"A must-read for anyone interested in social justice and inequalities, social movements, the criminal justice system, and African American history. An excellent companion to Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow and Ava DuVernay's documentary 13th."―Library Journal, Starred review
"I was fortunate to grow up in a community in which it was apparent that our lives mattered. This memory is the antidote to the despair that seizes one of my generation when we hear the words 'Black Lives Matter.' We want to shout: Of course they do! To you, especially. In this brilliant, painful, factual and useful book, we see to whom our lives have not mattered: the profit driven Euro-Americans who enslaved and worked our ancestors to death within a few years, then murdered them and bought replacements. Many of these ancestors are buried beneath Wall Street. Mumia Abu-Jamal's painstaking courage, truth-telling, and disinterest in avoiding the reality of American racial life is, as always, honorable."—Alice Walker
"Prophet, critic, historian, witness . . . Mumia Abu-Jamal is one of the most insightful and consequential intellectuals of our era. These razor sharp reflections on racialized state violence in America are the fire and the memory our movements need right now."—Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination
"Mumia Abu Jamal's clarion call for justice and defiance of state oppression has never dimmed, despite his decades of being shackled and caged. He is one of our nation's most valiant revolutionaries and courageous intellectuals."—Chris Hedges, Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and author of Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt
"This collection of short meditations, written from a prison cell, captures the past two decades of police violence that gave rise to Black Lives Matter while digging deeply into the history of the United States. This is the book we need right now to find our bearings in the chaos."
—Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, author of An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States
In December 1981, Mumia Abu-Jamal was shot and beaten into unconsciousness by Philadelphia police. He awoke to find himself shackled to a hospital bed, accused of killing a cop. He was convicted and sentenced to death in a trial that Amnesty International has denounced as failing to meet the minimum standards of judicial fairness.
In Have Black Lives Ever Mattered?, Mumia gives voice to the many people of color who have fallen to police bullets or racist abuse, and offers the post-Ferguson generation advice on how to address police abuse in the United States. This collection of his radio commentaries on the topic features an in-depth essay written especially for this book to examine the history of policing in America, with its origins in the white slave patrols of the antebellum South and an explicit mission to terrorize the country's black population. Applying a personal, historical, and political lens, Mumia provides a righteously angry and calmly principled radical black perspective on how racist violence is tearing our country apart and what must be done to turn things around.
Mumia Abu-Jamal is author of many books, including Death Blossoms, Live from Death Row, All Things Censored, Writing on the Wall, and Jailhouse Lawyers.
"[Mumia's] writings are a wake-up call. He is a voice from our prophetic tradition, speaking to us here, now, lovingly, urgently."—Cornel West
"He allows us to reflect upon the fact that transformational possibilities often emerge where we least expect them."—Angela Y. Davis
"These writings date from the late 1990s and often show prescience on the part of the author, who was writing well before the Black Lives Matter movement that 'when the system kills Blacks, there is no outrage, for it has been normalized by centuries of white enslavement, terrorism, and injustice. Such violence is simply the accepted way of how things are.' Also included is a series of articles on the killing of Trayvon Martin, accurately anticipating the acquittal of the white man who shot him, and another series on Ferguson and its aftermath—how 'Ferguson may prove a wake-up call that Black lives matter. A call for youth to build social, radical, revolutionary movements for change.' The last piece is the longest, a pamphlet on how to build such a movement with a historical perspective on why this is necessary."—Kirkus Reviews
"While the author does reflect on the widely reported cases of police violence against African Americans, as well as on the role of the media in determining what gets attention, the strength of the book rests in the essays that draw attention to lesser-known victims of police violence, particularly women of color whose stories never reached the mainstream media. Over the course of nearly four decades in prison, Abu-Jamal . . . has become an astute student of the justice system as well as a particularly cogent opponent of the death penalty.”—Publishers Weekly