Voices of Mass Incarceration: A Symposium


symposium poster with image of poster entitled "Change Our Worlds" by Shyama Kuver in collaboration with The People's Paper Co-op; created for the 2023 Black Mama's Bail Out
Inset poster: “Change Our Worlds” by Shyama Kuver in collaboration with The People’s Paper Co-op; created for the 2023 Black Mama’s Bail Out

Wednesday, September 27 – Friday, September 29, 2023

Please note that registration has closed for in-person attendance at the symposium. You can register to join the waitlist, and register to attend virtually. No registration is required to attend the exhibit opening.

Registration required @ voicesofmassincarceration.eventbrite.com

NOTE: In-person attendance on Thursday and Friday is now at capacity. Please feel free to register to join us virtually. There are still in-person seats available for Wednesday.

Read the feature story, “Library exhibition on Mumia Abu-Jamal to shed light on the experience and impact of incarceration” in News from Brown.

Symposium Program

Voices of Mass Incarceration: A Symposium will examine the history and impact of U.S. mass incarceration through scholarly analysis along with music, poetry, and reflection. Opening with a keynote discussion featuring Angela Y. Davis, Pam Africa, Julia Wright, and Johanna Fernández ’93, and moderated by Brown Professor Tricia Rose, the three-day symposium gathers together more than two dozen noted experts and artists working and studying incarceration and its wide-ranging effects on society. The second day of the symposium will also mark the opening of the Mumia Abu-Jamal papers for research at the John Hay Library with the launch of the exhibit Mumia Abu-Jamal: A Portrait of Mass Incarceration. This exhibition centers on the writing, music and art of Mumia Abu-Jamal, whose papers anchor the John Hay Library’s Voices of Mass Incarceration in the United States collection.

Presented by Brown University Library, the Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women, and the Ruth J. Simmons Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice.

OPENING KEYNOTE CONVERSATION: The Feminist Fight to Bring Mumia Home

Wednesday, September 27, 2023 | 7 – 9 p.m. 
Salomon Center for Teaching and Learning, DeCiccio Family Auditorium


  • Unfortunately, Pam Africa is unexpectedly unable to attend the event. (She is the Chairwoman of the International Concerned Family and Friends for Mumia Abu-Jamal; Minister of Confrontation, The Move Organization)
  • Angela Y. Davis – Distinguished Professor Emerita of History of Consciousness and Feminist Studies at University of California, Santa Cruz
  • Johanna Fernández ‘93 – Associate Professor, Department of History, Baruch College, CUNY
  • Julia Wright – Author, Mumia Abu-Jamal United Nations Liaison Group


Tricia Rose – Chancellor’s Professor of Africana Studies, Associate Dean of the Faculty for Special Initiatives, Director of the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America, Brown University


  • 7 – 7:10 p.m. – Opening remarks and panelist introductions by Nicole Gonzalez Van Cleve – Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, Brown University
  • 7:10 – 8:45 p.m. – Keynote panel discussion
  • 8:45 – 9 p.m. – Q&A
  • 9 – 10 p.m. – Reception in Sayles Hall, located next door to the Salomon Center


Thursday, September 28, 2023 | 9:30 a.m. – 4:10 p.m.
Granoff Center for the Creative Arts, Martinos Auditorium

Panel Discussions and Performances

Featuring noted experts in the fields of carceral history and art; plus poetry readings, invocation, and the first public performance of original music by Mumia Abu-Jamal.


  • 9:30 – 9:40 a.m. – Welcome remarks by Amanda Strauss – Associate University Librarian for Special Collections and Director of the John Hay Library, Brown University
  • 9:40 – 9:50 a.m. – Invocation by Reverend Delphain (Del) Demosthenes – Associate Chaplain for the Protestant Community at Brown University
  • 10 – 10:30 a.m. – Performance of Mumia Abu-Jamal’s original music composition, “Vampire Nation,” by ensemble led by Marcus R. Grant A.M.’23, Ph.D.’27 – Professional drummer, percussionist, musicologist, and educator; with Camila Cortina, piano; Tyreek McDole, vocals; Kweku Aggrey, bass; and Leland Baker, saxophone 
  • 10:30 – 10:45 a.m. – Morning Break – During the break, Brown Department of Public Safety Officer Dustin Coleman will stop by the venue with emotional support dog, Elvy. A black Labrador retriever, Elvy joined Brown in 2022 as the department’s first comfort dog. Attendees interested in meeting Elvy are welcome to give pats and take selfies with her. Elvy and Officer Coleman will attend break sessions throughout the two days.

10:45 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. – Panel 1 Q&A included

Biography as History: Mumia Abu-Jamal, Philadelphia and the Nation

This panel will examine Mumia Abu-Jamal’s biography, case, and personal narrative against the backdrop of the violence of the police state within Philadelphia and the nation. Like other northern cities, Philadelphia was ground zero for controlling and patrolling racial segregation as well as movements advancing Black radical thought. Mumia’s case exists within this broader historical moment (which is both a local and national phenomenon). Panelists will discuss this history and its links to the present-day social problems related to white supremacy, censorship of Black scholarship/thought, and the persistence of mass incarceration and its corollaries. 



Nicole Gonzalez Van Cleve – Associate Professor of Sociology, Brown University                                                                                                                                     

  • 12:15 – 1:25 p.m. – Lunch Break – Visit by comfort dog Elvy
  • 1:35 – 2:05 p.m. – Poetic interlude with Damaris B. Hill, Ph.D.
  • 2:05 – 2:20 p.m. – Afternoon Break – Visit by comfort dog Elvy

2:20 – 3:50 p.m. – Panel 2 – Q&A included

Spaces of Healing in the Public Realm

This panel brings together a diverse group of artists and activists to discuss projects that employ art and social practices as a means of reimagining and creating public spaces of healing, reflection, and renewal for and by incarcerated persons.



Craig Barton – University Architect and Professor of the Practice in Architecture, Brown University

3:50 – 4:10 p.m. – Closing remarks John Eason – Watson Family University Associate Professor of Sociology and International and Public Affairs, Brown University

EXHIBITION OPENING AND RECEPTION: Mumia Abu-Jamal: A Portrait of Mass Incarceration

Thursday, September 28, 2023 | 4:30 – 6 p.m.
John Hay Library

By presenting items from Mumia Abu-Jamal’s life in prison alongside broader information and objects related to mass incarceration, this exhibition offers a unique opportunity to examine sites and systems of incarceration through both a deeply personal lens and from a holistic perspective. In doing so, it paints a comprehensive portrait of the vast impact the carceral state has had on the human experience in the United States, where two million individuals are currently incarcerated. 


