This month, we are commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Attica prison uprising, a high point of the cycle of prisoners’ struggle of the 1960s and 1970s.
We share experiences from former Attica prisoners Joseph Hayden and Carlos Roche, and attorney Elizabeth Fink, who all describe the events of that day and the days leading up to the event.
Afterwards, we return to Frank Smith, known as Big Black, a prisoner at Attica who participated in the uprising and successfully organized the security for outside negotiators who entered the prison. He was ferociously tortured by guards in retaliation for his participation in the rebellion, and gave the interview we are sharing today while being held in extended solitary confinement after the uprising. This was recorded in February 1972, just months after the rebellion. A state official was present for the interview, for the purpose of intimidation and surveillance, which imposed limits on what Frank was able to say about the uprising itself, but he could speak to prior conditions within the prison.
In this episode, Smith talks more about the societal structures that helped to lead to Attica: capitalism, racism, a skewed judicial system.
The audio of Barkley and Smith is available via The Freedom Archives. The full interview with Smith courtesy of Pacifica Radio Archives. To find our other episodes about the Attica Prison Rebellion, click the tags on this episode at kitelineradio.org.