No Escape: The Legacy of Attica Lives!

“Attica! Attica! Attica!” More than merely a quote from the iconic 1975 film Dog Day Afternoon, this is a defiant chant meant to evoke the searing memories of what took place over the course of five days in September of 1971 at an infamously inhospitable and systemically racist prison facility in Attica, New York. These events came to represent the power of organized resistance in the face of oppression.

The Attica uprising was the culmination of a racial reckoning that had been brewing in the United States alongside serious disturbances in prisons and various protest movements over the previous decade. It remains the largest and the bloodiest prison rebellion in U.S. history. Many of the incarcerated men had the goal of pushing the prison—known as “The Last Stop” because of its particularly brutal reputation—to address the inhumane treatment and routine abuses perpetrated by the prison’s guards and to adopt reforms. They also demanded improvements to medical services, religious freedom, expanded visitation rights, and access to basic hygiene amenities like daily showers and toothbrushes. To this end, on September 9, many of the prisoners rioted and took 42 members of the prison staff hostage. 

After four days, the tense negotiations between the authorities, the incarcerated men, and the neutral parties brought in to broker a peaceful settlement, broke down completely. Nelson Rockefeller, the relatively moderate Republican governor of New York, eager to assert his “law and order” bona fides, approved a raid on the facility. On September 13, state police officers stormed the prison, killing 29 prisoners and 10 hostages.

In the weeks and years that followed, these events galvanized activists and reformers—particularly student-led groups and socialist organizations—some of which channeled their fury and frustration into poster art that reflected the national passions provoked by the bloodshed. These posters advertised screenings of the eponymous 1974 documentary on Attica and rallied those sympathetic to the plight of the “Attica Brothers,” who were refused amnesty once the prison was reoccupied by law enforcement. They also helped to sustain public awareness of the prisoners’ position by linking the events of Attica to other social causes, ensuring that the legacies of the men who fought and died, as well as of those who survived the uprising, would not be forgotten.


Please be advised that this display includes images and references to racism and police brutality that some viewers might find disturbing. 

Unless otherwise noted, all posters are part of the Poster House Permanent Collection. 

Click this link for connections to issues of contemporary prison reform.

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A poster of a Black man with his fist through prison bars made out of an Amerian flag with police watching.

Attica, 1974

Ernest Pignon-Ernest (b. 1942)

Poster House Permanent Collection

  • Artist Ernest Pignon-Ernest was inspired by the famous Mai ’68 silkscreen street posters made by student protestors in France. The widespread strikes and demonstrations of May and June 1968 were among the most important civilian uprisings of the decade, and the movement’s posters were frequently referenced by social-justice movements around the world.
  • Cinda Firestone, an heir to the Firestone Tire & Rubber Company fortune, directed this powerful 1974 documentary when she was just 23, presenting a narrative that was sympathetic to the incarcerated men. The film was so controversial that her family reportedly disinherited her.
  • Attica incorporates documentary footage of the occupation and the subsequent violent raid, as well as video from the McKay Commission hearings that criticized New York State prison authorities and Governor Nelson Rockefeller for their handling of the incident. It also includes interviews with prisoners who had been released in the years after the uprising.

A salmon and black poster of 4 Black men with their fists in the air above film information text.

Attica, 1974

Designer Unknown

Poster House Permanent Collection

  • In 2007, during a Tribeca Film Festival Q and A, Firestone lamented that while prison uprisings had become more rare, when it came to civil liberties and racism within the prison system, she believed that “things have gotten worse” since the release of her film.
  • The posters for this 80-minute documentary call attention to the third anniversary of the uprising, confirming that the tragedy was still very fresh in the minds of the American public.
  • These posters were in heavy circulation on campuses like that of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which had established itself at the forefront of countercultural protest during the Vietnam War. This long history of fiery clashes between students and police resulted in its own documentary, The War at Home, released in 1979.

An illustration-style poster of 2 Black men with their fists in the air: 1 stoic, 1 chanting.

Support the Attica Brothers, c. 1972

Designer Unknown

Poster House Permanent Collection

  • “Attica Brothers” quickly became shorthand for the multiracial coalition of incarcerated men who had led the prison uprising and who had paid a physical and legal price for their transgressions.
  • “Support the Attica Brothers” was a phrase—almost a mantra—that appeared repeatedly in publications and on a range of commemorative objects in the aftermath of the attack. It served to reaffirm the unity and camaraderie of the prisoners who had briefly taken control of the prison yard and the sympathetic solidarity of many outside observers.
  • This vivid illustration, published by the Attica Defense Committee in Buffalo, New York, centers on a well-known press photograph of inmates giving the Black Power salute in the yard during the negotiations on September 10, 1971. The image of a raised fist has since become synonymous with antiestablishment and Black liberation movements.