  • 4:30 – 4:35 p.m. – Opening remarks by Amanda Strauss – Associate University Librarian for Special Collections and Director of the John Hay Library, Brown University
  • 4:35 – 4:45 p.m. – Curator’s remarks by Christopher West – Curator of the Black Diaspora, John Hay Library, Brown University
  • 4:45 – 5 p.m. – Poetic interlude with Celes Tisdale – Distinguished Emeritus Professor of English, State University of New York at Buffalo
  • 5 – 6 p.m. – Exhibition viewing


Friday, September 29, 2023 | 9:30 a.m. – 4:35 p.m.
Granoff Center for the Creative Arts, Martinos Auditorium

Panel Discussions and Performances

Featuring noted experts in the fields of policing and racial justice, prisons and health, and women and incarceration; plus a poetry reading and invocation


9:30 – 9:40 a.m. – Welcome and remarks by Amanda Strauss – Associate University Librarian for Special Collections and Director of the John Hay Library, Brown University

9:40 – 11 a.m. – Panel 3 – Q&A included

The Policing Impact on the Carceral System

Panelists will discuss the impact of police and public safety on the carceral system from the perspective of police accountability and community trust.


  • Robert A. Brown, Ph.D. – Chair & Professor, Department of Criminal Justice; Chair, Department of Social Sciences, University of Maryland Eastern Shore
  • Martha Hurley, M.A., Ph.D. – Dean of Liberal Arts, Communication and Social Sciences, Sinclair College, Dayton Ohio
  • Kim Neal, J.D. – Independent Policing Auditor & Director, Office of Independent Policing Auditor, City of Alexandria, Virginia


Rodney Chatman – Vice President for Public Safety and Emergency Management, Brown University

11 – 11:15 a.m. – Morning Break – Visit by comfort dog Elvy

11:15 a.m. – 12:45 p.m. – Panel 4 Q&A included

The Crisis of Medical Care and the Carceral State

Systemic changes in healthcare in the United States have put a strain on existing healthcare; this is clearest in the carceral system. With 44% of prison detainees receiving a psychiatric diagnosis, prisons are now among the largest providers of healthcare, outstripping major hospitals and other care facilities. This panel of renowned medical and psychiatric experts will discuss major issues in medical care for incarcerated individuals including mental health and hepatitis C.



Christine E. Montross – Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, Associate Professor of Medical Science, Brown University

  • 12:50 – 2:10 p.m. – Lunch Break – Visit by comfort dog Elvy
  • 2:10 – 2:25 p.m. – Poetic interlude with Christopher Presfield 

2:30 – 4 p.m. – Panel 5 Q&A included

Say Her Name: Gender, Justice, and Healing

For more than 50 years, women have been one of the fastest growing segments of the prisoner population. Changes in laws, in sentencing, and in policing have put more women behind bars than ever before. Despite the heavy investment, there is little evidence that this approach reduces or prevents harm, that it mitigates human conflicts, or delivers justice. This panel takes up questions about how women and girls are policed and how their punishment differs from that of men. Most importantly, it considers how gender-informed approaches to justice can mitigate human harm and conflict, and set the conditions for individual, familial, and community healing. 


  • Sashi James – Director of Reimagining Communities for The National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls
  • Gabreélla (Ella) Friday – Postdoctoral Researcher in Race and Ethnicity, Brown University
  • Susan Burton – Founder, A New Way of Life Reentry Project


Lisa L. Biggs – John Atwater and Diana Nelson Assistant Professor of the Arts and Africana Studies, Brown University

  • 4:00 – 4:15 p.m. – Closing Remarks by Andre C. Willis – Watson Family University Associate Professor of Sociology and International and Public Affairs, Brown University
  • 4:15 – 4:25 p.m. – Closing invocation by Reverend Delphain (Del) Demosthenes – Associate Chaplain for the Protestant Community at Brown University
  • 4:25 – 4:35 p.m. – Thank you and closing remarks by Amanda Strauss

EXHIBITION VIEWING: Mumia Abu-Jamal: A Portrait of Mass Incarceration

Friday, September 29, 2023 | 4 – 5 p.m.
John Hay Library

Participant Biographies

Pam Africa

Pam Africa is an activist deeply embedded in social justice work in Philadelphia. She is the coordinator of the International Concerned Family & Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal and is the Minister of Confrontation for The MOVE Organization.

Craig Barton

Craig Barton headshot
Photo by Russ Bryant

Craig Barton, is the University Architect and Professor of the Practice in Architecture at Brown University. Prior to this appointment, he was Director of The Design School at Arizona State University and Provost at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Mr. Barton is an alumnus of Brown University and the School of Visual Arts in New York. He holds a Master of Architecture degree from the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University.  In 1994, Mr. Barton was Loeb Fellow at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design.Thro ugh his research, and teaching Mr. Barton investigates issues of cultural and historical preservation and their interpretation through architectural and urban design. He is the author of the

editor of the anthology, Sites of Memory: Perspectives on Architecture and Race and has contributed to range of anthologies including the City of Memory, Row: Trajectories Through the Shotgun House, Reflections on Teaching and Writing Urbanism.

Lisa L. Biggs

Lisa Biggs headshot

Lisa L. Biggs, PhD is the John Atwater and Diana Nelson Assistant Professor of the Arts and Africana Studies at Brown University. She is an actor, a playwright, and the author of The Healing Stage: Black Women, Incarceration, and the Art of Transformation (Ohio State University Press, 2022), which investigates the impact of theatre programs for women incarcerated in the U.S. and in South Africa.

Robert A. Brown

Robert Brown headshot

Dr. Robert A. Brown, Ph.D. is a Professor and Chair of the Department of Criminal Justice, and the Department of Social Sciences, at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.  He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Hampton University, his Master’s degree in Criminology with a specialization in Corrections from Indiana State University, and he earned his Doctorate in Criminal Justice with a specialization in Policing from the University of Cincinnati.  Dr. Brown has worked as a sentencing mitigation specialist for the not-for-profit, Maryland-based, National Center on Institutions and Alternatives (NCIA) coordinating offender-specific rehabilitation and supervision plans for offenders at the state and federal levels.  His research focuses on street-level interactions between police officers and the public (e.g., citation, arrest, use of force), fear of crime, alternatives to incarceration, and the influence of race and gender on criminal justice processing.

