Have Black Lives Ever Mattered? (Book Review)

A collection of incarcerated journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal’s writings from the past 20 years

Mumia Abu-Jamal is an American journalist and former Black Panther Party member currently serving a life sentence in a Pennsylvania prison. In 1982 Abu-Jamal was sentenced to prison for the death of a police officer was on death row for almost 20 years before his prison sentence was commuted in 2001 to life without parole. In Have Black Lives Ever Mattered, a collection of Abu-Jamal’s writings from 1998 to present, Abu-Jamal presents readers with an alternative version of history “not written by the victor, but by one who has seen and sensed what was happening on the other side of the prison wall, who seeks to convey those impressions with truth.”

Putting recent history into context with the entire history of colonized white America laying the foundations for current inequality. Abu-Jamal makes clear that this current repression of Black people is nothing new, and is but a continuation of the same ideas that must be overturned.

Abu-Jamal writes that “instead of [prisons] being a financial burden, leasing incarcerated Blacks to businesses was a way local government actually turned a profit.” In addition, the police force is merely a part of this prison industrial complex to suppress Black lives:

Hate crimes, all white juries, “colorblindness,” legalized police violence, FBI surveillance, the death penalty, white terrorists, : Abu-Jamal presents us with a concise recent history of race in America- and implores us to be outraged.

Abu-Jamal asks us not only to be outraged about the current state of the world, but to rise up and do something about it. He asks us to continue to learn and fight for equality as he writes about the events in Ferguson, Missouri:

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