Ruth J. Simmons Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice

Art and the Freedom Struggle: The Works of Mumia Abu-JamalCurated by Melaine Ferdinand-King, PhD Candidate in Africana Studies, “Art and The Freedom Struggle: The Works of Mumia Abu-Jamal,” is a creative companion to the biographical “Mumia Abu-Jamal: A Portrait of Mass Incarceration” exhibit on view at the John Hay Library at Brown University. Inspired by Mumia Abu-Jamal’s 2012 essay, “Art & Incarceration,” this exhibition underscores the significance of creation under crisis.

Known internationally as a political prisoner, Abu-Jamal warrants considerable attention as an artist and cultural critic. In depicting historical figures, pop culture icons, and personal visions, Abu-Jamal reveals how artistic production functions as a mode of self-expression, a junction between “inside” and “outside” worlds, and a powerful tool for social commentary. His paintings, drawings, poetry, and musical compositions disclose, in part, the interests and concerns of an outsider-observer committed to freedom and being free while making sense of a carceral state. Themes throughout the exhibition include abolition, Black liberation, community-building, music, and sports.

The gallery also serves as an activation space. While experiencing the works on display, viewers are encouraged to reflect on Abu-Jamal’s story alongside their individual agency and relationship to the notion of struggle. We aim to spark engaged activity on the local level related to issues of mass incarceration and spirited dialogue on the importance of responding creatively in times of political duress.

Explore the Catalog

Watch "Panther Walk"

Lyrics and Music by Mumia Abu-Jamal, 2011

Arranged by Marcus R. Grant

Ensemble Members

  • Marcus R. Grant - drums
  • Tyreek McDole - vocalist
  • Camila Cortina - keyboard
  • Kweku Aggrey - bass
  • Dan Liparini - guitar

Directed by Melaine Ferdinand-King

Plan Your Visit

On view March 1–July 19, 2024

The gallery is open Monday–Friday, 10 am–3 pm.
Closed 12 noon–1pm for lunch.
Closed for school and federal holidays.

Visit our gallery at 94 Waterman Street, Providence, RI 02906.


Related Events

Join us for the Opening Reception | March 1, 4–5:30 pm

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Art and the Freedom Struggle | Community Discussion and Mixer | May 23, 2024, 6:00pm - 9:00pm EDT

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Commencement Reception | May 24, 2024, 4–5:30 pm

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Art and the Freedom Struggle Commencement Workshop | 11:00am - 12:30pm

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Get Involved

Visit the Archives

Mumia Abu-Jamal’s personal and professional papers are currently housed at the John Hay Library at Brown University as part of the “Voices of Mass Incarceration” collection. The collection was curated and prepared for research by the Pembroke Center Archives. 

John Hay Library

Pembroke Center Archives

Write to Mumia Abu-Jamal

Mumia Abu-Jamal

Smart Communications/PADOC
Mumia Abu-Jamal AM 8335
SCI Mahanoy
PO Box 33028
St Petersburg, FL 33733

Discover Mumia's Legacy

International Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Campaign

The movement for Mumia Abu-Jamal is an international network that has taken to the streets for over thirty years to stop two state-sponsored executions. It organized to overturn Mumia Abu-Jamal’s death sentence and most recently sponsored a landmark court case that forced the PA Department of Corrections to administer treatment for his Hepatitis C.

International Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Campaign

Prison Radio

Prison Radio is an independent multimedia production studio producing content for radio, television, and films for 30 years and distributing throughout the world. Prison Radio’s mission is to include the voices of incarcerated people in the public debate. You can find up-to-date news on Mumia Abu-Jamal and support his defense fund through Prison Radio online.

Prison Radio

Be Part of the Solution

These Rhode Island based organizations lead community-oriented solutions to harm, political education workshops, and direct action campaigns against oppressive systems.

AMOR LogoAMOR is an alliance of community based grassroots organizations mobilizing at the intersections of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and immigration status to prevent, to respond to, and to end state violence against our community. We work to create a space where the community can demand accountability, challenge injustices, and access healing after experiencing violence. We are organizing to place sovereignty back into the hands of communities directly affected by systemic oppression and to build leadership, generate power, create sustainability and organize resistance with and alongside all directly affected peoples.

