Prison PowerHow Prison Influenced the Movement for Black Liberation

Prison PowerHow Prison Influenced the Movement for Black Liberation

Lisa M. Corrigan

Print publication date: 2019

ISBN: 9781496809070

Publisher: University Press of Mississippi


Prison Power centers imprisonment in the history of black liberation as a rhetorical, theoretical, physical, and media resource as activists developed movement tactics and ideology to counter white supremacy. In highlighting imprisonment as a site for both political and personal transformation, Prison Power underscores how imprisonment shaped movement leaders by influencing their political analysis and organizational strategies. The book suggests that prison became the critical space for the transformation from civil rights to Black Power, especially as southern civil rights activists faced setbacks in achieving equality. In centering the prison as a locus of political inquiry, Black Power activists produced autobiographical writings, essays, and letters about and from prison beginning with the early sit-in movement. Prison Power introduces the critical optic of the “Black Power vernacular” to describe how Black Power activists deployed rhetorical forms in their writings that invented new forms of black identification and encouraged support for black liberation from prison. In using Black Power vernacular forms, imprisoned activists improved their visibility while simultaneously documenting the racist abuses of the judicial system. This new vernacular emerged to force various publics to acknowledge and end the massive brutality perpetrated against black people in prison and in the streets in the name of law and order thereby helping to shore up support for Black Power organizations and initiatives.