Dan Berger is an associate professor of comparative ethnic studies at the University of Washington Bothell and an adjunct affiliate associate professor of history at the University of Washington Seattle. 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. He is most recently a coeditor, with Emily Hobson, of Remaking Radicalism: A Grassroots Documentary Reader of the United States, 1973-2001. Berger publishes regularly in Black Perspectives, Dissent, Salon, the Seattle Times, and Truthout, among other publications. He coordinates the Washington Prison History Project, a multimedia digital archive of regional history. An expert on the carceral state and twentieth-century American social movements, he is currently writing Stayed on Freedom: One Family's Journey in the Black Freedom Struggle, and Prison: An American History, both under contract with Basic Books.
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.