A poster of incarcerated men with their fists in the air next to information about events supporting Attica.

Long Live the Spirit of Attica, 1973

Designer Unknown

Poster House Permanent Collection

  • This poster advertises a three-day event in support of the Attica Brothers, held at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a nearby housing cooperative. Two film screenings were followed by an evening fundraiser, culminating in a talk given by two former Attica prisoners.  
  • These types of local events happened frequently on college campuses across the country during the 1970s, and further exemplify how the Attica uprising became synonymous with antiestablishment movements.
  • The rhetoric of those supporting the Attica inmates consistently included calls for the arrest of the “real criminals.” In some cases, this referred to the police who had raided the facility; some supporters went so far as to demand the arrest of Governor Nelson Rockefeller himself.
  • Like the poster for a screening of the documentary at the same school the following year, this image incorporates a photograph by Bob Schutz taken on September 10, 1971, of incarcerated men raising their fists in solidarity in the yard during the negotiations with Russell Oswald, the state’s commissioner of corrections.
  • The “28 Demands” refers to the official list provided by the Attica Prison Liberation Faction. It was inspired by a similar manifesto produced by men incarcerated at Folsom State Prison in Sacramento, California the previous year. That manifesto, conceived during a 19-day strike by more than two thousand prison workers, also cited poor living conditions, the need for proper medical care, and abuse by guards. However, unlike the one at Attica, that standoff with prison authorities ended peacefully (although none of the prisoners’ requests were met).

A newspaper article debunking Attica uprising lies with an image of a crowd of Black protesters.

Challenge/Back Attica Rebels!, 1971

Designer Unknown

Poster House Permanent Collection

  • Challenge, a U.K. publication that describes itself as “The Revolutionary Communist Newspaper,” fully embraced the cause of the Attica inmates and sought to debunk some of the negative perceptions of them perpetuated in the mainstream press. This newspaper has been in circulation since 1935, and had about seventeen thousand subscribers at the time this issue was published.
  • The article captures the tepid response Bobby Seale, the celebrated Black Panther, received when he visited the incarcerated men during the uprising, noting that he not only failed to provide counsel on how to resolve the conflict but that he also left stating that he needed to consult with Panther leadership before he could commit to anything.
  • The text also lists a series of lies circulating about the standoff, including the claims that the inmates were attempting to launch a “race war” (when, in fact, the uprising included Black, white, and Latinx men), and that they had mutilated and castrated guards at the facility—also a fabrication.

A poster of a Black man with glasses looking down, surrounded by text supporting the Brothers' demands.

Support the Brothers’ Demands, 1971

Designer Unknown

Poster House Permanent Collection

  • There were intense talks during the four days following the initial revolt, and there was even a brief moment when it appeared that the authorities and the incarcerated men of Attica might reach some common ground. The demands of the prisoners, however, were ultimately uniformly rejected when Governor Nelson Rockefeller and Commissioner of Corrections Russell Oswald concluded that the situation could not be resolved through negotiation.
  • The Attica Brigade, founded in the early 1970s and referenced here, was the name of a self-identified group of anti-imperialist students who showed their solidarity with the Attica prisoners’ cause by borrowing the institution’s name. In June 1974, they changed the organization’s name to the Revolutionary Student Brigade, and by 1975 it had been absorbed into the Communist Party.
  • Among the Brothers’ 28 Demands were those calling for the end of the racial segregation of prisoners, the right of prison workers to unionize, and for the prosecution of guards who resorted to cruel and unusual punishment.
  • The central image in this poster is a photograph, taken during the negotiations, of Elliott James “L.D.” Barkley, a 21-year-old leader in the uprising chosen by fellow inmates to represent the interests of those in A Block. A talented orator, he spoke to the press on the evening of September 9—part of that speech is reproduced here below his image. He was among those who were killed during the subsequent raid.

A handbill of rally information next to an illustrational image of 2 Black men with their fists in the air.

