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.
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 for the People includes contributions from Mumia Abu-Jamal; Bree Newsome Bass; Ruha Benjamin; Simone Browne; Dan Berger; Kimberlé Crenshaw; Angela Davis; Kenyon Farrow; Morning Star Gali; Cynthia Garcia; Derrick Hamilton; Mariame Kaba; Colin Kaepernick; Robin D. G. Kelley; James Kilgore; Evan Lamberg; Kiese Laymon; Talila A. Lewis; Ameer Loggins; Rukia Lumumba; Erica Meiners; Christina; Jiménez Moreta; Naomi Murakawa; Mark Anthony Neal; Tamara Nopper; Marlon Peterson; Christopher Petrella; Derecka Purnell; Dylan Rodríguez; Andrea Ritchie; kihana miraya ross; Stuart Schrader; Russell Shoatz III; Russell “Maroon” Shoatz; Dean Spade; David Stein; Gwen Woods; and Connie Wun.
“This collection is certain to be an invaluable organizing tool, hopefully leading to widespread change.”
“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
“This book brings clarity to the centuries-old systems of racialized policing and carceral control, and the impact of these systems on our lives now, and in the future. The short, rich essays in Abolition for the People are vital for the education of young people.”
—Ericka Huggins, Restorative Justice Practitioner and Facilitator
“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 invitation to transform our communities into places where conflict, harm, and violence are addressed with collectivity, care, and holistic accountability—not the brutality and empty justice of policing or prisons. Each contributor guides us through the challenging work needed to radically change how we relate to each other as people under the heels of global capitalism, patriarchy, and anti-Blackness. A reflection of decades of organizing and intellectual work shaped by Black feminism, this book is a necessary love letter to our people that delivers uncomfortable truths alongside a compassionate, realistic approach to building abolition in our lifetimes.”
—Charlene A. Carruthers, Cultural Worker and author of Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements
“Abolition for the People is a necessary and urgent blueprint for a world where all Black people are safe, healthy, and free. The essays in this volume answer the most common questions about abolition—What is abolition? Why not reform? What next?—while also shining light on the new systems of safety and justice that people are building in real time. The voices of political prisoners, grassroots organizers, scholars, and the family members of people killed by the police join together to call us into the work of imagining and building a world without police and prisons. Its brilliant use of essays, reading guides, and infographics makes Abolition for the People both a textbook and touchstone for people who are coming to abolition for the first time, those who have been doing the work for decades, and everyone in between. The book connects the uprisings of summer 2020 to a long history of naming and resisting anti-Black state violence and reminds us why reform can never truly deliver freedom. I will read this book at home. I will assign this book to my students. I will keep it close by as a reminder that the last year mattered and that those of us courageous enough to be moved by this moment are not alone.”
—Nikki Jones, author of The Chosen Ones: Black Men and the Politics of Redemption
“Abolition for the People is nothing short of a gift to all of us who are working for freedom from the long, violent reach of the carceral state. Anyone who has been dreaming about a radically different world will be inspired by the rich collection of essays, and all who are fighting for justice will be encouraged, because taken together with the reader’s guides and infographics, this book delivers on the promise of helping to build an abolition movement for all people. Indeed, as the struggle for liberation continues, the vision of abolition is made clearer and more beautiful after reading this powerful and exhilarating book.”
—Beth Richie, author of Arrested Justice and Abolition. Feminism. Now.
“Abolition for the People is an unprecedented collection of some of the most powerful and passionate voices on the planet speaking to the most critical social justice issue of our time: how to dismantle the carceral-surveillance-punishment industry. This inaugural collection from Colin Kaepernick's new publishing house is a political tour de force. Sharp, provocative, eloquent, and gut-wrenching—Abolition for the People is a must-read for anyone trying to make sense of the waves of protest that have swept over this country in recent years, from responses to the murder of Trayvon Martin in 2012, to the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor in 2020. If you read it carefully, this collection will make you rage against the injustices of the moment, and simultaneously push you to recommit to the collective struggle for a more just future.”
—Barbara Ransby, author of Making All Black Lives Matter: Reimagining Freedom in the 21st Century
“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