AMOR Alliance

Black and Pink LogoBlack & Pink National is a prison abolitionist organization dedicated to abolishing the criminal punishment system and liberating LGBTQIA2S+ people and people living with HIV/AIDS who are affected by that system through advocacy, support, and organizing.

Black and Pink Providence

DADARE LogoRE’s mission is to organize low-income families living in communities of color for social, economic, and political justice. The Tenant and Homeowner Association (THA) is a DARE campaign committee led by low-income tenants and homeowners living in communities of color, who are facing eviction, foreclosure, and unsafe housing conditions. We are a community of people who have been impacted by incarceration. Some have records and others are loved ones of people behind bars. Our community’s victories include voting rights for formerly incarcerated people; increased access to public housing for folks with records; and Ban the Box legislation that made it illegal for an employer to require an applicant to disclose their record. We believe that building strong communities is necessary if we are to reduce our society’s reliance on incarceration.

Direct Action for Rights and Equality (D.A.R.E.)

FANG Collective Logo - silhouetted pack of 3 maroon ad 2 black wolvesFounded in 2014, The FANG Collective leads direct action campaigns to create a more just world, working intersectionally to bring communities together to enact powerful change.
FANG organizes with our community to build a decolonized world free of prisons and police, where systems of oppression are uprooted and healed, while taking action to avert the worst impacts of climate change. FANG believes in a diversity of nonviolent tactics from community organizing and coalition building to escalated direct action. FANG prioritizes building real, lasting relationships with people and organizers across different communities and movements.

FANG Collective

FANG Collecive on Instagram

Stop Torture RI LogoThe Stop Torture RI Coalition is an alliance of local community organizers, formerly incarcerated people and their loved ones, direct service providers, students, and other concerned people all working to end the use of extended solitary confinement by passing the Reform Solitary Confinement Act. The coalition is provided guidance and oversight by an elected Steering Committee. The majority of the Steering Committee is comprised of individuals that are survivors of solitary confinement.

STOP Torture RI Coalition

Access the Arts

These Rhode Island based hubs offer accessible art, workshops, and creative support.

AS220 Black cat logoAS220 is an artist-run organization committed to providing an unjuried and uncensored forum for the arts. AS220 offers artists opportunities to live, work, exhibit and/or perform in its facilities, which include several rotating gallery spaces, a performance stage, a black-box theater, a print shop, a darkroom and media arts lab, a fabrication and electronics lab, a dance studio, a youth program focusing on youth under state care and in the juvenile detention facilities, four dozen affordable live/work studios for artists, and a bar and restaurant. AS220’s facilities and services are available to any artist who needs a place to exhibit, perform, or create original work and its classes and public-access studios are among the most affordable in the nation.


New Urban Arts LogoNew Urban Arts (NUA) is a welcoming community of high school students and adult mentors in Providence sharing space, skills, and resources to inspire creative expression. NUA’s student-led approach to learning enables young people to discover their power and develop agency. NUA is a haven from the many pressures and systemic inequities young people navigate daily.

New Urban Arts

Public Not Private LogoPublic is an African & Latina owned creative art space based in Providence RI. The space hosts monthly art exhibitions, an open mic, community building programming, and occasional comedy shows, film screenings, pop-ups, collaborative events, and more.

Public Not Private

Display of materials at Queer.Archive.Work.Queer.Archive.Work. (QAW) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) library, publishing studio, and residency serving supporting artists and writers with free, open access to space and resources for experimental publishing, with a special focus on queer practices. QAW includes a non-circulating library of books, zines, tools, objects, and downloadable filesa shared publishing studio (with Binch Press), including extensive risograph, screen-printing, letterpress, and other print and publishing resources, and digital meeting spaces. Programming includes Studio Residencies, Studio Membership, Open Library Hours, Open Studios, workshops, publishing, and online Queer Hangouts. QAW aims to be accountable, to center marginalized voices through intersectional work, and to cultivate anti-racist, safe platforms for independent, queer publishing.

The Steel Yard Logo

The Steel Yard’s historic campus is a platform for professional artists, makers, and the community to practice and learn the industrial arts. The organization fosters creative and economic opportunities, by providing workspace, tools, training, and education while forging lasting links to a local tradition of craftsmanship.

The Steel Yard