Support the Attica Brothers, 1974

Designer Unknown

Poster House Permanent Collection

  • This handbill features the image from the earlier poster and calls on people to rally at Niagara Square in Buffalo, New York in support of the Attica Brothers.
  • The fact that this was produced a full three years after the uprising suggests that the issues that had originally sparked it remained significant and problematic.
  • More than 2,000 people reportedly turned up for this event and raised a total of $1,100 for the defense of the Attica prisoners, some of whom had been relocated to the Erie County Jail in downtown Buffalo.
  • The Attica Brothers Legal Defense Fund (ABLD) was formed in December 1972, when survivors of the Attica prison raid began to be indicted in connection with the incident and needed legal representation. The ABLD not only raised money for the prisoners but also helped educate the public about their plight and investigated the alleged atrocities that took place at the penitentiary.
  • Haywood Burns, a coordinator for the ABLD, called for the indictment of Governor Nelson Rockefeller and Russell Oswald, New York Commissioner of Corrections, for the deaths of prisoners killed in the Attica raid.

A handbill with text stating 'Remember Attica' urging people to attend a memorial in Humboldt Park.

Remember Attica!, 1972

Designer Unknown

Poster House Permanent Collection 

  • This handbill announces a memorial service for all the victims of the Attica uprising, including both law-enforcement officers and prisoners. Starting at Humboldt Park in Buffalo, New York—just 30 miles from the prison—the event was to culminate in the erection of a monument at the site of the tragedy.   
  • Earlier on the same day of this memorial, a separate service had been held during which a monument was unveiled specifically to honor the 11 officers killed during the Attica raid. The pro-prisoners groups also participated peacefully in this service, although they expressed some bitterness about the failure to pay tribute to all the victims.
  • “I don’t like the idea that [the employees’ families] are allowed to honor their dead and we can’t honor ours,” stated Betty Barkley, sister of Elliott James “L.D.” Barkley, one of the slain leaders of the rebellion, in the New York Times. “They were all killed by the same hand and under the same circumstances.”
  • The organizers of this Remember Attica event all represented social-justice advocacy groups. They left a wooden model of the memorial that they had hoped to erect outside the prison alongside a flower arrangement donated by John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

A poster of a white man in front of an Exxon sign wearing a white suit with an uprising scene on it.

Stop Rockefeller! The Rich Get Richer, 1970

Peg Averill (1949–93)

Poster House Permanent Collection

  • Governor Nelson Rockefeller had unsuccessfully run for the presidency in both 1964 and 1968 and clearly still had grand political ambitions. The national scrutiny given to the events at Attica further raised his public profile.
  • The governor’s name was inextricably linked with the legacy of one of America’s richest industrial, banking, and political families. This poster reminds viewers of his wealth and his connections to corporate entities like Exxon.
  • In the immediate aftermath of the Attica raid, Rockefeller boasted to President Nixon that “they did a fabulous job, it was a beautiful operation.”
  • His successor, Governor Hugh L. Carey, pardoned seven men formerly incarcerated at Attica and commuted the sentences of an additional prisoner in 1976. He did not, however, take any disciplinary action against the 20 state troopers and guards responsible for the raid.

A poster of a Black man with glasses, next to Spirit of Attica text, in front of the Correctional Facility.

Long Live the Spirit of Attica, c. 1972

Designer Unknown

Poster House Permanent Collection

  • This poster features the same press photograph of Elliott James “L.D.” Barkley accompanied by a lengthy quote as the earlier poster with the slogan “Support the Brothers’ Demands.” Here, however, the designer has added a rough outline of the facade of the Attica Correctional Facility. While the order of the headline text is different, the style of the lettering in these two posters is identical, indicating that they were most likely printed in the same facility or were at least based on the same source material.  
  • Known for his intellectual charisma and murdered during the siege, Barkley became a martyr for activists and advocates of social justice. His words would be used countless times to invoke solidarity.
  • After his body was released to his family, his funeral was held at AMEZ (the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church), a 142-year-old institution in Western New York that had historic ties to Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass.
  • Barkley’s original crime was cashing a forged money order for $124.60 when he was 18. Released from Elmira Reformatory four years later, he was then arrested for violating his parole by driving without a license. This infraction resulted in him being sent to Attica, a maximum-security prison.

A yellow handbill supporting the Attica Brothers with the tile surrounded by a fist with a broken chain.

Support the Attica Brothers!, 1973 

Designer Unknown

Poster House Permanent Collection

  • Born out of the civil rights movement, the Buffalo Challenger was the most widely circulated Black newspaper in New York State. As a voice and advocate for the upstate Black community, it was also the natural home for the Attica Brothers Legal Defense Fund advertised in this poster.  
  • This fundraising plea came two years after the Attica uprising and was intended to support the defense of the 62 prisoners (60 of them had been charged at the time this poster was made) charged in connection with the incident. To stress the urgent need for donations, the handbill notes that the government had already spent more than $2 million in “preparation” for the trials.
  • The text references Angela Davis, a Black philosophy professor who had become a cause célèbre when she was targeted for criminal prosecution for supplying the guns used in a 1970 shootout at Soledad State Prison in Monterey County, California between inmates and police. Davis was briefly on the FBI’s Most Wanted List, but she was eventually acquitted by an all-white jury in 1973.