Todd Steven Burroughs

Todd Burroughs headshot

Todd Steven Burroughs, Ph.D., is an independent researcher and writer based in Newark, N.J. He has taught at Howard University and Morgan State University. A professional journalist since 1985, he has written for The Source, ColorLines, Black Issues Book Review and The Crisis magazines, websites such as BlackAmericaWeb.com and TheRoot.com and newspapers such as The New York Amsterdam News, the New Jersey edition of The Afro-American newspaper chain and The (Newark, N.J.) Star-Ledger, New Jersey’s largest newspaper. He served as an editor, contributing columnist and national correspondent for the NNPA News Service (nnpa.org; BlackPressUSA.com), the nation’s only newswire for Black newspapers. 

Burroughs, a Ph.D. in Communication from the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism, is a lifelong student of the history of Black media. He is the author of Warrior Princess: A People’s Biography of Ida B. Wells, and Marvel’s Black Panther: A Comic Book Biography, From Stan Lee to Ta-Nehisi Coates, both published by Diasporic Africa Press. His audiobook, Son-Shine On Cracked Sidewalks, deals with the 2014 mayoral election of Ras Baraka, the son of the late activist and writer Amiri Baraka, in Newark, N.J. He is the co-author with Herb Boyd of Civil Rights: Yesterday and Today and co-editor, with Jared A. Ball, full professor in the Africana Studies Department of Morgan State University, of A Lie of Reinvention: Correcting Manning Marable’s Malcolm X. In 2020, Burroughs has written a full draft of Talking Drums and Raised Fists: Mumia Abu-Jamal, A Biography of a Voice and is the editor of The Trials of Mumia Abu-Jamal, A Biography in 25 Voices, a biographical anthology also published by Diasporic Africa Press. 

Susan Burton

Susan Burton headshot

Susan Burton is a visionary, inspirational leader of the criminal justice reform movement, author of award-winning memoir, Becoming Ms. Burton, and founder of A New Way of Life Reentry Project (ANWOL). ANWOL’s approach to reentry is internationally recognized as an innovative model that creates welcoming and healing spaces for women to rejoin their communities after incarceration while developing as leaders to work toward liberation. The impact of her work and leadership has been recognized through numerous awards. In 2010, she was named a CNN Top Ten Hero and received the prestigious Citizen Activist Award from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. She is also the recipient of the Encore Purpose Prize (2012) and the James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award (2014) among many more.

In 2018, Ms. Burton launched the SAFE (Sisterhood Alliance for Freedom and Equality) Housing Network to replicate the effective and humane reentry model.  The network now includes 31 members located across the United States, Uganda, Nigeria, and Kenya. It is through this work that she thrives, enjoying the progress of her foundations, all while knowing how many individual lives she has touched and changed throughout her own journey.  

Rodney Chatman

Rodney Chatman headshot

Rodney Chatman currently serves as the Vice President for Public Safety and Emergency Management / Chief of Police at Brown University. He is also the North Atlantic Regional Director for the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators. 2023 marks his 33rd year in law enforcement comprised of 15 years of municipal police ,18 years of campus policing and a four year stint as Safety Director of St. Bernard Ohio. 

Rodney’s alma mater is the University of Cincinnati where he earned bachelors and master degrees in criminal justice and a certificate in African American Studies. Among his numerous certifications and distinctions, he received a certification in hostage / crisis negotiations from the FBI and training credentials in Implicit Bias for Police Officers.

Angela Y. Davis

Angela Y. Davis headshot

Angela Y. Davis is Distinguished Professor Emerita of history of consciousness and feminist studies at University of California, Santa Cruz. An activist, writer, and lecturer, her work focuses on prisons, police, abolition and the related intersections of race, gender, and class. She is the author of many books, from Angela Davis: An Autobiography to Freedom is a Constant Struggle.

Reverend Delphain (Del) Demosthenes

Del Demosthenes headshot

Reverend Delphain (Del) Demosthenes serves as the Associate Chaplain for the Protestant Community at Brown University. He holds certifications as a licensed social worker and an ordained minister within the American Baptist Churches of the USA. Rev. Demosthenes received his BA in Biblical Studies from Nyack College, a Master of Divinity from The Divinity School at Yale University, and a Master of Social Work from New York University. With a diverse counseling background, Reverend Demosthenes has provided guidance to a wide array of clients, including individuals of all ages, couples, adolescents, and families. Beyond his role as a chaplain at Brown, he also holds the position of senior pastor at Memorial Baptist Church in Seekonk, Massachusetts.

John Eason

John Eason headshot

John Major Eason is an Associate Professor of Sociology and International and Public Affairs at Brown University.

He holds a Ph.D. from the Department of Sociology at the University of Chicago. Professor Eason, a native of Evanston, Illinois received a B.A. in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and a M.P.P. from the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago.

Before entering graduate school, he was a church-based community organizer focusing on housing and criminal justice issues. He also served as a political organizer for then Illinois State Senator Barack Obama.

His research interest challenges existing models and develops new theories of community, health, race, punishment, and rural/urban processes in several ways. First, by tracing the emergence of the rural ghetto he establishes a new conceptual model of rural neighborhoods. Next, by demonstrating the function of the ghetto in rural communities he extends concentrated disadvantage from urban to rural community process. These relationships are explored through his book, “Big House on the Prairie: Rise of the Rural Ghetto and Prison Proliferation” (University of Chicago Press).

He uses multi-method, multi-level approaches in empirical investigations ranging from imprisonment, prisoner reentry, murder, healthcare access, and health disparities across the rural-urban continuum.

Johanna Fernández

Johanna Fernández headshot

Johanna Fernández ‘93 is associate professor of History at the Graduate Center and Baruch College of the City University of New York (CUNY). Dr. Fernández is author of The Young Lords: A Radical History, recipient of the American Book Award; the three top awards of the Organization of American Historians (OAH), including the prestigious Frederick Jackson Turner award for best first book in history; and the New York City Book Award. Research for the manuscript propelled Dr. Fernández’s 2014 Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) lawsuit against the NYPD, which led to the recovery of the “lost” Handschu files, the largest repository of police surveillance records in the country, namely over one million surveillance files of New Yorkers compiled by the NYPD between 1954-1972, during the heigh of the Cold War, including those of Malcolm X. Among others, her awards include the Fulbright Scholars grant to the Middle East and North Africa, which took her to Jordan. Professor Fernández has curated a number of exhibitions, including, ¡Presente! The Young Lords in New York, an exhibition in three NYC museums, which was cited by the New York Times as one of 2015’s Top 10, Best In Art.  In 2022, Brown University acquired through Johanna Fernández the papers of imprisoned radio journalist and veteran Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal, a development covered widely in major newspapers across the country. Professor Fernández is the writer and executive producer of the film, Justice on Trial: the Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal (BigNoise Films, 2010) and editor of Writing on the Wall: Selected Prison Writings of Mumia Abu-Jamal (City Lights, 2015). Dr. Fernández is host of WBAI’s 7am morning show on Fridays, What’s Going On, at 99.5 FM in NYC.

