with all remaining state and federal prisoners in 1994. This expulsion was voted by Congress for the sole purpose of accentuating the symbolic divide between criminals and ‘law-abiding citizens’ in spite of overwhelming evidence that prison educational programmes drastically cut recividism as well as help to maintain carceral order. [31]
  2. Prisoners are systematically excluded fromsocial redistribution and public aid in an age when work insecurity makes access to such programmes more vital than ever for those dwelling in the lower regions of social space. Laws deny welfare payments, veterans’ benefits and food stamps to anyone in detention for more than 60 days. The Work Opportunity and Personal Responsibility Act of 1996 further banishes most ex-convicts from Medicaid, public housing, Section 8 vouchers and related forms of assistance. In the spring of 1998, President Clinton denounced as intolerable ‘fraud and abuse’ perpetrated against ‘working families’ who ‘play by the rules’ the fact that some prisoners (or their households) continued to get public payments due to lax bureaucratic enforcement of these prohibitions. And he proudly launched ‘unprecedented federal, state, and local cooperation as well as new, innovative incentive programs’ using the latest ‘high-tech tools to weed out any inmate’ who still received benefits (see opposite), including the disbursement of bounties to counties who promptly turn in identifying information on their jail detainees to the Social Security administration.
  3. Convicts are banned from political participationvia ‘criminal disenfranchisement’ practised on a scale and with a vigour unimagined in any other country. All but four members of the Union deny the vote to mentally competent adults held in detention facilities; 39 states forbid convicts placed on probation from exercising their political rights and 32 states also interdict parolees. In 14 states, ex-felons are barred from voting even when they are no longer under criminal justice supervision—for life in ten of these states. The result is that nearly 4 million Americans have temporarily or permanently lost the ability to cast a ballot, including 1.47 million who are not behind bars and another 1.39 million who served their sentence in full. [32] A mere quarter of a century after acceding to full voting rights, one black man in seven nationwide is banned from the electoral booth through penal disenfranchisement and seven states permanently deny the vote to more than one fourth of their black male residents.

Through this triple exclusion, the prison and the criminal justice system more broadly contribute to the ongoing reconstruction of the ‘imagined community’ of Americans around the polar opposition between praiseworthy ‘working families’—implicitly white, suburban, and deserving—and the despicable ‘underclass’ of criminals, loafers, and leeches, a two-headed antisocial hydra personified by the dissolute teenage ‘welfare mother’ on the female side and the dangerous street ‘gang banger’ on the male side—by definition dark-skinned, urban and undeserving. The former are exalted as the living incarnation of genuine American values, self-control, deferred gratification, subservience of life to labour; the latter is vituperated as the loathsome embodiment of their abject desecration, the ‘dark side’ of the ‘American dream’ of affluence and opportunity for all, believed to flow from morality anchored in conjugality and work. And the line that divides them is increasingly being drawn, materially and symbolically, by the prison.

On the other side of that line lies an institutional setting unlike any other. Building on his celebrated analyses of Ancient Greece, classical historian Moses Finley has introduced a fruitful distinction between ‘societies with slaves’ and ‘genuine slave societies.’ [33] In the former, slavery is but one of several modes of labour control and the division between slave and free is neither impermeable nor axial to the entire social order. In the latter, enslaved labour is epicentral to both economic production and class structure, and the slave-master relation provides the pattern after which all other social relations are built or distorted, such that no corner of culture, society and self is left untouched by it. The astronomical overrepresentation of blacks in houses of penal confinement and the increasingly tight meshing of the hyperghetto with the carceral system suggests that, owing to America’s adoption of mass incarceration as a queer social policy designed to discipline the poor and contain the dishonoured, lower-class African-Americans now dwell, not in a society with prisons as their white compatriots do, but in the first genuine prison society in history.



Haki Kweli Shakur 8-27-51ADM 16 August Third Co NAPLA NAIM





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