A brochure of 2 Black men, stoic and chanting, with their fists in the air surrounded by a unity quote.

Attica: Two Years Later, 1973

Designer Unknown

Poster House Permanent Collection

  • The cover of this four-panel brochure recycles an illustration used in posters and handbills as early as 1972, based on a detail of a photograph taken during the standoff. While the men have never been identified, the image remains a poignant emblem of defiance against the state.
  • While some prisoners, like Elliott James “L.D.” Barkley, became spokesmen for the inmates, others were anonymously memorialized in quotes. Here, the words (captured by a New York Times reporter) of an unidentified Attica Brother from D Yard headline the poster. 
  • D Yard was one of four fields at the penitentiary designated for exercise. During the Attica uprising, it was seized by prisoners and occupied by more than 1,000 men who held 42 prison staff hostage.
  • Printed by the National Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression (NAARPR) and the Attica Defense Committee (ADC), this publication announces a petition drive and fundraising campaign for the defense of the indicted prisoners.  
  • The NAARPR was founded in 1973 with regional chapters dedicated to fighting “unjust treatment” of people on the basis of their race or political beliefs. The ADC was formed in 1972 to raise funds and provide legal services in cases involving prison conditions. 

A broadside depicting a white man's face next to a headline

A broadside with text and 2 images of a white person taking money from a Black man and food from a Zimbabwe tree.

Watch What He Does, Not What He Says!, c. 1974

Hester: Defend Yourself! What Have You Got to Hide?, c. 1974

Designer Unknown

Poster House Permanent Collection

  • These broadsides were published by the Revolutionary Student Brigade, a national alliance of Marxist-Leninist students that had developed out of the former Attica Brigade. 
  • The publications attack James Hester, the president of New York University, for his presumed corruption and hypocrisy—specifically, his alleged ties to the Apartheid-era government in South Africa through business dealings with the Union Carbide Corporation, a major American chemical manufacturer, and his role on its board of directors. 
  • The consumer advocate Ralph Nader, mentioned in the text, was enlisted for this cause after publicizing Hester’s links to Union Carbide, an infamous polluter, a position he claimed was “seriously compromising, if not disgracing” the legacy of NYU.
  • Student activists were emboldened during this period, especially after events like Attica. They took inspiration from the prisoners’ fearless spirit and continued to challenge authority figures on the right, and, in Hester’s case, on the left, too.

A poster with green and black text and black and white photos urging viewers to join the YSA.

Join the YSA, c. 1973

Designer Unknown

Poster House Permanent Collection

  • In operation from 1960 to 1992, the Young Socialist Alliance was a Trotskyite faction of the Socialist Workers Party based in the United States.
  • This poster links the Attica uprising with a list of other international events that the radical left (and many other groups) viewed as atrocities or injustices, including the Bay of Pigs disaster, the My Lai massacre, the Wounded Knee Occupation, and anti-abortion laws.
  • At the time, socialist groups widely condemned the Attica raid as an act of fascist aggression and expressed solidarity with the prisoners, whom they believed were trying to establish a society within the prison walls that reflected socialist principles.

A poster of a white man holding his suit jacket open with images of 2 dead Attica inmates on his shirt.

Attica, 1971

Designer Unknown

Poster House Permanent Collection

  • For allies of the Attica prisoners, Governor Rockefeller became the chief antagonist and archvillain of the tragedy since he had ordered the raid that had ended peaceful negotiations and resulted in the deaths of many inmates.
  • Ironically, up until the raid, Rockefeller was reputed to be a moderate, even liberal politician with a good record on civil rights. Still, controversial police methods like “no-knock warrants” and “stop and frisk” began during his tenure.
  • The poster represents a brutal takedown of Rockefeller, depicting him preening for the cameras with images of dead Attica inmates on his shirt. The text under the scrawled word “Attica” announces that he was due to receive a humanitarian award from a charitable organization a few months after the events at the prison. 
  • In a recorded conversation made public in 2011, Rockefeller told President Richard Nixon that “you can’t have sharpshooters picking off the prisoners when the hostages are there with them, at a distance with tear gas, without maybe having a few accidents.” He further commented on the death of the inmates that resulted from the raid he had ordered, “that’s life.” 