Gabreélla (Ella) Friday

Gabreella Friday Headshot

Gabreélla (Ella) Friday is a postdoctoral researcher dually appointed in the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs and the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Brown University. Her areas of specialization include mass incarceration, women, gender and sexuality studies, time and social theory, and social movements. She worked as a prisoner’s rights advocate, community organizer, and researcher for her forthcoming book project, Weaponizing and Resisting Time. Here, she explores incarcerated women’s relationship to and resistance of time in a rural upstate New York jail where she conducted four-years ethnographic advocacy. Friday received her Ph.D. in Sociology from Binghamton University in 2022.

Maria Gaspar

Maria Gaspar Headshot

Maria Gaspar is a Chicago-born interdisciplinary artist whose practice addresses issues of spatial justice to amplify, mediate, or divert structures of power through individual and collective gestures. Gaspar is the recipient of Guggenheim Fellowship for the Creative Arts, Latinx Artist Fellowship, United States Artists Fellowship, Frieze Impact Prize, Art Matters Award, Imagining Justice Art Grant, Robert Rauschenberg Artist as Activist Fellowship, Joan Mitchell Emerging Artist Grant, and Creative Capital Award. Gaspar has exhibited at venues including MoMA PS1, New York, NY; the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, TX; and the Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts, Birmingham, AL. She is an Associate Professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, holds an MFA in Studio Arts from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and a BFA from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY.

Marcus R. Grant

Marcus Grant Headshot

Marcus R. Grant AM’23, PhD’27 is a professional drummer, percussionist, musicologist, and educator from West Chester, Pennsylvania. He is currently a Brown University PhD candidate in Musicology & Ethnomusicology with a secondary certificate study in the Department of Africana Studies. Grant holds a BM in jazz performance from Temple University, an MM jazz performance, an MM in musicology from the University of Miami (FL), and an MA in musicology and ethnomusicology from Brown University. The scope of his research has focused on Black Lives Matter protest music and hip-hop, and the intersections of musical protest and digital culture. Other research interests include jazz studies and music in the Black church. In April 2023, Grant produced a concert at Brown University centering the voices and political protest music of Abbey Lincoln and Nina Simone entitled “‘How it Feels to be Free’: Celebrating the Voices of Abbey Lincoln and Nina Simone.” The concert was a culmination of his archival work at Rutgers University Institute of Jazz Studies (IJS) and the Music Division at the Library of Congress. Grant then completed his MA requirements with a paper which focused on Lincoln’s performance of Max Roach and Oscar Brown Jr.’s “Freedom Now Suite” with emphasis on voice, gender, race, and Black transnational protest. This project was also a result of his work studying with Dr. Keisha Blain in the class “Black Transnational Feminism.” Grant wishes to continue his work on Black protest music, Black transnationalism, and avant garde sonic expressions throughout the twentieth and twenty-first century as he prepares for his dissertation.

DaMaris B. Hill

DaMaris Hill by Beowulf Sheehan
The poet DaMaris Hill (USA), New York, New York, November 2, 2022. Photograph © Beowulf Sheehan

DaMaris B. Hill, PhD is a poet and creative scholar.  Her most recent book, Breath Better Spent: Living Black Girlhood, is deemed “urgent” and “luminous” in a starred Publisher’s Weekly review. Hill’s first poetry collection, A Bound Woman Is a Dangerous Thing, is a powerful narrative-in-verse that bears witness to Black women burdened by incarceration. It was an Amazon #1 Best Seller in African American Poetry, a Publishers Weekly Top 10 History Title, and 2020 NAACP Image Award nominee for Outstanding Literary Work in Poetry. Hill’s other books include The Fluid Boundaries of Suffrage and Jim Crow: Staking Claims in the American Heartland, and \Vi-zə-bəl\   \Teks-chərs\ (Visible Textures).  Her digital work, “Shut Up In My Bones,” is a twenty-first century poem that uses remix/pastiche/intertextuality to honor a specific cultural past, while working to construct visions of a better future.

Similar to her creative process, Hill’s scholarly research is interdisciplinary. She is a 2023 fellow at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University. Hill is a Professor of Creative Writing, English, and African American Studies at the University of Kentucky.

Elizabeth Hinton

Elizabeth Hinton Headshot

Elizabeth Hinton is Professor of History, African American Studies, and Law at Yale University. Considered one of the nation’s leading experts on criminalization and policing, Hinton’s research focuses on the persistence of poverty, racial inequality, and urban violence in the 20th century United States. She is the author of the award-winning books From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime: The Making of Mass Incarceration in America (Harvard University Press, 2016) and America on Fire: The Untold History of Police Violence and Black Rebellion Since the 1960s (Liveright, 2021). Her articles and op-eds can be found in the pages of Nature, Science, the Journal of American History, the Journal of Urban History, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, New York Magazine, The Boston Review, The Nation, and Time. Hinton’s research has received support from the Ford Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Martha Hurley

Martha Hurley Headshot

Martha Hurley, M.A., Ph.D. is a respected scholar with research and training expertise in the areas of change management, criminal justice policy analysis, restorative justice, corrections, and community-police relationship building. She is the author of Aging in Prison: The Integration of Research and Practice, and co-author of Trends in Corrections: Interviews with Corrections Leaders Around the World, Volume Two and Correctional Administration and Change Management, as well as numerous book chapters, articles, conference proceedings, and trainings on issues related to crime and justice. Her prison cell desegregation research was cited in the 2004 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Johnson v. CA. Dr. Hurley has also trained international professionals in Thailand, Malaysia, and the UAE on best practices for substance use disorders and international police leaders on effective police-community partnerships at a conference sponsored by UNODC in Vienna, Austria. As a local community-engaged scholar, she has focused attention on the importance of ensuring that resident concerns about policing, safety, and quality of life are heard and responded to by local public officials.

Born and raised in Darlington, South Carolina, she earned her Ph.D. in Criminal Justice from the University of Cincinnati in Cincinnati, Ohio; her M.A. in Sociology from the University of Cincinnati in Cincinnati, Ohio; her B.A. in Sociology from Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina.

