Becoming Abolitionists: Police, Protests, and the Pursuit of Freedom by Derecka Purnell
One of the New York Times' 6 New Paperbacks to Read
Now in paperback and with new material, a 2021 Kirkus Best Book of the year in both Nonfiction and Current Events, the book Naomi Klein called: “a triumph of political imagination and a tremendous gift to all movements struggling towards liberation.”
For more than a century, activists in the United States have tried to reform the police. Millions of people continue to protest police violence because these "solutions" do not match the problem: the police cannot be reformed.
In her critically acclaimed first book Becoming Abolitionists, Purnell draws from her experiences as a lawyer, writer, and organizer initially skeptical about police abolition. She saw too much sexual violence and buried too many friends to consider getting rid of police in her hometown of St. Louis, let alone the nation. But the police were a placebo. Calling them felt like something, and something feels like everything when the other option seems like nothing.
Purnell details how multi-racial social movements rooted in rebellion, risk-taking, and revolutionary love pushed her and a generation of activists toward abolition. The book travels across geography and time, and offers lessons that activists have learned from Ferguson to South Africa, from Reconstruction to contemporary protests against police shootings.
Here, Purnell invites readers to envision new systems that work to address the root causes of violence. Becoming Abolitionists shows that abolition is not solely about getting rid of police, but a commitment to create and support different answers to the problem of harm in society, and, most excitingly, an opportunity to reduce and eliminate harm in the first place.. 285 pages.
Paperback published in 2021.