Josh Davidson presents "Rattling the Cages: Oral Histories of North American Political Prisoners" in conversation w/ Paul Coates

Josh Davidson presents "Rattling the Cages: Oral Histories of North American Political Prisoners" in conversation w/ Paul Coates

Thursday, December 21st 2023
7:00 pm
Red Emma's
Dispatches from behind bars. Political prisoners speak out.

The official story is that the United States has no political prisoners. The reality is that there are hundreds of people rounded up, placed behind bars, and kept there for inordinately long sentences because of their political beliefs and activities. A project of abolitionist Josh Davidson and political prisoner Eric King, this book is filled with the experience and wisdom of over thirty current and former North American political prisoners. It provides first-hand details of prison life and the political commitments that continue to lead prisoners into direct confrontation with state authorities and institutions. The people Josh Davidson has interviewed include former radicals and Black liberation militants from the sixties and seventies, current antifascists, nonviolent Catholic peace activists, Animal and Earth Liberation Front saboteurs, and more. Their stories are moving, often tragic, yet deeply inspiring.

Collectively, these people have spent hundreds of years behind bars, and their experiences speak directly to the cruelty and immorality of our prison and so-called criminal justice systems. Although their sentences and the conditions they have endured vary dramatically, this wide range of voices come together to embody what bell hooks called “a legacy of defiance.” It is this legacy—of tirelessly struggling to right today’s wrongs and create a better tomorrow—that the prison system tries, yet fails, to extinguish.

Royalties from book sales are split between the Anarchist Black Cross Federation’s Warchest, which provides financial support to currently imprisoned political prisoners, and the family of political prisoner Eric King.

We'll also have copies available of the essential Certain Days calendar—an annual project that supports the struggle to free political prisoners in North America.

Praise for Rattling the Cages:

Rattling the Cages has more wisdom, harder-earned, per page than any other book I've ever read. It is the kind of wisdom most people hope to never know, the kind of wisdom that comes from facing the true nature of our state and what it does to those who resist its power. The lessons of this book force those of us on the outside to ask whether we are walking the way we believe. Rattling the Cages will be essential reading for years to come.” —Baynard Woods,  author of Inheritance: An Autobiography of Whiteness

“Prison can't win, Huey Newton famously said, because walls and bars cannot hold back ideas. And this book is brimming with ideas from survivors of political repression. Rattling the Cages is an intimate intergenerational dialog with movement activists representing sixty years of struggle and too many years of incarceration. In conversations both hopeful and heartfelt, intense and inspiring, they share how they live to fight another day.” —Dan Berger, author of Stayed on Freedom: The Long History of Black Power Through One Family's Journey  

“As a collection of oral histories, Davidson’s Rattling the Cages provides an essential archive on both the breathtaking cruelty of American prisons and on the courage and humanity of those locked away. To heed the critiques of its contributors is to accept that all imprisonment is political. But something in these pages throbs even louder than critique. Here, too, one finds love and the joy born from struggle. Those serve as the foundation of this book’s brilliant contributions, of the world they—and we—hope to build.” —N. D. B. Connolly, Johns Hopkins University

Josh Davidson is an abolitionist who is involved in numerous projects, including the Certain Days collective that publishes the annual Freedom for Political Prisoners calendar and the Children’s Art Project with political prisoner Oso Blanco. Josh also works in communications with the Zinn Education Project, which promotes the teaching of radical people’s history in classrooms and provides free lessons and resources for educators. He lives in Eugene, Oregon.

W. Paul Coates is the founder of Black Classic Press and BCP Digital Printing. Black Classic Press, founded in 1978, specializes in republishing obscure and significant works by and about people of African descent. BCP Digital Printing was founded in 1995 as a parallel entity of the Press. The printing company uses state of the art digital technology to produce books and documents On Demand. The acquisition of digital printing technology distinguishes the press from other small publishing companies and places Black Classic Press on the forefront of 21st century technology.

As a former African American Studies manuscript and reference librarian at Howard University's Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Mr. Coates was responsible for the collection and acquisition of African American books and related materials, including the selection and purchase of rare and non-rare items. A former member of the Black Panther Party, he led the effort to establish the Black Panther Archives at Howard.

Mr. Coates is a graduate of Atlanta University's School of Library and Information Studies, and SDC/Antioch University, from which he received as a distinguished alumni, the Doctorate in Philosophy, Honoris Causa in 2015. He is an active Black bibliophile and collector of cultural artifacts. Mr. Coates is co-editor of Black Bibliophiles and Collectors: Preservers of Black History (Howard Univ. Press). He was a founding member and chair of the National Association of Black Book Publishers. In addition, he served as adjunct instructor of African American Studies at Sojourner-Douglass College, Baltimore, MD. He formerly owned and operated The Black Book (1972-1978), a Baltimore-based bookstore. His experience with the purchase, sale, and collection of books by and about Blacks is a love affair that has continued more than six decades.

RSVP on withfriendsSee all upcoming events

Location and hours

3128 Greenmount Avenue
Baltimore, MD

Wednesday-Saturday 8AM-10PM
Sunday 10AM-4PM

Get in touch


Phone: (410) 601-3072

If you'd like to propose an event, please fill out this form. If you have questions, email us at

Follow us






Get our newsletter