Interview with Eleanor Holmes Norton

Did the prison uprising at Attica seem part of or an extension of the movement to you?


In some ways it did. We have a kind of continuum here. The movement begins with ministers like Andrew Young and Martin Luther King. The students, middle-class students, mostly, like myself, take up the movement. The masses in the great cities and the great rural areas take up the movement. And finally, the movement reaches into jails where Black men, mostly, are being held in quite inhumane conditions. We knew that they had heard us. We also knew that many of them were criminals. But, the '60s and early '70s were a period when drugs and venality did not nearly as much account for criminal activity as they do today. When opportunities had not been as they are today, so there was a much greater tendency to identify with people in jail. Today, the Black community is very hostile on, on, on issues of crime because Black people have been victimized by criminal activity by Black people, but interestingly, in the late '60s and early '70s, Black people tended to identify with people in jail. Many had relatives who were in jail. Many knew the kinds of streets, the kinds of circumstances that produced people who went to jail. So we've had a great change in the way crime is viewed, and yes, we saw the rebellions at Attica, particularly, given the way it was put down, as an indication that Black life was cheap and that even in jail, even in inhumane prisons that were far removed from the city as Attica was, that the message that you didn't have to take it had found its way.


Great. Cut.