Apr 13, 2017 12:44 PM EDT
Cass Tech graduate, Historian and University of Michigan professor, Heather Ann Thompson, was among the winners of 2017 Pulitzer Prizes for best written works on Monday. Thompson won for the book called "Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy," a history of the 1971 Attica prison uprising.
According to historians, the Attica uprising is a civil rights touchstone equal to Watts and Detroit's 1967 riot. Thompson's first book was "Whose Detroit?" Thompson won the award in the category of Letters, Drama & Music.
MLive reported that according to the judges she won for a narrative history that set high standard for scholarly judgment and tenacity of inquiry in seeking the truth about the 1971 Attica prison riots. Some said it was for being able to break new ground and telling the story that few have ever heard before.
More than a decade ago, Thompson did an extensive research on Attica using New York state files to find what happened in September 1971 when 39 prisoners died and hundreds were injured after state police stormed the prison with tear gas and guns to end a hostage crisis. Prisoners took guards and civilians hostage and demanded for better living conditions.
Thompson said there was a wall full of records of Attica, which included all kinds of stuff that she wasn't supposed to see, such as key documents. It allowed her to really document those who had committed terrible crimes at Attica but were protected.
Her book claims and shows documentation that New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller knew that inmates would die. Despite warnings they hatched a plan to send armed state troopers into the prison. She said the prisoners and guards inside the prison were dispensable if it meant the governor could retake the prison.
Thompson found out about the Pulitzer Prize while she was teaching at UM Detroit history class. Her students cheered for when she heard the news. She said it was a complete surprise and she didn't imagine she'd get that kind of nomination or award, Click On Detroit reported.