“We are calling out to entertainers, to name a few: Cannonball Adderly, Black Academy of Arts and Letters, Harry Belafonte, Blood Sweat and Tears, Willie Bobo, James Brown, Oscar Brown Jr., Alice Coltrane, Billy Cosby, Miles Davis, Ossie Davis, Jackson Five, Roberta Flack, Jane Fonda, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Dizzy Gillespie, Nikki Giovanni, Dexter Gordon, Dick Gregory, Richie Havens, Isaac Hayes, Quinly Jones, B.B. King, John Lennon, Felipe Luciano, Hugh Masekela, Curtis Mayfield, Lee Morgan, Melvin Van Peebles, Last Poets, Leontye Price, Lou Rawls, Max Roach, Ray Rodriguez, Pharaoh Saunders, Leon Thomas, Ike and Tina Turner, Kim Weston, Bill Withers, and any others who would be willing to contribute time and money to saving lives.”
When you think of the Attica state prison revolt think about two Jews: Sam “Melville” Grossman and Jerome “Jerry the Jew” Rosenberg.
Sam “Melville” Grossman was the “mad bomber of New York.” He was put in prison for allegedly bombing the Whitehall Induction Center, the offices of United Fruit, Standard Oil, and Marine Midland Bank. Each bombing was preceded by telephone warnings that permitted all the buildings’ occupants to escape unharmed. After the bombings New York newspapers received detailed statements explaining why these buildings were attacked. The statements showed how each institution profitted off the Vietnam war or off the exploitation of people in South America and the United States. How they ruled here and elsewhere, without the consent of the people, was also detailed.
Sam Grossman was not just a “crazy bomber.” He was a man like other men. Before his love for people led him into revolution he was a taxicab driver, and before that, he was a part-time Cantor. He was a father, a man who desperately wanted to leave his child a better world to grow up in.
A friend of Sam’s said of him: “The main feeling you ever got from him was that his revolutionary fervor and actions came out of love. he could love in an instant, he had no veneer of defensiveness. His motives were pure.”
Sam Grossman, ex-Cantor, ex-mad bomber, is now dead. he was shot at Attica when the guards moved in and took back the prison. He was a prime target for revenge. The assistant warden bragged to reporters about how “they’d gotten that mad bomber.” Many of the prisoners, who were there when it happened, say that Sam was murdered well after the takeover was completed.
When you think of Attica, think of Jerry Rosenberg. Jerry was convicted in 1964 of killing a policeman. He is a jailhouse lawyer who put himself through law school by taking correspondence course while in prison. One of the “leaders” of the revolt, Jerry is very good at law. In fact he’s so good that the officials have segregated him from the rest of the prisoners. They don’t want the other men to get help from him in preparing the multitude of suits that have followed the revolt and massacre.
Listen to what he’s got to say about Attica.
“We’re all discriminated against in a way, the blacks and browns more so because of racism by the officials. The whites because of ethnic backgrounds, because of religious beliefs. I’m a Jew, and they don’t like Jews.”
“They can’t go against me because I’m white–since they’re white, so they use a different gimmick with me–they use that I’m a Jew. I’ve been told “They should have killed you like all the other Jews in Germany” by troopers and correctional officers. Why? Because I want to be treated like a human being. Because I want other inmates to be treated like human beings.”
Jerry was very upset by a newspaper article that quoted a former white inmate to the effect that blacks forced the whites to to join the rebellion. “This is an outrageous lie; I know, because I’m white.
Me and all the whites joined simultaneously and voluntarily on our accord in unity with our black and brown brothers. The lie was perpetuated by the devious methods of prison officials in order to turn white people on the street against the blacks. That would in effect hamper our struggle because we need the full support of all the people.”
When you think of Attica, think about Sam Grossman and Jerry Rosenberg.
Featured image: The Seed, Volume 7, Issue 13. 12/15/1971 (Chicago)
- San Francisco Good Times, Vol. 5, Issue 2 January 14-21, 1971 “Angela and Attica”
- Chutzpah, Issue 1 1972 “When You Think of Attica…” Chicago
- Jerry Rosenberg in prison, Liberation News Service
The 2018 Prison Strike which is sweeping across the United States will end on September 9th, which is the anniversary of the Attica Prison uprising. I am interested in Sam Grossman and Jerry Rosenberg, Sam who was killed during the uprising and Jerry who was a leader and lawyer during and after the rebellion. Jerry was incarcerated for 46 years, died in prison in 2009 (may his memory always be a blessing) and was the first person in the history of New York state to obtain a law degree while incarcerated, and helped many other inmates study law.
I also just started reading “No Surrender: Writings from an anti-imperialist political prisoner” by David Gilbert. David may be the most important Jewish political prisoner in the United States who is still alive. A member of the Weather Underground, he was captured in 1981 alongside members of the Black Liberation Army during a deadly shootout with the police during the infamous Brinks robbery.
Many people in the United States are thinking about Attica right now, and if they are not they should be. More than 2 million are imprisoned in this country. Out of which 80,000 are kept in solitary confinement. The strike, the demands and riots are a means to not be forgotten by us on the outside, and to struggle to be treated with respect and humanity on the inside. The lives of Jewish political prisoners, both present and past must not be forgotten, either.
Susan Rosenberg is a Jewish former-political prisoner, a member of the May 19th Communist Organization and an accomplice to the prison break of Assata Shakur. She was also accused of being part of the Brinks robbery and sentenced to 56 years in prison, where like David Gilbert, she also became an AIDS activist. Susan Rosenberg was released when her sentence was commuted in 2001 by Bill Clinton. She became the communications director of the American Jewish World Service after her release, a human rights organization. I want to read her book An American Radical: A Political Prisoner in My Own Country (2011) next.