Writing on the Wall

Writing on the Wall
Selected Prison Writings of Mumia Abu-Jamal
Foreword by Cornel West
Edited by Johanna Fernández
Introduction by Johanna Fernández

"Professor Johanna Fernández Talks with Tikkun about Mumia, Bernie Sanders, Love, and the Power of Radical Empathy"
May 11, 2016

Tikkun interviews Writing on the Wall editor Johanna Fernández back in February when she, activist Angela Davis, and KPFA host Walter Turner held a public discussion about the book in Oakland. The talk was anchored by discussions of Abu-Jamal and his writing but also expanded on the themes of mass incarceration, systemic racism, class warfare, and the promise of modern social uprisings, through the lens of what they referred to as black radicalism and the black prophetic tradition. 

- Tikkun

Black Agenda Report

"Mumia's commentary in Writing on the Wall reflects both the personal ideological journey of a political prisoner and the development of his revolutionary praxis behind prison walls. As editor, Johanna Fernandez represents the best of such revolutionary praxis from the outside. Her work to free Mumia and build a revolutionary movement in the US capable of bringing a transition of power from the oppressor to the oppressed should be emulated by all who see themselves as part of a radical movement. Purchase Writing on the Wall. Spread Mumia's revolutionary message far and wide as we work to free him and all political prisoners."––Danny Haiphong 

"Oakland: Activist Angela Davis Discusses Essays by Mumia Abu-Jamal"
Feb 25, 2016

A talk by Angela Davis and Johanna Fernández on the prison writings of Mumia Abu-Jamal and the book, Writing on the Wall, was organized by KPFA Radio. Lou Fancher reports on the proceedings for the Contra Costa Times.

"A discussion of the latest book by journalist, activist and former death-row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal, Writing on the Wall, drew a standing-room-only crowd Thursday. The event was hosted by activist, scholar and author Angela Davis and Walter Turner, host of the 'Africa Today' show on KPFA, and was devoted to the book's collection of 108 essays written by Abu-Jamal between 1982 and 2014."—Lou Fancher

- Contra Costa Times

Socialist Worker

"Writing on the Wall will further amplify this important voice for abolition to a new generation of activists … Despite being imprisoned for decades, Mumia's sensitivity to the struggles developing around him is a hallmark of his writings and a reminder that his voice is paramount in the movements beyond the walls. Mumia often ends his essays with a question––challenging the reader to go further in our various struggles for social justice. The essays in Writing on the Wall aren't simply analysis. They are alive––a powerful call to action to a reader to join the fight for a better world."––Lily Hughes

"Three Excerpts from Writing on the Wall"
Oct 3, 2015

3 chapters from Writing the Wall excerpted for print and online edition of SFAQ. Chapter 1, "Christmas in a Cage," Chapter 71, “Before Guantánamo or Abu Ghraib—The Black Panthers,” and Chapter 106, “The Meaning of Ferguson” are all excerpted.


"Mumia, the Writer: An Interview with Johanna Fernández, Editor of Writing on the Wall"
Sep 22, 2015

Johanna Fernandez, editor of Writing on the Wall is interviewed by the Baltimore City Paper days before her appearance at the Baltimore Book Festival. She talks about Mumia's role in the black prophetic tradition as well as his importance in constructing black counter narratives for the last 40 years of American history.
"Abu-Jamal has been something of a cause célèbre for a couple of generations of activists now, and has written widely during his decades  of incarceration. His new book Writing on the Wall: Selected Prison Writings of Mumia Abu-Jamal collects some of his most important essays. Johanna Fernández, who edited the book and works as the coordinator of the Campaign to Bring Mumia Home, will talk about Writing on the Wall at the Book festival this weekend. We caught up with Fernández to talk about her own work, her relationship with Abu-Jamal, and Writing on the Wall."

- Baltimore City Paper

"'Writing on the Wall': Editor Johanna Fernández on Mumia Abu-Jamal’s New Book"
Aug 16, 2015

Johanna Fernández, editor of Writing on the Wall, is interviewed by Susie Day about how she met Mumia Abu-Jamal, his legacy, unjust trial, writings, and why it's important to humanize political prisoners.

