Boom to Publish ‘Big Black,’ A Graphic History of 1971 Attica Prison Riot

Boom! Studios announced plans to publish Big Black: Stand at Attica by Frank “Big Black” Smith, writer Jared Reinmuth and artist Améziane, a graphic biography of Smith, a former prisoner turned prisoner advocate, and a history of the bloody 1971 prisoner civil rights uprising at Attica State Prison. The book will be published in February 2020.

Frank “Big Black” Smith was a prisoner and later a prisoner negotiator at Attica State Prison during the prisoner uprising in the summer of 1971. The conflict was sparked by a minor incident but exploded into a bloody confrontation over prison conditions and prisoner demands for humane treatment. Over 1,200 prisoners revolted taking 42 prison staff hostage. After negotiations between the prisoners and then NY state governor Nelson Rockefeller broke down, 43 people (10 prison staff and 33 prisoners) eventually died during the state’s efforts to retake control of the prison. 

Smith was a prison negotiator during the conflict and faced torture by prison officers following the uprising. After his release from prison he worked as a substance abuse counselor and devoted his life to supporting fellow prisoners including filing a lawsuit against New York State. Smith died in 2004.

Called “the true story of the four days” of the Attica Prison Riot, Big Black was co-written with Smith by Jared Reinmuth, an actor, writer, and director, whose father, Dan Meyers, was an Attica attorney. The art for Big Black is by Améziane, a French illustrator and designer, who also worked on Muhammad Ali, a graphic biography written by Sybille Titeux de la Croi published in English by Dark Horse in 2016.

“In September of 1971, I was a small child sitting in the living room with my brother and sister as the events at Attica played out on television. My mother vowed that if we were ever in a position to contribute, we would help the Attica Brothers,” said writer Reinmuth.

“Frank ‘Big Black’ Smith was our hero, and [the fact that] decades later he and his wife, Pearl, would trust me to attempt his biography stands as the honor of my life."

 

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