Incarceration and Resistance

Duncan, Brad
Date Written:  2015-11-01
Publisher:  Against the Current
Year Published:  2015
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX21298

Book reviews of Dan Berger's two works Captive Nation: Black Prison Organizing in the Civil Rights Era and The Struggle Within: Prisons, Political Prisoners, and Mass Movements in the United States.



The Nation of Islam is credited with pioneering work with prisoners during the 1950s in California, organizing for prisoner literacy and health along with their clear, defiant message of unbowed Black manhood. "Don't be shocked when I say I was in prison" Malcolm X said in his "Message to the Grassroots." “You’re still in prison. That's what America means: prison."

As the Black Panther Party and other Black radical movements saw their leaders imprisoned and potentially facing execution on trumped-up charges, from Huey Newton to Angela Davis, the political prisoner emerged as the face of the Black Power and radical Left movements, becoming global ambassadors of the revolution.

Berger uses the term "dissident prisoners" to describe both people who were incarcerated for their political activism and individuals incarcerated for apolitical crimes who became politicized while behind bars. Berger demonstrates how the autobiography of the politicized prisoner, especially The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965) and Eldridge Cleaver's Soul on Ice (1968), emerged as a defining influence on the Black awakening and indeed insurgent anti-colonial movements around the world.
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