This Day in History

Oct. 11, 1972: D.C. Jail Uprising

Time Periods: People’s Movement: 1961 - 1974
Themes: African American, Laws & Citizen Rights, Racism & Racial Identity

On Oct. 11, 1972, an uprising took place at the Washington, D.C. jail. Inmates took 12 hostages, including the Corrections Director.

Inmates shouting to reporters and others gathered outside the D.C. jail. Source: Washington Area Spark and DC Public Library, Star Collection, © Washington Post, All Rights Reserved.

They demanded juveniles be housed separately from adults, decent food be provided, overcrowding be addressed, and more.

D.C. Jail Uprising | Zinn Education Project

Demonstrator outside courthouse in 1974 where the inmates faced charges for trying to escape, even though it was a protest over conditions and they had been promised immunity. (c) Reading/Simpson, Washington Spark.

At the inmates request, U.S. Representative Shirley Chisholm (New York), D.C. School Board President Marion Barry, and other community leaders went to the jail and met with the inmates.

Find a description and more photos of the D.C. Jail Uprising at Washington Spark.

Stories of prisoner activism are central to U.S. history, yet generally missing from textbooks. Below are resources for teaching about the Attica Prison Uprising and incarceration today.