The Classroom and The Cell:

Conversations on Black Life in America 

By Mumia Abu-Jamal and

Marc Lamont HIll


Third World Press 2011


Review by Stephanie Abraham

Who do you think is freer – Marc Lamont Hill, a professor at one of the most prestigious universities in the U.S., or Mumia Abu-Jamal, a political prisoner on America's death row? Most of us would say Marc without hesitation. However, in this new book, which is a series of conversations between the two, Mumia identifies himself as “a free black man living in captivity,” while Marc tells Mumia, “I would describe you as being far freer than me.” This is just one example of the refreshingly unexpected insights that their discussions offer, challenging the reader to reevaluate that which is typically taken for granted.

They openly discuss race, hip-hop and Black leadership in the age of Obama. What’s most compelling is how they intentionally let their guards down to address all topics, including love and healing, as personally as possible – something they both find difficult. The subject they disagree most about is Black masculinity, although they agree that patriarchy has got to go.

This read gets you reading. At the end of each chapter, they recommend books that deeply influenced them – over 100 titles – written by an array of revolutionary and poetic authors. Sharing this diverse and extensive resource list speaks to you the kind of peoples’ intellectuals they are, as they want us all empowered and equipped to make the societal change we desperately need and deserve.


"This poignant column gives voice to what is rarely heard: African American men speaking for themselves, without barriers or filters, about the many forces impacting their lives. From their discussions about love to those about the state of emergency of our educational is in, Marc Lamont Hill and Mumia Abu-Jamal offer us an important gift of insight and analysis and we must treasure it.” -Susan L. Taylor Editor-in-Chief Emeritus, Essence Magazine Founder, National CARES Mentoring Movement


“Mumia Abu-Jamal and Marc Lamont Hill have consistently challenged and inspired me. Now, with this book of conversations, the entire world can see their brilliance, courage and deep love for Black people. This book will change your life!” -Talib Kweli