"Johanna Fernández first heard of Mumia Abu-Jamal—the Philadelphia journalist whose sonorous commentaries from death row had made him world-famous—as an undergraduate at a protest in the early 1990s. Mumia's analysis of racism and class exploitation immediately spoke to Fernández … When Fernández moved to Pittsburgh, to teach at Carnegie Mellon, she started visiting Mumia. So began a friendship and collaboration destined to last well beyond the publication of Writing on the Wall, a new collection of commentaries by Mumia Abu-Jamal, which Fernández edited. Fernández now teaches history at New York's Baruch College, and Mumia's death sentence has been commuted to life without parole—though he's facing serious illness in prison. I asked Fernández about the book and their work together."

- Susie Day, Truthout

"Mumia Abu-Jamal on the Meaning of Ferguson"
Aug 13, 2015

Truthout excerpts chapter 104 from Writing on the Wall: Selected Prison Writings of Mumia Abu-Jamal, "The Meaning of Ferguson"

- Truthout

"Writing on the Wall Named Truthout's Progressive Pick for August"
Aug 10, 2015

Writing on the Wall is named Truthout's Progressive Pick, available for purchase from Truthout with a donation to the non-profit.

- Truthout


"Mumia knows what is happening better from behind bars than do many on the outside, because he has access to books … Those of us outside of prison have access to books, too, although many seem to forget it. We could all be as well-informed as Mumia. We could all know what's coming next before it hits us in the face. A good place to start would be by reading the Writing on the Wall."––David Swanson

Our Man in Boston

"A comprehensive anthology of Mumia's short prison commentaries from 1982 to the present, which among other things tracks the ignominious history  of police sponsored terror from Haitian immigrant Amadou Diallo (whose body NYPD riddled with of 40 bullets) to 92-year-old elderly Kathryn Johnston, shot to death in her Atlanta home by narcotics officers to 12-year-old Tammir Rice to Eric Garner to Freddie Gray and on and on …"––Robert Birnbaum

San Francisco Bay View / CounterCurrents.org / Socialist Viewpoints / LA Progressive

"The publication of Writing on the Wall underscores the failure of the Fraternal Organization of Police and corrupt politicians to silence Mumia Abu-Jamal. In the face of attempts to execute him, smother his voice behind steel walls, slander him in the news media, intimidate supporters, pass laws to try to keep him from speaking out, and most recently, kill him through highly intentional 'medical neglect,' Mumia simply refuses to shut up. Like many other political prisoners slated to die in their dungeons, he has what his captors will never have: spiritual strength, dignity, integrity, love for the people, a commitment to revolution --and the ability to read the handwriting on the wall. His message carries the insights of his own generation of Black revolutionaries combined with truths born in struggles in many parts of the world. The time is right. As emerging movements gain strength, vision, and breadth, Mumia finds, in this book a new channel for sharing his ideas with people eager to bring down walls."––Carolina Saldaña

Down with Tyranny!

"It's not every prisoner, political or otherwise, who has the endurance and temerity, nor the call to testify like Abu-Jamal, from researching the miscarriage of justice in his own case to becoming a self-proclaimed jailhouse lawyer; few have streets in France named for them or public support from figures diverse as Cornel West, Amy Goodman, Alice Walker, Noam Chomsky, Tariq Ali, and Eddie Vedder. It's safe to say, though consigned to prison for life, Abu-Jamal will not be forgotten now or any time soon: His collected prison writings will be appreciated by human rights activists for ages to come, but more importantly they are useful right now, for anyone seeking a light in the darkness of the American night."


"Given the United States' present position at the epicenter of inhumanity, it’s not surprising that Mumia’s overarching focus would be the belly of the beast and its all-consuming system of racist capitalism. He’s especially well-placed to comment on the prison industrial complex, having spent over 33 years in jail—most of that in solitary confinement on death row … In a 2006 commentary, Mumia poses the question: 'Is it mere coincidence that the most notorious guard at Abu Ghraib worked right here, in the United States; here, in Pennsylvania; here, in SCI-Greene prison, for over six years before exporting his brand of 'corrections’ to the poor slobs who met him in Iraq?' The answer: no, because 'the roots of Guantánamo, of Abu Ghraib, of  Bagram Air Force Base, of U.S. secret torture chambers operating all around the world, are deep in American life, in its long war against Black life and liberation.’"––Bélén Fernández

"Alicia Garza on Black Lives Matter; and Mumia Abu-Jamal"
Jul 20, 2015

Johanna Fernández on Mumia Abu-Jamal, his health, and writing. Also: Democratic Presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley were interrupted by Black Lives Matter protests during the Netroots conference in Arizona. Excerpts from Sanders’ and O’Malley’s speeches, and an interview with Alicia Garza of the Black Lives Matter movement.

