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Becoming Abolitionists by Derecka Purnell
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Becoming Abolitionists

Police, Protests, and the Pursuit of Freedom

$20.99 USD

Retail price (USD): $22.95

Discount: 9%

This title is not eligible for purchase with membership credits. Why?

Narrator Karen Chilton
Length 14 hours 23 minutes
Language English
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For more than a century, activists in the United States have tried to reform the police. From community policing initiatives to increasing diversity, none of it has stopped the police from killing about three people a day. Millions of people continue to protest police violence because these “solutions” do not match the problem: the police cannot be reformed.

In 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 multiracial 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, Missouri, to South Africa, from Reconstruction to contemporary protests against police shootings.

Here, Purnell argues that police cannot be reformed and 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.

Derecka Purnell is a human-rights lawyer, writer, organizer, and a columnist at The Guardian (London). She received her JD from Harvard Law School and works to end police and prison violence by providing legal assistance, research, and training to community-based organizations through an abolitionist framework. Her work and writing has been featured in the New York Times, NPR, the Atlantic, the Boston Globe, Harper’s Bazaar, Cosmopolitan, The Appeal, Truthout, Slate, and many other publications.

Karen Chilton is a New York–based actor and writer and an accomplished voice-over artist and narrator. She has narrated dozens of audiobooks, won three AudioFile Earphones Awards, and in 2020 won the prestigious Audie Award for Best Nonfiction Narration. Her voice can be heard on numerous national network television, radio, and Internet advertising campaigns.

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Reviews

“The St. Louis native’s genre-bending book demonstrates her road to adopting abolitionist politics and makes the argument for why the new abolitionism—the push to end prisons and policing in the United States—ought to be the future of the country.”

“Through deft historical research, political analysis, and gutting prose, the book uses a variety of approaches to map Purnell’s complex and fulfilling political evolution.”

“An informed, provocative, astute consideration of salvific alternatives to contemporary policing and imprisonment.”

“Bold and utopian, yet grounded in Purnell’s experiences and copious evidence of how reform efforts have fallen short, this is an inspiring introduction to a hot-button topic.”

“A triumph of political imagination and a tremendous gift to all movements struggling towards liberation."

Becoming Abolitionists is essential reading for our times.”

“A radiant and practical blueprint for the new world.”

“One of the most perceptive and passionate thinkers of any generation, Derecka Purnell, has written a genuinely revolutionary text for our times."

“An invitation to join the most important movement of our time.”

“One of the most exciting, inspiring, and enlightening books I have read in a long time.”

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