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Live from Death Row

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  2,182 ratings  ·  91 reviews
"An important book [that] takes us into the bowels of hell. . . . Abu-Jamal offers expert and well-reasoned commentary on the justice system. . . . His writings are dangerous." –Village Voice

"Resonates with the moral force of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Letter From Birmingham Jail." –Boston Globe

After twenty years on death row, Mumia Abu-Jamal has been released from his deat
Paperback, 224 pages
Published June 1st 1996 by Harper Perennial (first published May 1995)
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TJ Shelby
Oct 24, 2009 rated it really liked it
I was recommended this book by a friend thinking that it would sway my stance on capital punishment. I am in a small majority of social liberals who support capital punishment. Mumia aptly points out major corruption in nearly every aspect of our criminal justice system, local police, correctional officers, district attornies, and judges. He also demonstrates the propensity for discrimination against blacks and backs it up with solid statistics and facts.

One of the most damning is how much more
Sep 26, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Read it! Then act on it. Due to a recent Supreme Court reject of the case, he might not be "live" much longer. Write a letter to President Obama, ask for his executive clemency! If you need help writing that letter, send me a mail and I will send you a letter to draw from. ...more
Donna Davis
Mumia is a former Black Panther. The facts support his having been framed in the murder of the cop, a crime for which he was nearly executed.

Live from Death Row, written before his sentence was commuted, is not, however, a vehicle he uses to advocate for himself or plead his own case to the public. He has written other books I haven't read, and I don't know if he did that there.

Instead, here he uses his own situation to discuss the racism inherent both in the U.S. court system; he also talks abo
Aug 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Powerful writing and spirited criticism of the US system of law as well as the state of prisons in America. And to think these pieces were written 25-30 years ago, and human conditions or proper reforms still have not been fully realized today. I did expect more on his actual trial and appeals. But his prose was really insightful and I am inspired to learn more and advocate for fairness.
Black Bibliophile
Apr 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Heartbreaking but not surprising.
Adam Haley
A searing exploration of the deeply ingrained racial injustices perpetrated throughout the criminal justice system of the United States of America, Mumia Abu-Jamal screams into the void in a last ditch attempt to change how people view the death penalty.
I first became aware of this book while reading Angela Davis's Are Prisons Obsolete? and decided, based on the intriguing title, to further educate myself on the state of American justice. What I was not ready for, however, was the breadth of t
Jude Arnold
Oct 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
A Case for Reasonable Doubt a DVD of the 60 Minutes show about Mumia's case. (A really good film!)

I've been getting most of my info from 2 organizations working to Free Mumia:

Refuse & Resist! and Partisan Defense Committee. My understanding of what Mumia really wants most is to get out of jail.

The organizations say the only way to accomplish this is by drawing International Media attention to the issues of his case.

I spoke to a woman this summer from Philadelphia who said; "They will never let
Just reading the sections on how Mumia was railroaded during his trial and the following appeals and how The Baldus Study has proven that "defendants charged with killing whites are 4.3 times more likely to be sentenced to die then defendants charged with killing blacks; 6 of every 11 defendants convicted of killing a white would not have received a death sentence had their victim been black" are infuriating. From that study alone it shows how the Black Lives Matter movement is very much needed. ...more
Eva Marie
May 20, 2009 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: no one from the little bit that I read
Recommended to Eva Marie by: this was another winner of my own doing
This was a mistake for me to have picked up. I know next to nothing about this man or this case but was/am interested in learning more. Being that I don't know a lot about this I can't come to a conclusion on whether I think he's innocent or guilty and whether or not I think the trial was biased.
I'm inclined to assume he's guilty. Most people convicted are guilty. He may be one of the few with mitigating circumstances, I don't know. But the little of this book that I read was someone crying abo
An important book, he covers mainly the inside view of life and death on death row and the injustices personal and societal he has witnessed. Towards the end he opens into more broad political essays, with one paragraph I will keep at hand that calls out the hypocrisy in the numerous violent aggressions of the US juxtaposing it against the facetious "embrace" of King's legacy of "nonviolence".
Because of the depth of philosophy, spiritual and political writing in "Death Blossoms", his later work
Courtney Henley-Anderson
Mar 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book changed my Life literally. I read it and it called me to action. Mumia is an innocent political prisoner and I have worked as an Activist on his case for 11 years now. His writings about the horrible conditions on the Death Rows of American Gulags is both insightful and vital. Although incarcerated in a room the size of a tiny bathroom for almost 14 years at the time he wrote this book, Mumia turned the story of his and the other prisoners plights into sheer poetry. Another must read!
Andrew Duenez
Jul 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Mumia describes the significance of the "correctional" system we have here in the US. From this book, among other mediums, I have learned that the US is becoming a prison country. The face of that prison system is blacker than any other aspect of American life. In some states where the african am. population is but a quarter, the prison is made up of over 50% of black life. it's pretty crazy that we just accept it all. I mean "they" distract us with so many things that we don't have time to thin ...more
Jul 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
Say what you want, guilty or not, there is no denying that Mumia Abu-Jamal is a brilliant mind. I respect the amount of research he put into his writing, and the tone of the book brings about views and points that need to be more prevalent to society now.

I also found it interesting to note that in this book, Mumia represents himself as 'this writer', a term that I found simple yet endearing. I want to read more about his case, his writing, published articles. An amazing read, we'll worth it if
Ramon Frunkis
Jan 26, 2011 rated it did not like it
This guy needs to have a play date with "Old Sparky". ...more
Apr 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
Yeah, he's biased. I'd be biased as hell. I'd want to bias someone in the face. ...more
Mar 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful. Heartbreaking. Free Mumia.
Jim Thompson
Feb 13, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This has been on my "to read" list for a ridiculously long time. Something I've always meant to get to, never picked up until now, even as I read some of Mumia's other books ("Death Blossoms" long ago, "Have Black Lives Ever Mattered?" more recently).

