• The Attica Rebellion: 50 Year Anniversary

    *Content Warning: some videos on this playlist contain graphic images of violence.*

    On September 9th-13th, 1971, inmates in the Attica Correctional Facility in Attica NY took control of the prison and issued a list of demands for better living conditions and political rights. 42 prison staff were taken hostage. During the rebellion, inmates organized peacefully and communicated with the negotiators and public about the inhumane conditions they were forced to live under. The rebellion ended when Governor Nelson Rockefeller took control of the prison, and 33 inmates and 10 prison guards were killed in the process.
    The media largely misrepresented the facts of the rebellion, especially from the point of view of the inmates.

    The videos in this collection were made by independent producers from Rochester’s Portable Channel (primarily Sanford Rockowitz) in the immediate aftermath of the rebellion. They feature the perspectives of inmates, defenders and politicians who supported prison reform initiatives, and tell the story of the Attica Prison Rebellion from those who experienced it directly.

    Producer Sanford (Sandy) Rockowitz was just beginning to use video at the time of the Attica Rebellion, using Sony Portapaks and other video equipment made available through the Rochester Museum and Science Center’s Media Equipment Pool. In early 1971 Sandy and his co-producers, including Bonnie Klein, began covering community issues that were not adequately (or accurately) being covered by the mainstream media. According to Sandy, “at the time of the uprising, we knew something significant was happening, and that we needed to videotape it. There wasn’t a lot of planning involved. We just wanted to do something. So we talked to whoever we could, went wherever we could, and learned as we went along”.

    Soon after the Attica rebellion, Sandy and Bonnie co-founded Portable Channel.

    Click here learn more about the Portable Channel collection at VSW.

    VSW is in the process of having these videos transcribed and subtitled. Transcripts will be made available by request. Thank you for your patience.

    This playlist represents only part of the content we have digitized. For more information on the content related to the Attica Rebellion, please contact Tara Nelson, Curator of Moving Image Collections, taranelson@vsw.org.