Synopses & Reviews
Edited by activist and former San Francisco 49ers super bowl quarterback Colin Kaepernick, Abolition for the People is a manifesto calling for a world beyond prisons and policing.
Abolition for the People brings together thirty essays representing a diversity of voices — political prisoners, grassroots organizers, scholars, and relatives of those killed by the anti-Black terrorism of policing and prisons. This collection presents readers with a moral choice: "Will you continue to be actively complicit in the perpetuation of these systems," Kaepernick asks in his introduction, "or will you take action to dismantle them for the benefit of a just future?"
Powered by courageous hope and imagination, Abolition for the People provides a blueprint and vision for creating an abolitionist future where communities can be safe, valued, and truly free. "Another world is possible," Kaepernick writes, "a world grounded in love, justice, and accountability, a world grounded in safety and good health, a world grounded in meeting the needs of the people."
The complexity of abolitionist concepts and the enormity of the task at hand can be overwhelming. To help readers on their journey toward a greater understanding, each essay in the collection is followed by a reader's guide that offers further provocations on the subject.
Newcomers to these ideas might ask: Is the abolition of the prison industrial complex too drastic? Can we really get rid of prisons and policing altogether? As writes organizer and New York Times bestselling author Mariame Kaba, "The short answer: We can. We must. We are."
Abolition for the People begins by uncovering the lethal anti-Black histories of policing and incarceration in the United States. Juxtaposing today's moment with 19th-century movements for the abolition of slavery, freedom fighter Angela Y. Davis writes "Just as we hear calls today for a more humane policing, people then called for a more humane slavery." Drawing on decades of scholarship and personal experience, each author deftly refutes the notion that police and prisons can be made fairer and more humane through piecemeal reformation. As Derecka Purnell argues, "reforms do not make the criminal legal system more just, but obscure its violence more efficiently."
Blending rigorous analysis with first-person narratives, Abolition for the People definitively makes the case that the only political future worth building is one without and beyond police and prisons.
You won't find all the answers here, but you will find the right questions — questions that open up radical possibilities for a future where all communities can thrive.
"Abolition is persistence. Abolition for the People combines examples and interpretations to show how people can and do achieve extraordinary change. We do so by combining analysis with socially powerful — organized — human energy. Such energy is renewable because we build on the past while inventing as we go. At the end of the day what matters is not what we say but what we do and do again: take a knee, build a movement, strengthen communities, share practices and resources, and fight for a world in which life is precious." Ruth Wilson Gilmore, author of Golden Gulag
"Carefully curated, incisively conceptualized anthologies like Alain Locke's The New Negro and Toni Cade Bambara's The Black Woman can transform worlds. Abolition for the People is in this tradition. Kaepernick has assembled a community of visionary thinkers who unequivocally show that the path to freedom requires abolition." Barbara Smith, Co-founder, the Combahee River Collective
"Colin Kaepernick has assembled many of the most important writers and activists in the growing movement to abolish prisons and the police, and has produced a book that holds the promise of educating and inspiring a new generation of abolitionists to build a new world without police and prisons through struggle, solidarity, and imagining our society anew." Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, author of From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation
"Abolition for the People is an accessible and essential resource for today's movements. With moral clarity and political urgency, Colin Kaepernick and the book's contributors lay out the pitfalls of contemporary reform efforts. They are not misguided or too slow. They are how we got to where we are today. Complete with reading guides, graphs, and other valuable resources, reading this book — like abolition itself — is meant to be done in the community of others. Abolition for the People is more than a who's who of abolitionism. It's a what's what of abolitionist practice." Garrett Felber, author of Those Who Know Don't Say: The Nation of Islam, the Black Freedom Movement, and the Carceral State
"Abolition for the People is the book we've been waiting for. With an all-star lineup of some of the most powerful thinkers and activists in the world today, this critical text not only explains the mechanics of mass criminalization in the United States, but it also shows us how we can undo the harms of the past to liberate all of our futures. The wisdom in these pages is sure to inspire generations of people committed to the struggle for decades to come." Elizabeth Hinton, author of America on Fire: The Untold History of Police Violence and Black Rebellion Since the 1960s
About the Author
Holder of the all-time NFL record for most rushing yards in a game by a quarterback, Super Bowl QB Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the playing of "The Star Spangled Banner" in 2016 to bring attention to systemic oppressions, specifically police terrorism against Black and Brown people. For his stance, he has been denied employment by the league. Since 2016, he has founded and helped to fund three organizations — Know Your Rights Camp, Ra Vision Media, and Kaepernick Publishing — that together advance the liberation of Black and Brown people through storytelling, systems change, and political education. Kaepernick sits on Medium's board and is the winner of numerous prestigious honors including Amnesty International's Ambassador of Conscience Award, the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Ripple of Hope honor, GQ magazine's Citizen of the Year, the NFL's Len Eshmont Award, the Sports Illustrated Muhammad Ali Legacy Award, the ACLU's Eason Monroe Courageous Advocate Award, and the Puffin/Nation Institute's Prize for Creative Citizenship. In 2019, Kaepernick helped Nike to win an Emmy for its "Dream Crazy'' commercial.