This is, like "Have Black Lives Ever Mattered?," a wonderful and powerful and painful book (perhaps "Death Blossoms" was as well; it's been so long I barely remember it). It's a mix of sorrow and outrage and deep compassion, a look not just at life
Dec 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
I think this book is an important conversation because it such a big part in our society. Whether criminals should be killed in the electric chair has always been a question, is it morally right?, do they deserve it? But what happens while they are waiting for their death, what do the inmates do? This book answers all these questions. One part that stood out to me the most was that inmates in death row are not allowed contact with their visitors. I can understand where they are coming from. But, ...more
As if there's something I could possibly say to highlight Mumia's powerful words that he doesn't say himself. . .

In lieu of extracting quotes from this book, as I normally do with my readings, I simply have set the entire piece aside in my head as worth rehashing, rereading, and keeping on the tip of my tongue an forefront of my thoughts.

Life from Death Row is a compilation of essays from long-time death row prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal. As a professional reporter, Mumia made a career of presenting
Mar 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Although the majority of the essays were written in the late 80's and mid 90's the themes of injustice, despair in the face of racial oppression and the fight to win liberty and dignity amidst the oppressive cage that is death row and society at large still rings true today. It is truly a shame that such a talented writer with poignant thoughtful, and full of sound social criticisms is locked in a cage. Without a doubt, Brother Mumia remains a controversial figure but I dare challenge any of his ...more
Sep 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I read the book "Life on Death Row", I really liked this book because it viewed more then one persons case and how they waited for death and survived until their due date. I liked that this book was very graphic and got intense and I liked that because it kept me reading. I liked that it stated facts and on the bottom of every page showed where they got the info. Also, at the end of the book the author even talked about his own experience on death row. Something's I didn't like about the book w ...more
Nov 04, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: biography, school
This book was required reading for my Global & Transnational Literature class at the University of Utah.

This was my least favorite of the texts that we read. Abu-Jamal is obviously very educated, and has diligently researched court cases and examples of injustice in the US court system. However, I found his language to be stiff, and difficult to read. The presence of such heavy legal jargon made his memoir feel like a textbook. Most of our texts have focused on life in prison, which I have found
Aug 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
After reading this book you will be left mourning the fact that Abu-Jamal is not a free man and contemplating the injustices that are carried out across the United States against black people everyday. The books is set up almost like a diary, a collection of various stories that Mumia has collected over his early years behind bars. While telling his story he also recounts the stories of the inmates around him. This book made me realize just how jaded we are raised to be in this country in regard ...more
Dec 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I read this and college and went back and re-read- this book is phenomenal. I know that people are torn as to whether Mr. Mumia Abu-Jamal is guilty or not, but I just became enthralled in his story and journey and what his life is like and it is really interesting. No matter where you stand on the death penalty in my opinion when you have someone this articulate, who seems to be non- violent now; it should at least give you pause as to whether the system works. No matter what you believe about t ...more
Tiana Brawley
Jan 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Political Prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal provides intense insight, research, personal accounts and nostalgia to one of the most oppressive institutions to the 20th and 21st century: prison. He provides countless research and documentation of the brutality and horror for black prisoners and the unjust racial system which funds the black-prison complex. Mumia paints a picture of life and conversations in these hell-holes so vividly you can't help but create your own horrific scenes. He challenges reader ...more
Nov 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: prison, america, racism
This book is a patchwork of short stories and essays, most only two or three pages long, written over several years while Mumia Abu-Jamal was on death row (he is still convicted, but his sentence has since been commuted to life instead). Somehow, Abu-Jamal does not allow his own narrative to be the focus of his writing, but instead uses his skills as a journalist to highlight the broader injustices of the death penalty and the racist American legal system. I was particularly fascinated to learn ...more
Jan 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This book is one of the books that I find myself constantly going back to and picking up, either looking through particular parts that I find special or just going back and re-reading semi-random sections. I struggle with simply calling it "amazing" or "life-altering" b/c not only would those be understatements in my opinion, but I think they in some ways diminish the strength of Mumia's voice and wisdom...

No matter your interest/liking, I do think this book will challenge most people and reaff
Mike Da Silva
Jul 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I'll admit, my first response to this book was, "Gee, another wrongly convicted innocent. Aren't they all." After reading his book and researching many of the footnotes and links listed in the book, I can't believe how wrong I was. Not just for him, but I really felt for all inmates on death row, denied basic interaction with their loved ones. This book is recommended for any one with an open mind, a thirst for truth and justice, and any one with one ioata of compassion for their fellow human. ...more
Sep 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is a very quick read with a large number of short and impactful stories throughout the book. However, as someone who was not very familiar with the story of Mumia's court proceedings, I found the very end of the book the most interesting. The insane injustice in his case is infuriating. I think it is essential that everyone get their hands on this book to get a taste of what the criminal justice system can really be like — it is often anything but just. ...more
Mar 11, 2013 added it
HEY! This book is really fucking good and important to read. It's kind of a journal of a person on death row who most certainly did not receive anything near a fair trail...if that's even possible in our society. He's an ex-black panther and he's in prison largely for political reasons. Really smart and really sad and really powerful. Read it. Recently he got taken off of death row (after 30 years!) and he is sentenced to life without parole. ...more
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