Brown U. acquires trove of Mumia Abu-Jamal’s prison papers
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Brown University has acquired a trove of records, writings and artwork from Mumia Abu-Jamal, a political activist and journalist who spent decades on death row for the shooting death of a Philadelphia police officer in the 1980s.
The Ivy League university in Providence, Rhode Island, says the collection documents Abu-Jamal’s trial, prison and death row experience, which gained him global recognition as a face of the movement against the death penalty.
Abu-Jamal is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole after Philadelphia prosecutors agreed to drop their death penalty case in 2011.
But the former Black Panther Party member has for decades maintained his innocence in the killing of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner, who witnesses testified was fatally shot by Abu-Jamal as he was arresting his brother during a traffic stop.
Brown University says that the collection was acquired through a trust and that the purchase price is confidential. It includes more than 60 boxes of materials spanning the years 1981 to 2020.
Among its items is a pair of glasses Abu-Jamal wore for years; journals filled with his personal thoughts, poems and legal arguments; and part of the visitor list Abu-Jamal is still required to maintain, the university said.
Brown has also obtained related personal papers from Johanna Fernández, a Brown graduate and longtime advocate for Abu-Jamal whom he has entrusted with storing his papers.
Together, the materials will anchor a new collecting focus at the university’s John Hay Library called “Voices of Mass Incarceration.”
The university says the effort will help researchers understand how the “expanding carceral system has transformed American society” by giving them “unprecedented access” to first-person accounts of incarcerated people.
“This collection will give scholars a rare chance to peer inside prison walls and understand how incarcerated people live, think and advocate for themselves,” said Kenvi Phillips, director of library diversity, equity and inclusion at Brown.