Sashi James

Sashi James Headshot

Sashi James is the director of reimagining communities for Families for Justice as Healing and The National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls. She is a daughter of formerly incarcerated parents and because of her experience she understands the trauma endured when a parent is separated from their child because of incarceration. This experience has inspired her to focus on creating what different looks like within communities as people begin to imagine and implement a world without Jails, Prisons and police, by organizing directly impacted people to build the infrastructure of Reimagining Communities. She launched the first basic income guaranteed program lead by formerly incarcerated women that provides basic income guarantee to currently incarcerated women. She advocates for the use of clemency on the state and federal level and has worked on The National Council’s 100 women 100 day campaign encouraging the immediate release of women who are elderly, survived and punished and long timers. Also leading a clemency tour displaying quilts with the names of stage and federal women currently eligible for clemency. Sashi oversees a partnership with the Women’s Bar association to train attorneys and coordinate representation for clemency petitions, and mobilizes college campuses to engage with communities impacted by incarceration. Her most important role is as the mother of Katori Rae James and she is the daughter of Jon and Andrea James.

Phillip “Rock” Lester

Phillip Lester Headshot

Phillip Lester is an entrepreneurial and community activist. He grew up in the Harvard Park area in South Central Los Angeles. Phillip Lester is currently a board member of the Watts Neighborhood Council. He has an educational background in mathematics, social science and arts.

Phillip Lester is also the Southern Califorian Chapter Coordinator for TimeDone, a system impacted national organization that focuses on lifting barriers and changing the narrative around system impacted people with old records. Phillip Lester is the co founder of “Break it to make it” a educational program within LACC that assists and accommodates the needs of system impacted students at the community college level.

In the fall of 2021, Phillip Lester was honored with a certificate of appreciation by Arizona State University educators for his role in developing its ‘Future ID’ program and course work.  

Phillip Lester over the last decade has dedicated himself to working with organizations like ARC, YJC and The Reverence Project in Watts, changing policy, mentoring youth and adults alike with the intent to change the tide of yesterday. 

Growing up in LA, being a victim of gun violence and mass incarceration, Phillip Lester became inspired to be the change that he wanted to see. His work and unique experience are a powerful example of what it means to be a survivor of trauma and to overcome.

Hope Metcalf

Hope Metcalf Headshot

Hope Metcalf is the Executive Director of the Orville H. Schell, Jr. Center for International Human Rights Law and co-teaches the Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic. Since 2010, she and her students have supported the local movement to end solitary confinement and other barbaric practices in Connecticut’s prisons. A special focus is shifting the politics underlying the carceral state so that incarcerated people and their communities have a seat at the table to drive change. Metcalf also co-founded the Peter Gruber Rule of Law Clinic, which ran from 2017-2021 in response to threats to democracy within the United States; her work in that Clinic focused especially on the targeting of Muslim communities and undoing prison gerrymandering. Earlier roles at the Law School include as director of the Liman Center for Public Interest Law (2010 to 2014) and as project director of the National Litigation Project of the Lowenstein Clinic, founded in 2002 to respond to rights violations arising out of U.S. counterterrorism policy. Metcalf’s lawyering, teaching and research focus on the rights of people in various forms of detention and the ways in which human rights lawyers can best support movement-led social change. Metcalf is a graduate of Yale College and New York University School of Law.

Christine E. Montross

Christine Montross Headshot

A 2015 Guggenheim Fellow in Nonfiction, Dr. Christine Montross is Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. She is a practicing inpatient psychiatrist and performs forensic psychiatric examinations. She completed medical school and residency training at Brown University, where she received the Isaac Ray Award in Psychiatry and the Martin B. Keller Outstanding Brown Psychiatry Resident Award.

She received her undergraduate degrees and a Master of Fine Arts in poetry from the University of Michigan, where she also taught writing classes as a lecturer following graduation. She was born and raised in Indianapolis.

Dr. Montross’s first book, Body of Work, was named an Editors’ Choice by The New York Times and one of The Washington Post’s best nonfiction books of 2007. Her second book, Falling Into the Fire, was named a New Yorker Book to Watch Out For. Her latest book, Waiting for an Echo, was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. It was also named a New York Times Book to Watch For, a Time Magazine Book to Read in July and an Amazon.com Best Book of the Month. She has also written for many national publications including The New York Times, The New England Journal of Medicine, Time Magazine, The Washington Post Book World, Good Housekeeping and O, The Oprah Magazine.

Dr. Montross has been named a 2017-2018 Faculty Fellow at the Cogut Center for the Humanities, a 2010 MacColl Johnson Fellow in Poetry, and the winner of the 2009 Eugene and Marilyn Glick Emerging Indiana Authors Award. She has also had several poems published in literary journals, and her manuscript Embouchure was a finalist for the National Poetry Series.

Kim Neal

Kim Neal headshot

Kim Neal, JD became the City of Alexandria, Virginia’s Inaugural Independent Policing Auditor and Director in December 2022. Overall, her key responsibility is to enhance positive police accountability to the community through investigations as well as monitoring and/or mediating administrative investigations, operational reviews and all other law enforcement functions in which policing impacts community. Prior to coming to Alexandria, Kim was the Inaugural Independent Police Oversight Monitor and Director for the City of Fort Worth, Texas. While in Fort Worth, she developed a restorative justice mediation program to address community concerns about policing as an alternative to the traditional complaint investigation process to repair and transform community-police encounters proactively. Preceding Fort Worth, she also served in a similar capacity in Cincinnati, Ohio as the Executive Director of the Citizen Complaint Authority, where Kim oversaw the independent investigations of misconduct allegations against Cincinnati law enforcement. It was in Cincinnati she created an interactive program called “Real Talk with CCA” to enhance positive encounters between young adults and law enforcement. Kim is a Washington, DC native who has dedicated most of her career to public service. She’s held senior level positions in law, ethics, policy, employment, investigations, higher education, privacy and information disclosure in both the private and public sectors at the federal, state and local levels of government. Kim earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Georgetown University; her Juris Doctorate from University of Baltimore School of Law; and she holds certifications in compliance and ethics as well as civilian oversight of law enforcement. Kim has been a lifelong volunteer and donor of social awareness matters. She is a member of many social and criminal justice organizations with recent acknowledgements in 2021 and 2022 as one of Fort Worth metropolitan area’s most influential people.

Christopher Presfield 

Christopher Presfield is an American prison poet. He is also an editor and publisher of fine poetry from a variety of international artists, including Jimmy Santiago Baca, Maggie Jaffee, Cid Corman, Sharon Dubiago, John Taylor, Lucille Lang Day, and many more. He is the author of Gray Air: Poems from Prison, 1983-1999 (1999).