- KPFA Radio

"For Mumia and Us, All the Writing Is on the Wall"
Jul 5, 2015

Video: Johanna Fernández, editor of Writing on the Wall, Selected Prison Writings of Mumia-Abu Jamal, talks with Jared A. Ball about Mumia's current condition, the campaign to free him, and the poignancy of the writings collected in Writing on the Wall.

- Jared A. Ball, TheRealNews.com

"Mumia Abu-Jamal: Writing on the Wall, Selected Writings"
Jun 26, 2015

Johanna Fernández, editor of Writing on the Wall, appears on Wanda's Picks Radio to talk about the book and Mumia’s continued commitment to journalism despite being confined for over 30 years.

- Wanda Sabir, Wanda's Picks Radio

Kirkus Reviews

"Abu-Jamal's writing tends to be forceful, outraged, and humorous, but he also engages in the bombastic approaches of another era … [T]he author offers powerful columns on diverse subjects ranging from the plight of black farmers to the crushing of dissent after 9/11. Some remain all too relevant—e.g., those decrying systemic police brutality as seen in flashpoints from Rodney King to Ferguson or the rise of racial disparities in drug sentencing. Abu-Jamal meditates on central figures in the black political narrative, ranging from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to Trayvon Martin ... As a collection that spans from 1982 to 2014, these topical essays testify to the effects of incarceration on mind and spirit. While his prose has sharpened over time, Abu-Jamal remains enraged and pessimistic about an America that, in his view, remains wholly corrupt: "[Blacks] know from bitter experience that while Americans may say one thing, they mean something quite different."

Drums in the Global Village

"Abu-Jamal's commentaries, taken together, target the contradictions of the established order, pointing to its corrupt nature versus the natural power of people-fueled resistance … It remains to be seen in a 2015 world of social media if the masses of 'Black Lives Matter' tweeters will develop the skill, discipline and commitment of their now-elder statesman Abu-Jamal, who wrote in the margins of the society decades before it became cool."––Todd S. Burroughs

"Writing on the Wall: Selected Prison Writings of Mumia Abu-Jamal"
May 6, 2015

Dr. Johanna Fernandez, editor of Writing on the Wall, is interviewed by Sonali Kolhatkar for Uprising Radio on Mumia Abu-Jamal, his current medical condition, and the new book of his writings from City Lights. Full audio with video excerpt.

- Uprising Radio

SF Weekly
Jan 7, 2015

"Hope and the seeds of revolution can come from the depths of isolation. Writing from his cell on death row, where he was held in solitary confinement for nearly 30 years, Abu-Jamal has long been a loud and clear voice for all who suffer injustice, racism, and poverty. Edited by Fernandez, this selection of 100 previously unpublished essays includes a foreword by Cornel West."—Evan Karp, SF Weekly

"New York Times article 'Police Files on Radicals Are at Center of a Lawsuit.' "
Aug 27, 2014

Johanna Fernandez, editor of Writing on the Wall, is interviewed about her request for the NYPD to find and turn over documents on the Puerto Rican militant group the Young Lords.

- Colin Moynihan. The New York Times

"Article about Mumia Abu-Jamal in Counterpunch"
Jun 19, 2014

Greg Ruggiero writes about the relationship between Mumia Abu-Jamal and the literary agent Francis Goldin in Counterpunch.

- Greg Ruggiero

"Johanna Fernandez interviewed on Democracy Now!"
Mar 6, 2014

In a stunning vote, a group of U.S. Senate Democrats broke ranks to join Republicans in rejecting President Obama's pick to head the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, Debo Adegbile. The confirmation fight focused almost solely on Adegbile’s role in the legal defense of imprisoned Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted of killing a Philadelphia police officer, despite Abu-Jamal’s longstanding position of being not guilty. Adegbile was part of a team of lawyers at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund who successfully argued the trial judge’s jury instructions violated Abu-Jamal’s rights. Adegbile’s supporters say the attacks on him mark a new form of Willie Horton politics and race baiting. Democracy Now! discusses the controversy with two guests: Johanna Fernández, professor of history at Baruch College-CUNY and a coordinator with the Campaign to Bring Mumia Home, and Ryan Haygood, director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund’s Political Participation Group.

- Democracy Now!