RATTLING THE CAGES
Oral Histories of North American Political Prisoners
The official story is that the United States has no political prisoners. The reality is that there are hundreds of people rounded up, placed behind bars, and kept there for inordinately long sentences because of their political beliefs and activities. A project of abolitionist Josh Davidson and political prisoner Eric King, this book is filled with the experience and wisdom of over thirty current and former North American political prisoners. It provides first-hand details of prison life and the political commitments that continue to lead prisoners into direct confrontation with state authorities and institutions. The people Josh Davidson has interviewed include former radicals and Black liberation militants from the sixties and seventies, current antifascists, nonviolent Catholic peace activists, Animal and Earth Liberation Front saboteurs, and more. Their stories are moving, often tragic, yet deeply inspiring.
Collectively, these people have spent hundreds of years behind bars, and their experiences speak directly to the cruelty and immorality of our prison and so-called criminal justice systems. Although their sentences and the conditions they have endured vary dramatically, this wide range of voices come together to embody what bell hooks called “a legacy of defiance.” It is this legacy—of tirelessly struggling to right today’s wrongs and create a better tomorrow—that the prison system tries, yet fails, to extinguish.
Royalties from book sales are split between the Anarchist Black Cross Federation’s Warchest, which provides financial support to currently imprisoned political prisoners, and the family of political prisoner Eric King.
PRAISE FOR RATTLING THE CAGES
An Essential Read
“Rattling the Cages brings the term 'political prisoner' into sharper focus by providing outstanding oral accounts from a wide range of North American political prisoners. In the finest tradition of oral history—'the poetry of the everyday,' the literature of the streets—this book takes us to the source, and shines a bright, illuminating light into the shadowy world of our peculiarly American gulag. Rattling the Cages dives head-first into the wide world of direct personal experiences and human meaning-making, offering an important antidote to propaganda, dogma, and stereotype.”—Bill Ayers, author of Fugitive Days and Public Enemy
“Rattling the Cages has more wisdom, harder-earned, per page than any other book I've ever read. It is the kind of wisdom most people hope to never know, the kind of wisdom that comes from facing the true nature of our state and what it does to those who resist its power. The lessons of this book force those of us on the outside to ask whether we are walking the way we believe. Rattling the Cages will be essential reading for years to come.”—Baynard Woods, author of Inheritance: An Autobiography of Whiteness“Prison can't win, Huey Newton famously said, because walls and bars cannot hold back ideas. And this book is brimming with ideas from survivors of political repression. Rattling the Cages is an intimate intergenerational dialog with movement activists representing sixty years of struggle and too many years of incarceration. In conversations both hopeful and heartfelt, intense and inspiring, they share how they live to fight another day.”—Dan Berger, author of Stayed on Freedom: The Long History of Black Power Through One Family's Journey
“As a collection of oral histories, Davidson’s Rattling the Cages provides an essential archive on both the breathtaking cruelty of American prisons and on the courage and humanity of those locked away. To heed the critiques of its contributors is to accept that all imprisonment is political. But something in these pages throbs even louder than critique. Here, too, one finds love and the joy born from struggle. Those serve as the foundation of this book’s brilliant contributions, of the world they—and we—hope to build.” —N. D. B. Connolly, Johns Hopkins University"Rattling the Cages pulls off a virtual prison break. It brings so many of my favorite people together, all in one place, to share their incredibly powerful perspectives on life, politics, and dynamics as political prisoners, and to talk about what the future holds.” —Leslie James Pickering, author of Mad Bomber Melville, former Earth Liberation Front spokesman, and co-founder of Burning Books bookstore
Donna Willmott, James Kilgore, Mark Cook, Rebecca Rubin, Hanif Shabazz Bey, Chelsea Manning, Oso Blanco, Ann Hansen, Sean Swain, Martha Hennessy, Jalil Muntaqim, Jeremy Hammond, Kojo Bomani Sababu, Laura Whitehorn, Eric King, Rattler, Ray Luc Levasseur, Elizabeth McAlister, Malik Smith, David Campbell, Xinachtli, David Gilbert, Susan Rosenberg, Daniel McGowan, Linda Evans, Herman Bell, Jennifer Rose, Ed Mead, Jerry Koch, Michael Kimble, Bill Harris, Jaan Laaman, Jake Conroy, Marius Mason, Bill Dunne, Oscar López Rivera
Josh Davidson is an abolitionist who is involved in numerous projects, including the Certain Days collective that publishes the annual Freedom for Political Prisoners calendar and the Children’s Art Project with political prisoner Oso Blanco. Josh also works in communications with the Zinn Education Project, which promotes the teaching of radical people’s history in classrooms and provides free lessons and resources for educators. He lives in Eugene, Oregon.
Eric King is a father, poet, author, and activist. He is a political prisoner serving a ten-year federal sentence for an act of protest over the police murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014. He is scheduled to be released in 2024. He has been held in solitary confinement for years on end and has been assaulted by both guards and white supremacists. Eric has published three zines: Battle Tested (2015); Antifa in Prison (2019); and Pacing in My Cell (2019). His sentencing statement is included in the book Defiance: Anarchist Statements Before Judge and Jury (2019).
Angela Y. Davis is Professor Emerita of History of Consciousness and Feminist Studies at UC Santa Cruz. An activist, writer, and lecturer, her work focuses on prisons, police, abolition, and the related intersections of race, gender, and class. She is the author of many books, including Angela Davis: An Autobiography and Freedom Is a Constant Struggle.
Sara Falconer is a writer, editor and digital strategist who works with nonprofits. She has been creating publications with prisoners since 2001. Sara lives with her awesome family in Hamilton, Ontario—the traditional territories of the Erie, Neutral, Huron-Wendat, Haudenosaunee, and Mississaugas.