Former Political Prisoner Laura Whitehorn
Since the 60s, Laura Whitehorn has been active in struggles from the civil rights movement to supporting the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Movement and the New Afrikan Independence Movement, to fighting the KKK and organized white supremacy, supporting the Puerto Rican Independence, struggle and fighting for the liberation of women, gays and lesbians.
While living in Boston, she helped to organize a network of white anti racists to aid Black families defending their homes against racist attacks during the anti busing offensive in the 1970’s. In 1971, Laura helped to organize and lead a militant takeover and occupation of a Harvard University building by nearly 400 women to protest the war in Vietnam and to demand a women’s center. She also helped to found the Boston/Cambridge Women’s School, worked to support people in prison (particularly during the Attica prison uprising and its aftermath), and was active with Native Americans and Puerto Ricans’ struggling for sovereignty.
While living in NY, Laura worked to expose the illegal COINTELPRO (Counter Intelligence Program) of the FBI, was a member of the John Brown Anti-Klan Committee and the Madame Binh Graphics Collective. At this time, Laura also worked in solidarity with the liberation movements in Zimbabwe and Azania/South Africa and Palestine.
By 1975, she was a part of an anti-imperialist delegation of women to visit Vietnam. A few years later, Laura joined the revolutionary clandestine movement because she feels justice is worth fighting for, and because she realizes that the US government uses the full force of repression to destroy developing opposition.
As she has written in her introduction to The War Before:
In 1985, I was arrested with five other white activists for conspiracy to bomb several government buildings that were symbols of domestic racism, such as the office of the New York City Police Benevolent Association (known for supporting cops who had killed innocent civilians) following the murder of Black grandmother Eleanor Bumpurs. We were also charged with bombing buildings emblematic of US foreign policy—most famously the Capitol Building, after the US invasion of Grenada and shelling of Lebanon in 1983. We stuck to specific targets and planned with care: No one was hurt in any of the bombings.
Without adopting a consistent name for our group, we chose that moment to carry out these acts partly because the government and the police were hot on the trail of Puerto Rican and Black movement undergrounds, and we wanted to throw a distraction in their path. As white radicals, we refused to leave these liberation struggles to fight alone. We didn’t want to say, “Go, defeat the enemy! We’ll be sitting here on the sidelines, clapping for you!” Supporting the struggles of people for freedom means that you take some risks yourself. It means stepping beyond your political comfort zone.
The six of us were charged with “conspiracy to influence, change, and protest policies and practices of the United States government by violent and illegal means.” I received a sentence of twenty years.
She spent fourteen years in prison, and was released on parole on August 6th 1999. Since her release she has remained active in the struggle for social justice, and to support those who remain behind bars. She is currenty senior editor of POZ magazine, the leading u.s. publication about HIV/AIDS.
Out: The Making of a Revolutionary (a video biography of Laura produced in 2000)
Laura Whitehorn at 2009 Left Forum in New York City
Part One (6:29 minutes)
Part Two (5:03 minutes)
Laura Whitehorn Speaks at Cynthia McKinney’s Congressional Hearings on Political Prisoners & POWs
Part One (6:48 minutes)
Part Two (5:38 minutes)
Incomplete List of Writings by Laura Whitehorn
- Address to John Brown 2000 Gathering, also organized by the fine folks from Resistance in Brooklyn
- Legal Issues for Women in Federal Prisons, with Marilyn Buck (1996)
- Shawnee Unit – A Control Unit For Women, with Silvia Baraldini, Susan Rosenberg, and Marilyn Buck
- Introduction to The War Before (2010)
Also, listen to a radio interview with Laura Whitehorn and Ed Mead which aired on Hard Knock Radio (KPFA 94.1 FM) on June 24, 2011, on the subject of the 2011 California Prisoners’ Hunger Strike.
Laura Whitehorn also contributed to the books Hauling Up The Morning and Let Freedom Ring, both of which are available from Kersplebedeb Leftiwingbooks.net.
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