A poster of a black and white square made up of smaller squares surrounded by text, 'Attica Defense Fund.'

Attica Defense Fund, 1975

Frank Stella (b. 1936)

Poster House Permanent Collection

  • Legendary artist Frank Stella produced this poster for the Attica Legal Defense Fund to raise both money and awareness for the cause. The composition references the myriad black-and-white, geometric paintings he produced in the 1960s and ’70s, and also includes stencil-style lettering like that commonly seen on prison or military signage. 
  • Stella had a history of dedicating his artistic talent to political causes, most notably in his 1962 series commemorating the Sharpeville massacre of March 1960 in South Africa. White police officers representing the apartheid government opened fire on a large group of Black protesters, killing 69 people.
  • Thousands of copies of this poster were wheatpasted throughout downtown New York City, while 50 were released in a signed and numbered edition to help raise funds. 

A poster of a woman with her fist in the air in front of a protest poster & next to text 'viva la huelga!'

Viva La Huelga!, c. 1973

Designer Unknown

Poster House Permanent Collection

  • The designer of this poster co-opted “Viva la huelga!” (Long live the strike!), the rallying cry of activists César Chávez and Dolores Huerta’s Chicano labor movement of the 1960s. Here, it is used as a call to join the strike against Farah Manufacturing Company, a garment producer in Texas and New Mexico that had blocked its largely Chicano employees’ efforts to unionize. 
  • While this strike had started in May 1972 at the Farah plant in San Antonio, Texas, support ultimately came from across the country through various grassroots groups, one of which was the Attica Brigade, a national student organization that aligned itself with anti-imperialist movements. The inclusion of its name in the poster demonstrates how the spirit of Attica was frequently summoned in the service of new causes.
  • The Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America union supported the strikers. It even repurposed the same image of garment worker Rosa Flores (pictured here with her fist raised) to promote its own events.
  • While the strikes lasted from 1972 to 1974, a drop in sales and bad publicity eventually led Farah to meet the protestors’ demands. Texas Monthly later referred to the events as the “Strike of the Century.”

A newspaper article with the headline 'Kick 'Em While They're Down!' with a protest photo at the bottom.

The Bums Are on the Run, 1974

Designer Unknown

Poster House Permanent Collection

  • This is a supplement printed in Chicago for Fight Back!, a monthly newspaper put out by the Revolutionary Student Brigade. Such publications were appearing in major cities across the country at this time, especially those with large student populations.
  • This edition was printed soon after Gerald Ford assumed the presidency following Richard Nixon’s resignation amid the Watergate scandal. Accompanied by an image of a protest against Nixon, the article conveys a certain skepticism about the positive press Ford received during this transition, scoffing at the refrain, often heard at the time: “the system worked!”
  • While quoting a Nixon critic who refers to the former president as a “shifty-eyed lying crook,” the writer accuses elite families like the Kennedys, the Duponts, and the Rockefellers of being part of a “criminal monopoly.”


“When you had a little bit—even this much control over your own life, even for a short period and you know it’s gonna cost you…in spades. It was a moment of exuberation.”—Al Victory, former Attica prisoner

“I just assumed that this was going to be a landmark moment in American history. I thought that this was going to be negotiated to a decent humanitarian end.”—John Johnson, reporter

“They were fiercely trying to convince prison authorities that they didn’t cease being a human being merely by the fact that they were incarcerated because they had broken a law of society.”—Clarence Jones, Observer Committee

“We want to be treated as human beings. We will be treated as human beings. We have come to the conclusion after close study, after much suffering, after much consideration, that if we cannot live as people, then we will at least try to die like men.”—Charles Horatio Crowley, Attica inmate

“To people, be they black, yellow, orange, spotted, whatever, whatever uniform they wore, that day tore from them the shreds of their humanity.”—Physician John W. Cudmore of the National Guard

“They’re gonna kill us anyway. We can’t get out. We’re in this fucking cage, so where we going at? So if we gonna die let’s die as men.” —Arthur Harrison, former Attica prisoner

“If they can talk in Washington about pardon for Richard Milhouse Nixon…they better be talking about amnesty for the Attica Brothers.”—Haywood Burns, the Attica Brothers Legal Defense Fund


Adam Howard

Exhibition Design

Mihoshi Fukushima Clark

Special Thanks

Lincoln Cushing, political poster historian 

Aaron Noble, New York State Museum

Angelina Lippert, Poster House

Catherine Bindman, editor

Anita Sheih, proofreader