Josiah D. Rich

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Josiah D. Rich, MD, MPH is professor of medicine and epidemiology at Brown University and attending physician at The Miriam and Rhode Island Hospitals. He is a clinical researcher with nearly 30 years of continuous federal research funding and a board-certified infectious disease and addiction specialist with over 30 years of clinical experience. He is a consultant to the Rhode Island Department of Corrections where he has provided weekly clinical care since 1994. 

He has testified in the US Congress, is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine, has presented at conferences across the country and has authored over 250 peer reviewed publications in academic journals. 

He earned his undergraduate degree at Columbia college, his medical degree from the University of Massachusetts and a master’s degree in public health from Harvard University. He completed his internship and residency at Emory University Affiliated Hospitals, and fellowship in infectious diseases at the Harvard combined program.

Tricia Rose

Tricia Rose Headshot
© Richard Howard Photography

A native New Yorker, Tricia Rose graduated from Yale University and then earned her Ph.D. in American Studies from Brown University. After teaching at NYU and UC Santa Cruz, she returned to Brown where she is Chancellor’s Professor of Africana Studies, Associate Dean of the Faculty for Special Initiatives, and the Director of the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America. 

She has been awarded for her teaching and scholarship and has received awards and scholarly fellowships from the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the American Association of University Women. 

Rose is the author of three highly regarded books, an edited collection, and several articles. Now, she is working on a multimedia research project called: How Systemic Racism Works, a project designed to explain and make visible the influential but largely obscured power of systemic racial discrimination in present-day society.

In addition to her research, public speaking, and duties at Brown, Rose was also a co-producer and co-host with Cornel West for The Tight Rope Podcast, a pandemic podcast on race, love and justice. For more information or to stay in touch, she encourages you to connect with her on her website www.triciarose.com, or through social media: Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

Gregory Sale

Gregory Sale headshot

Collaborating with individuals and communities on aesthetic responses to social challenges, artist, educator Gregory Sale creates large-scale, often long-term public projects. For close to 20 years, Sale has undertaken a series of projects focused on reframing the narrative of reentering society after incarceration, culminating in Future IDsat Alcatraz (2018-19). This yearlong, collaborative project, exhibition, and programmatic series was created in partnership with National Park Service, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, and 20 community organizations. In recent years, Sale and a group of justice-involved leaders and allies formed the Future IDs Art and Justice Leadership Cohort, exploring how socially engaged art practice can support and further their effectiveness as catalysts of social change by rethinking structural and systemic power relations. His work has received support from the Rainin Foundation, Creative Capital, A Blade of Grass, and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Based in Phoenix and Los Angeles, Sale is Professor of Expanded Arts and Public Practice for the School of Art, Herberger Institute of Design and the Arts, Arizona State University.

Amanda Strauss

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Amanda Strauss is Associate University Librarian for Special Collections and Director of the John Hay Library.  She believes that the collection of rare books, manuscripts and archives are repositories of hope and that by building and empowering a team of library professionals who match that vision the library becomes an active change agent. In partnership with the Pembroke Center, the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice, and the Center for the Study of Race in Ethnicity in America, Amanda developed the Voices of Mass Incarceration in the United States collections for the John Hay Library.

Amanda holds an undergraduate degree from Willamette University and earned her MLIS with a concentration in Archival Studies from Simmons College and her MA in History from Simmons College.  Amanda is also scholar of human rights archives and twentieth century women’s movements in the United States and poet. She is the author of “Treading the Ground of Contested Memory: Archivists and the Human Rights Movement in Chile” (Archival Science 2015) and I am a survivor: Childhood Sexual Abuses Collections & the Archives (Nursing Clio 2023).

jackie sumell

jackie sumell headshot

jackie sumell’s work is at the intersection of abolition, social practice, and radical gardening. She has spent the last 2-decades working directly with incarcerated folx, most notably, her elders Herman Wallace, Albert Woodfox and Robert King– collectively known as the Angola 3. This work has been exhibited extensively throughout the U.S. and Europe, notably at MoMA PS-1, UCAIS, Project Row Houses, Brown University Cohen Gallery, and Prospect New Orleans. Ms sumell has been the recipient of multiple residencies and fellowships including, but not limited to a: 2022 Margarite Casey Foundation Grantee, 2021 Art Matters Fellowship & Joan Mitchell Studio Fellowship, 2020 Art-4-Justice Fellowship, S.O.U.R.C.E. Fellowship, 2020 Creative Capital Grant, A Blade of Grass Fellowship, MSU’s Critical Race Studies Fellowship, Robert Rauschenberg Artist-as-Activist Fellowship, Soros Justice Fellowship, Eyebeam Project Fellowship and a Schloss Solitude Residency Fellowship. sumell’s practices invites us to imagine a landscape without prisons. She is based in New Orleans, Louisiana where she continues to work on Herman’s House, Solitary Gardens, The Abolitionist’s Apothecary, The Abolitionist’s Sanctuary, and several other community generated, advocacy based projects.

Heather Ann Thompson

Heather Ann Thompson headshot

Heather Ann Thompson is a historian at the University of Michigan. Her latest book, Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and its Legacy, won the Pulitzer Prize, the Bancroft Prize, and five other book awards. It was also a finalist for the National Book Award, The LA Times Book Award, and the Cunliff Book Prize. Thompson writes regularly on the history of policing, mass incarceration and the current criminal justice system for myriad scholarly and popular publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Time, The Atlantic, and the New Yorker. She also works in the film and television industry as an historical advisor as well as a consulting producer. Thompson’s work in the policy arena includes having served on a National Academy of Sciences blue-ribbon panel that studied the causes and consequences of mass incarceration in the United States and on its standing Committee for Law and Justice, as well as serving on myriad justice policy boards. She currently co-runs the Carceral State Project at the University of Michigan and recently was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship to work on her next book about the long history of the 1985 police bombing of MOVE in Philadelphia.

Celes Tisdale

Celes Tisdale headshot

Former Buffalo, New York and Western New York area resident, Professor Celes Tisdale, announces the publication of his best-selling new book, When the Smoke Cleared: Attica Prison Poems and Journal, by Duke University Press. He is also the author of Betcha Ain’t: Poems from Attica (Broadside Press), and We Be Poetin’ (We the People Publishers).

Professor Tisdale is Distinguished Emeritus Professor of English having received the State University of New York Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, and he has taught at several colleges and universities and read his poetry and lectured throughout the United States and Canada. He acted on the OFF-Broadway stage prior to his work as a radio and television personality for ABC, CBS, and NBC, and he was an on-air announcer and host of his own weekly public affairs television program (ABC).

The Buffalo, New York Philharmonic Orchestra conductor invited Professor Tisdale to narrate Sergei Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” and Aaron Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait”.

