The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and A Cappella Books Present Derecka Purnell in conversation with Josie Duffy Rice - Becoming Abolitionists Virtual Event

The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and A Cappella Books Present Derecka Purnell in conversation with Josie Duffy Rice - Becoming Abolitionists Virtual Event

Wednesday, Oct 27, 2021 7:00 PM

A Cappella Books on Zoom

“With deep insight and moral clarity, Purnell invites us not only to imagine a world without police, but to muster the courage to fight for the more just world we know is possible. ”Becoming Abolitionists” is essential reading for our times.” 
— Michelle Alexander, bestselling author of ”The New Jim Crow”

The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and A Cappella Books welcome human rights lawyer, writer, and activist Derecka Purnell for a virtual discussion of her book, “Becoming Abolitionists: Police, Protests, and the Pursuit of Freedom,” on Wednesday, October 27, 2021 at 7 PM (EST). Purnell will appear in conversation with Josie Duffy Rice, journalist and co-host of Crooked Media’s daily news podcast “What a Day.”

This event is free and open to the public. Join the event via the Zoom link below.


A Cappella Books will have copies of “Becoming Abolitionists," which include a signed bookplate, available after the event. Pre-order via the link below.

About the Book

For more than a century, activists in the United States have tried to reform the police. From community policing initiatives to increasing diversity, none of it has stopped the police from killing about three people a day. Millions of people continue to protest police violence because these “solutions” do not match the problem: the police cannot be reformed.

In “Becoming Abolitionists,” Purnell draws from her experiences as a lawyer, writer, and organizer initially skeptical about police abolition. She saw too much sexual violence and buried too many friends to consider getting rid of police in her hometown of St. Louis, let alone the nation. But the police were a placebo. Calling them felt like something, and something feels like everything when the other option seems like nothing.

Purnell details how multi-racial social movements rooted in rebellion, risk-taking, and revolutionary love pushed her and a generation of activists toward abolition. The book travels across geography and time, and offers lessons that activists have learned from Ferguson to South Africa, from Reconstruction to contemporary protests against police shootings.

Here, Purnell argues that police can not be reformed and invites readers to envision new systems that work to address the root causes of violence. “Becoming Abolitionists” shows that abolition is not solely about getting rid of police, but a commitment to create and support different answers to the problem of harm in society, and, most excitingly, an opportunity to reduce and eliminate harm in the first place. 

About the Author

Derecka Purnell is a lawyer, writer, organizer, and author of forthcoming "Becoming Abolitionists: Police, Protests, and the Pursuit of Freedom." She works to end police and prison violence by providing legal assistance, research, and training in community based organizations through an abolitionist framework.  She is from St. Louis and lives between the DMV and New York City. She is a currently a columnist at The Guardian, a Margaret Burroughs Fellow for the Social Justice Initiative’s Portal Project at the University of Illinois Chicago, and the Scholar-in-Residence with the Institute for a Just Society at Columbia Law School.

About the Conversation Partner

Josie Duffy Rice is Harvard Law School graduate and journalist whose work is primarily focused on prosecutors, prisons, and other criminal justice issues. She was President of The Appeal, a news publication that published original journalism about the criminal justice system. Josie co-hosts Crooked Media’s daily news podcast “What a Day.” She has written for publications including The New York Times, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and Slate.