Rewriting U.S. History from Prison

Endorsed by SHGAPE

Saturday, April 1, 2023, 8:45 AM - 10:15 AM

Type: Roundtable Discussion

Tags: Crime and Violence; Local and Community History; Slavery


This roundtable features participants in three prison-based history collectives that have pioneered new perspectives on histories of violence and captivity in the US: the Community Education Project at the Tomoka Correctional Institution in Florida, the Louisiana Women's Incarceration History Project, and the Indiana Women’s Prison History Project. Together, these initiatives demonstrate the possibilities for history when subjugated knowledge is centered and they provide models of prison education programs that center humanities research.

Session Participants

Chair and Panelist: Elizabeth Nelson, Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis (IUPUI)
Elizabeth Nelson is an Assistant Professor in the Medical Humanities and Health Studies program at IUPUI. A medical historian, her research focuses on modern institutions of confinement, such as mental hospitals and prisons. An examination of structural racism, sexism, ableism and the production of poor health, disability, and premature death is a necessary part of this work. However, Dr. Nelson is especially interested in creativity, knowledge production, community building, and activism in these institutional spaces--human striving within and against oppressive and inhospitable environments. Central to her work are questions of rehabilitation, care, structural violence, haunting/trauma, reform, abolition, and theories of time and history.  Currently, Dr. Nelson is co-editing a book (with Michelle Daniel) by members of the Indiana Women's Prison History Project on the history of women's incarceration in Indiana, and she is co-authoring a book (with Modupe Labode and Emily Beckman) that examines the expansion of rights for people with intellectual disabilities within a doomed institution, Indiana’s “Central State” psychiatric hospital on the eve of its closure in 1994.

Panelist: Michelle Daniel Jones, New York University
Michelle Daniel (Jones) is a fourth-year doctoral student in the American Studies program New York University. She is interested in excavating the collateral consequences of criminal convictions for people and families directly impacted by mass incarceration. Michelle’s advocacy extends beyond the classroom through collaborations and opportunities to speak truth to power. While incarcerated, she presented legislative testimony on a reentry alternative she created that was approved by the Indiana State Interim Committee on the Criminal Code. As a subject matter expert, she serves in the development and operation of taskforces, think tanks and initiatives to reduce harm and end mass incarceration and has joined Second Chance Educational Alliance as a Senior Research Consultant, the boards of Worth Rises and Correctional Association of New York and advisory boards of the Jamii Sisterhood, The Education Trust, A Touch of Light, Urban Institute and ITHAKA's Higher Ed in Prison Project.

She is a founding member and board president of Constructing Our Future, a reentry and housing organization for women created by incarcerated women in Indiana and a 2017-18 Beyond the Bars fellow, a 2017-18 Research Fellow at the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History at Harvard University, and a 2018-19 Ford Foundation Bearing Witness Fellow with Art for Justice, 2019 SOZE Right of Return Fellow, 2019 Code for America Fellow and 2019-2020 Mural Arts Rendering Justice Fellow. Michelle is currently under contract with The New Press to publish the history of Indiana’s carceral institutions for women with fellow incarcerated and formerly incarcerated scholars. As an artist, further, Michelle is interested in finding ways to funnel her research pursuits into theater, dance and photography. Her original play, “The Duchess of Stringtown” (co-authored with Anastazia Schmid) was produced in December 2017 in Indianapolis and New York City and her artist installation about stigma, “Point of Triangulation,” ran September 26, – October 1, 2019, at NYU Gallatin Gallery in New York, March 6-8, 2020 at the Beyond the Bars Conference at Columbia University, and with new participants November 14, 2020 – January 1, 2021 at the African American Museum in Philadelphia with a Mural Arts of Philadelphia mural October 2021.

Panelist: Andy Eisen, Univeristy of Utah
Andy Eisen is a Visiting Assistant Professor of History at Stetson University. In 2015, he co-founded the Community Education Project, a higher education in prison program offering liberal arts instruction at the Tomoka Correctional Institution. Since 2018, he has collaborated with incarcerated scholars to challenge entrenched narratives on slavery and Indian Removal in East Florida, culminating in the creation of a traveling exhibit focused on histories of resistance to settler violence.

Panelist: Anastazia Schmid, University of California-Riverside
Anastazia Schmid is an artist, poet, activist, and PhD student in Ethnic Studies at University of California-Riverside. She blends her knowledge and artistic expressions in her work and contributes her time and talents to numerous charitable, activist, and outreach causes. She is a founding member of the Indiana Women’s Prison History Project, a research team engaged in re-writing the history of women’s prisons and institutions. Her area of emphasis is nineteenth century gender and sexuality: the history of gynecology/obstetrics, medicalization of women’s bodies, sex work, epistemic injustice/ violence, and trauma. She is co-author of the play The Duchess of Stringtown. She also works in collaboration with Abolition Journal Collective, IDOC Watch anarchist collective, the Lumina Foundation, National Council of Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, Constructing Our Future, Focus Re-Entry Initiative, Silent Cry, Inc., Underground Scholars, and Memento Mori Paranormal History Hunters.