Professor Tisdale’s love for children led him to become a professional storyteller for Young Audiences of America, Inc. He and his wife now reside in Georgia.

Among the many favorable reviews of When the Smoke Cleared: Attica Prison Poems and Journal are those by The Paris Review, PEN America, Poets and Writers, Inc., the magazine: Dissent, the Harvard University School of Law publication: Inquest, and the publication, The Nation.

Professor Tisdale’s many invitations to discuss carceral concerns include the School ofLaw at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, and PEN America in Manhattan, New York.

Nicole Gonzalez Van Cleve

Nicole Gonzalez Van Cleve headshot

Nicole Gonzalez Van Cleve, Ph.D., is writer, sociologist and legal scholar whose research examines how the criminal justice system reproduces racism despite due process protections. She is the author of the acclaimed book, Crook County: Racism and Injustice in America’s Largest Criminal Court, which is the winner of 11 awards or finalist distinctions for its contribution to the areas of sociology, law, criminal justice, and media. She is the winner of her discipline’s highest book honor, The American Sociological Association’s Distinguished Book Prize as well as an NAACP Image Award Finalist in the category of “Outstanding Literary Work – Debut Author.”  Her new book, The Waiting Room, is part of the series The Southside from Amazon Original Stories and is a collaboration with the Pulitzer Prize–winning team at The Marshall Project. 

Gonzalez Van Cleve’s written commentary has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, NBC News, Crain’s Chicago Business, and CNN.  Her legal commentary has been featured on NPR, NBC News, CNN, and MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show. Currently, Dr. Gonzalez Van Cleve is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at Brown University and an affiliated scholar with the American Bar Foundation in Chicago, IL.

Lauren M. Weinstock

Lauren Weinstock headshot

Lauren M. Weinstock, PhD is a clinical psychologist and Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at Brown University. At Brown, she maintains an active, federally-funded program of research on the development and evaluation of adjunctive behavioral interventions for suicide prevention, particularly delivered around vulnerable care transitions (e.g., from inpatient to outpatient treatment, following emergency department discharge, and from criminal legal to community settings). She is MPI of the NIMH-funded National Center for Health and Justice Integration for Suicide Prevention, co-developer of the Coping Long-Term with Active Suicide Program, and Associate Director of Brown’s Consortium from Research Innovation in Suicide Prevention. Outside of Brown, Dr. Weinstock recently completed a 4-year term as a standing member of the NIMH Mental Health Services Review Committee, serves on the Scientific Advisory of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and has provided consultation to numerous additional national and international workgroups on best practices in research and treatment of serious mental illness and suicide prevention, particularly at the intersection of the healthcare and criminal legal systems.

Andre C. Willis 

Andre Willis headshot

Andre C. Willis is an Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Brown University. He is a philosopher of religion whose work focuses on Enlightenment reflections on religion, African American religious thought, critical theory, and democratic citizenship as it relates to ‘religious’ notions of hope, recognition, and belonging. Willis earned a B.A. at Yale in philosophy and his M.A. and Ph. D. at Harvard in the Committee on the Study of Religion. He is the author of Towards a Humean True Religion (2015) and is currently working on a manuscript about African American religion and politics tentatively titled “Afro-theisms and Post-democracy”. He has published articles in international journals such as Hume Studies, The Journal of Scottish Philosophy, Political Theology, Critical Philosophy of Race, and Radical America. At Brown he serves as the Director of the Program on Race and Resilience and Co-Chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Oversight Board.

Julia Wright

Julia Wright headshot

Julia Wright is the elder daughter of Richard Wright and the executor of his literary estate. She has worked as an independent journalist and essayist in France, West Africa and the United States.

Le Monde, Black Scholar, Afriscope, Jeune Afrique, Panaf Newswire.blog, Black Agenda Report, Fighting Words, Workers World and the French version of the Spark founded by Kwame Nkrumah are some of the media that have carried her pieces.

A longtime abolitionist, she ensures a liaison with the United Nations Human Rights Council to protect the rights of imprisoned journalist and writer Mumia Abu-Jamal.

She is currently working on a memoir in Southern Europe.

Voices of Mass Incarceration in the United States — New John Hay Library Collecting Direction

Papers of Mumia Abu-Jamal and and Johanna Fernández ‘93 will anchor Voices of Mass Incarceration in the United States, the new collecting direction at the John Hay Library.

More Information / Media

For information in addition to what is below, please see the New York Times article, “Brown University Acquires the Papers of Mumia Abu-Jamal,” by Jenny Schuessler and the News from Brown article, “To advance research on incarceration, Brown acquires personal papers of prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal,” by Jill Kimball.

Voices of Mass Incarceration in the United States

As of 2022, the United States’ vast carceral system imprisons two million people — more than any other nation and with a growth rate of 500% since 1970. Though government and institutional records on incarceration, law, and policy abound, there is a paucity of archival materials by incarcerated individuals, their families, and advocates. There are fewer than twenty archival collections in the U.S. that represent individuals who are incarcerated. Most of these are small (5 folders; a handful of diaries). Until now, none of these have been collected directly from a currently incarcerated individual.

Voices of Mass Incarceration in the United States will provide essential research material to advance scholarship on the carceral state and its historical antecedents. 

Accessing the Collections 

The Mumia Abu-Jamal and Johanna Fernandez ‘93 collections will be open for research in fall 2023. We are committed to making these materials available to scholars within and beyond Brown, including creating avenues for scholars from Philadelphia and New York to be able to make use of the collections. Digitization of the materials and public events, including a symposium, are on the horizon.

Mumia Abu-Jamal

Referred to by the New York Times as the most recognized death row inmate in the world, Mumia Abu-Jamal is an American political activist and journalist who was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in 1982 for the 1981 killing of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. He became widely known while on death row for continuously proclaiming his innocence and fighting his conviction and for his writings and commentary on the criminal justice system in the United States, including the 1995 memoir, Live from Death Row. After numerous appeals and public pressure from the “Free Mumia” movement, in 2011 his death penalty sentence was overturned by a federal court and reduced to a sentence of life imprisonment without parole. He entered the prison’s general population early in 2012, and has continued to write about his experiences in and from prison while maintaining his innocence. In 2015, Abu-Jamal published Writing on the Wall: Selected Prison Writings of Mumia Abu-Jamal (City Lights, 2015), which was edited by Johanna Fernández.

Composed of approximately 60 boxes of papers that Abu-Jamal sent to Fernández since his imprisonment, and spanning from approximately 1981 – 2019, Abu-Jamal’s archive includes his personal experiences on death row; his ongoing 40+ year imprisonment in solitary confinement, maximum, and medium security Pennsylvania prisons; his reflections on civil rights, incarceration, and freedom; his activist life; and global reaction to his case articulated through activist work on his behalf through publications, film, and other media.

