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The wave of book banning, has turned its ugly head to redacting

Winning the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for history hasn’t helped save Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy from being the latest in what can only be described best by PEN America as “the largest book ban policy in the United States.” 

Since its publication date in 2016, Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy (Vintage) has been banned in correctional facilities within New York State. Professor Heather Ann Thompson filed a lawsuit in March in an attempt to change the policy. Now, State lawyers are arguing that the suit should be dismissed, on the grounds that prisoners can read the book—albeit a redacted version.

This is the premise of the civil suit being filed against The State of NY in a new wave of book banning in America. This raises the question, is redacting any different to book burning?  The author of Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy doesn’t think so, and she isn’t happy about the policy that allows The State to redact parts of her book at will, when and where they see fit.  

book banning
Credit: NY Post

Blood in the Water chronicles the history of the uprising – read deadly riot – at the Attica Correctional Facility in Attica, New York;  in 1971. The historical book has references to maps, deaths, and comprehensive details and photos of the protest of the 1,300 inmates who took over part of the prison, to rally against years of mistreatment. State troopers and guards were finally called in, who shot tear gas into the prison yard before firing hundreds of rounds into the fray, which resulted in the death of 32 inmates and 11 staff members. There was no trial for the law enforcement for their role in the deadly massacre.

The State says the new version of the book, would remove a map of the Attica facility, as well as any text or photos that could incite violence amongst the inmates. As stated in The New York Times“the reverse side of one of the removed pages, which contains a list of the people who died in the uprising, will be included as an inserted photocopy.”

book ban ny
Credit: NY Post

Thompson has also noted in an interview with the Times that she’s heard from a number of imprisoned readers who have a real interest to learn more about the history of Attica. “There’s been a real, honest, genuine desire to know what happened all those years ago,” she said. “There’s been not a hint from those people that this is in any way inciteful or biased.”

At the time of filing, the author stated, “people have a right to read, and people have a right to history. We also have a right to have our books read. It’s a shame we live in a country where we censor people and ideas.”