Abolition is about abolishing the conditions under which prison became the solution to problems, rather than abolishing the buildings we call prisons.”

Ruth Wilson Gilmore

We study the World to change it

The W.E.B. Du Bois Movement School for Abolition & Reconstruction is a political education program for aspiring revolutionaries and movement leaders from those communities most impacted by poverty, policing, and mass incarceration. Our home is Philadelphia, crossroads of Harriet Tubman and Octavius Catto, W.E.B. Du Bois and Paul Robeson, Mumia Abu-Jamal and Maroon Shoatz, a critical hub for abolitionist militancy in the past and a thriving and powerful movement ecosystem today.

Through participatory and collective study of political economy, the history of global resistance movements, and the theoretical and practical aspects of social change, we aim to teach a new generation of organic intellectuals not only how to understand the world, but more importantly, how to change it.

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The Abolitionist Vision

This we know more clearly today than ever before: that there can be no true abolition without reconstruction. We cannot hope to tear down oppressive, carceral institutions without radically rethinking—and rebuilding—the violently racist and patriarchal capitalist world that called them into being. This is the lesson of 150 years of US history, in which slavery was mostly abolished through the courageous action of enslaved people and abolitionist militants, but after which little else changed. Capitalist exploitation and racist fear conspired to build new institutions to replace the old, from convict leasing to Jim Crow, segregation, hyper-policing and mass incarceration.
This is why we say, with Ruth Wilson Gilmore, that “abolition is about presence, not absence.” And this is why we insist, alongside Angela Davis, that our goal is to make police and prisons “obsolete,” by collectively building a world in which carceral institutions have no place and make no sense. The unfinished task of abolition today means doing two things at once: attacking our enemies while building solidarity with our comrades, tearing down while also building up, working to create the new word in our hearts as we struggle to abolish the old world that surrounds us.

What we believe

We have inherited a global capitalist system produced through the overlapping forces of colonial dispossession and genocide, racialized chattel slavery, and violent patriarchal domination, whose extractive brutality toward humanity and nature alike is quickly rendering our planet uninhabitable.

While we call Philadelphia home and are deeply rooted in local struggles, we are nevertheless guided by a radically internationalist vision which sees abolition and reconstruction as fundamentally global tasks. From the Haitian Revolution to Palestinian liberation and contemporary border struggles, we teach our students to think and act transnationally, to understand that global histories and global structures create the basis for shared global struggles, and to build revolutionary solidarity across artificial boundaries.

To do so, we place the question of power front and center, but not only the power of the state. Instead, we understand how power begins with everyday people, how it accumulates in institutions, and most importantly, how we can turn the power we have against those institutions to radically transform, dismantle, and replace them.

To put out the fire this time requires dismantling the entire state and corporate machinery of violence.

Robin D.G. Kelley

Movement Partners

Abolitionist Law Center
Straight Ahead
Community Resource Hub
The Center for Carceral Communities
Amistad Law Project

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