Dan Berger is professor of comparative ethnic studies at the University of Washington Bothell and an adjunct affiliate professor of history at the University of Washington Seattle. He also serves as Associate Dean for Faculty Development and Scholarship in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at UWB. An expert on activism, Black Power, and the carceral state, his books include Captive Nation: Black Prison Organizing in the Civil Rights Era (2014), which won the OAH James A. Rawley Prize and explores the central role that prisoners played in the civil rights and Black Power movements, and Remaking Radicalism: A Grassroots Documentary Reader of the United States, 1973-2001 (coedited with Emily Hobson). In 2023, he will publish Stayed on Freedom: The Long History of Black Power Through One Family's Journey with Basic Books. Stayed on Freedom is a biography of Black Power in the twentieth century as it was made at the grassroots, seen through the lives of two workaday organizers, Zoharah Simmons and Michael Simmons. The book is based on deep research and hundreds of hours of interviews. In addition to his books, Berger writes frequently for public audiences in Black Perspectives, Boston Review, the Seattle Times, and Truthout, among other publications. He coordinates the Washington Prison History Project, a multimedia digital archive of regional history.
Like slavery, prisons force a reckoning with the idea of freedom in American life. This lecture draws from historians of slavery and the carceral state to interrogate the meaning of freedom in a country that has the world's largest prison population. Reviewing the contradictory meanings of freedom, this lecture discusses freedom not as a creed but as a set of practices.