March 20, 1923 |
Harlem, New York
|Known for||Activism, being falsely imprisoned|
Martin Ramirez Sostre (born 20 March 1923, in Harlem) is an American activist.
He served time in Attica prison during the early 1960s, where he embraced doctrines as diverse as Black Muslimism, Black nationalism, Internationalism, and finally anarchism. In 1966 Sostre opened the first Afro-Asian Bookstore at 1412 Jefferson in Buffalo, New York. For its somewhat short existence, Sostre's bookstore was a center for radical thought and education in the Buffalo ghetto. As Sostre details:
I taught continually - giving out pamphlets free to those who had no money. I let them sit and read for hours in the store. Some would come back every day and read the same book until they finished it. This was the opportunity I had dreamed about - to be able to help my people by increasing the political awareness of the youth.
Sostre was arrested at his bookstore on July 14, 1967 for "narcotics, riot, arson, and assault" (charges later proven to be fabricated, part of a COINTELPRO program). He was convicted and sentenced to serve forty-one years and thirty days. Sostre became a jailhouse lawyer, regularly acting as legal counsel to other inmates and winning two landmark legal cases involving prisoner rights: Sostre v. Rockefeller and Sostre v. Otis. According to Sostre, these decisions constituted "a resounding defeat for the establishment who will now find it exceedingly difficult to torture with impunity the thousands of captive black (and white) political prisoners illegally held in their concentration camps."
In earlier legal activity, Sostre secured religious rights for Black Muslim prisoners and also eliminated (in the words of Federal Judge Constance Motley) some of the more "outrageously inhuman aspects of solitary confinement in some of the state prisons.".
In addition to numerous defense committees in New York State, a Committee to Free Martin Sostre, made up of prominent citizens, joined in an effort to publicize Sostre's case and petition the Governor for his release. On December 7, 1975, Russian Nobel Peace Laureate Andrei Sakharov added his name to the clemency appeal. In December 1973 Amnesty International put Sostre on its "prisoner of conscience" list, stating: "We became convinced that Martin Sostre has been the victim of an international miscarriage of justice because of his political beliefs . . . not for his crimes ." 
Lorenzo Kom'boa Ervin attributes his initial interest in anarchism to Sostre.
In 1974 Pacific Street Films debuted a documentary film on Sostre called Frame-up! The Imprisonment of Martin Sostre. It detailed Sostre's case with extensive interviews from prison. He currently lives in Manhattan with his wife Lizabeth Sostre and his son Vincent.
References and sources
- Original artwork by Jerry Ross in Wikipedia Commons
- HUAC There were three, according to Police Commissioner Frank Felicetta
- Frame Up, at 10:30. The first was at 1412 and a half Jefferson Ave. A second was at 289 High
- The Alternative Community in Buffalo, 1965-76 B. Martin Sostre Bookseller Turned Black Revolutionary (1967). The Buffalonian, 2001. Retrieved 7 July 2011.
- Powell, Elwin. "B. Martin Sostre Bookseller Turned Black Revolutionary (1967)". The Alternative Community in Buffalo, 1965-76. The Buffalonian. Retrieved December 20, 2011.
- Schaich, Warren L. (March 1977). "The Prison Letters of Martin Sostre: Documents of Resistance" (PDF). Journal of Black Studies. Retrieved June 25, 2015.
- The Crime of Martin Sostre by Vincent Copeland, McGraw-Hill; 1st edition (1970)
- Anarchist People of Color website
- Zabalaza Anarchist-Communist Federation (South Africa)
- Frequently Asked Questions about Anarchism