For voracious readers, the announcement of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize winners can inspire just as much interest as The Super Bowl. While the ceremony may not be watched by quite as many people (or include any cringe-worthy viral commercials) the intense excitement the Pulitzers inspire in the bookish community is all too familiar. For history buffs, the announcement of Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy by Heather Ann Thompson as the winner of the Pulitzer Prize in History is incredibly exciting.
We make bets and predictions (and TBR lists, of course) all entirely dedicated to the books most likely to make the list. And while The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction is the honor most often discussed, every category can make our book loving hearts skip a beat, including the prize for History. With Hamilton and the American Revolution still taking over the collective conscious, and Trump's America taking new turns every day, our relationship with history is now both more relevant and more crucial than ever.
So when Blood in the Water was announced as the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for History winner this Monday afternoon, we added it to our TBR pile immediately. The book is billed as the first definitive history of the infamous 1971 Attica prison uprising and the victims' decades long quest for justice. On September 9, 1971, nearly 1,300 prisoners took over the Attica Correctional Facility in upstate New York to protest years of mistreatment. Holding guards and civilian employees hostage, the prisoners negotiated with officials for improved conditions during the four long days and nights that followed.
On September 13, the state abruptly sent hundreds of heavily armed troopers and correction officers to retake the prison by force. Their gunfire killed 39men—hostages as well as prisoners—and severely wounded more than 100 others. In the ensuing hours, weeks, and months, troopers and officers brutally retaliated against the prisoners. And, ultimately, New York State authorities prosecuted only the prisoners, never bringing charges against the officials involved and neglecting to provide support to the survivors and the families of the men who had been killed.
Drawing from more than a decade of extensive research, historian Heather Ann Thompson sheds new light on every aspect of the uprising and its legacy, giving voice to all those who took part in this 45-year fight for justice: prisoners, former hostages, families of the victims, lawyers and judges, and state officials and members of law enforcement, providing a searing and indelible account of one of the most important civil rights stories of the last century.
Blood in the Water joins past recipients of the prize, including 2016's winner Custer's Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America by T.J Stiles, a rich and surprising telling of the journey of the iconic American soldier.