Johanna Fernández ‘93

Born and raised in the Bronx, NY as one of four siblings, Johanna Fernández ‘93 is the daughter of working-class immigrants from the Dominican Republic who fled the Trujillo dictatorship to come to the United States. The first in her family to graduate from college, Fernández received an AB in Literature and American Civilization from Brown in 1993 and later earned a PhD in History from Columbia University. While at Brown, Fernández was a member of Students for Admissions and Minority Aid and led the April 1992 student occupation of University Hall in hopes of pressuring Brown to move more rapidly towards the admission of students regardless of their ability to pay to attend.

Fernández teaches 20th century U.S. history and the history of social movements in the Department of History at Baruch College (CUNY). She is the author of the award-winning book, The Young Lords: A Radical History (UNC Press, February 2020), about the Puerto Rican counterpart to the Black Panther Party. In 2014, she sued the New York City Police Department, claiming that it had failed to produce public records of surveillance of the Young Lords in the 1960s and 1970s; police department employees found those surveillance documents, alongside NYPD dossiers and extensive surveillance of members of the Black Panthers and the Nation of Islam, in a Queens warehouse two years later.

A close friend and advocate of Abu-Jamal, Fernández co-edited with Abu-Jamal a special issue of the journal Socialism and Democracy, titled The Roots of Mass Incarceration in the US: Locking Up Black Dissidents and Punishing the Poor (Routledge, 2014). She is the editor of Writing on the Wall: Selected Prison Writings of Mumia Abu-Jamal (City Lights, 2015) and is the writer and producer of the film, Justice on Trial: the Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal (BigNoise Films, 2010). Fernández is also an active Brown alumna and has served on the Pembroke Center Advisory Council since 2018.

Spanning from approximately 1965-2021, this collection documents Fernández’s personal history, professional work, and activism. Composed of approximately 45+ boxes of documents, oral histories and digital records, this collection is comprehensive in its documentation of Fernández as a Dominican American community activist; her role as chief advocate on behalf of Mumia Abu-Jamal; her research on the history of the Young Lords Party; her legal fight to gain access to NYPD surveillance files; her work in radio and other media; and much more.

You Belong Here

The phrase “You Belong Here” is set above the front desk and in front of the exterior of the John Hay Library. According to Associate University Librarian for Special Collections Amanda Strauss:

I came to Brown to transform the John Hay Library into a boldly inclusive institution that is fully engaged with collections that illuminate the most pressing issues of our time. I am honored that Mumia Abu-Jamal and Johanna Fernandez ‘93 decided to place their collections at the Hay, and we will continue to collect voices of mass incarceration in the United States so that the archival record no longer excludes the voices and stories of individuals and communities affected by the carceral state.”

The John Hay Library is home to Brown University’s remarkable collections of rare books, manuscripts, and University Archives. We are committed to being an active partner in advancing the University’s academic mission. We are here for you.

Media contact: [email protected]
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John Hay Library Acquires José Rivera Papers

Lauded contemporary Latinx playwright’s papers will enrich the Hay’s holdings by artists of color in its distinctive Performance & Entertainment collecting area

The John Hay Library has acquired the papers of award-winning Puerto Rican-American playwright and screenwriter José Rivera. Serving as a foundational collection within the Hay’s Performance & Entertainment collecting direction, this trove of material will offer scholars and students a window into the contemporary life and work of a singularly talented writer whose work centers the lived experience of Puerto Rican-Americans. Consisting of 20 boxes, the papers include handwritten drafts, playscripts, notebooks, correspondence, promotional materials, press clippings, photographs, and juvenilia.

A page from a 2002 typed draft of José Rivera’s magical realist work “Lucky.” Mr. Rivera writes new pieces by hand; drafts are then typed for review and revision.

Amanda E. Strauss, Associate University Librarian for Special Collections, is thrilled that the Performance & Entertainment area of collecting will be bolstered in such a remarkable way: 

José Rivera is such an important creative voice, and this collection will allow students and scholars to understand his writing process and to see firsthand how he brings his vision to fruition. This material will be heavily used by an international audience, and I’m proud that Mr. Rivera chose the John Hay Library as his partner in preserving and making accessible his archival legacy. 

Born in Puerto Rico in 1955, Mr. Rivera moved to Long Island, NY with his family when he was five years old. He grew up surrounded by books. Though his grandparents could not read or write, they were gifted storytellers, and he realized he wanted to be a writer in his adolescent years. In 1989, he took part in the Sundance Institute workshop led by Nobel Prize winning writer and journalist Gabriel García Márquez, whose magical realist style has been an influence on his work. His plays have been produced internationally and include “Sueño,” which Mr. Rivera translated and adapted from the play by Pedro Calderón de la Barca, recently produced  this spring at Trinity Rep in Providence, RI and directed by Brown/Trinity alumna Tatyana-Marie Carlo, MFA’ 20 d. Mr. Rivera has written many plays, two of which received Obie Awards: “Marisol” (1993) and “References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot” (2001); other plays include “The Promise,” “Each Day Dies with Sleep,” “Cloud Tectonics,” “The Street of the Sun,” “Sonnets for an Old Century,” “School of the Americas,” “Brainpeople,” “Giants Have Us in Their Book,” and “The House of Ramon Iglesia.” 

Mr. Rivera visited Brown in April during which time he attended classes with English and Brown/Trinity MFA students, toured the construction site of the new Performing Arts Center with Brown Arts Institute leadership, and met with members of the Department of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies. Patricia Ybarra, Professor of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies, explains the significance of this acquisition:

Bringing José Rivera’s papers to Brown will allow researchers and artists to experience the thinking, aesthetics, and creative process of one of the most important and contemporary Latinx playwrights. This collection expands the Brown University Library’s commitment to diversity and inclusion in the arts by expanding their collections to include the papers of contemporary artists of color as a key part of the Hay Library’s rich archive of contemporary plays and performance.

Mr. Rivera’s plays have been published by Viking Press, Mentor Books, Dramatists Play Service, Dramatics magazine, Samuel French, Broadway Play Publishing, American Theatre magazine, Theatre Communications Group and Smith & Kraus. 

In addition to playwriting, Mr. Rivera is also a gifted and accomplished screenwriter. His screenplay for the feature film “The Motorcycle Diaries” was nominated for a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar in 2005, making him the first Puerto Rican writer to be nominated for an Academy Award. Also nominated for a BAFTA and a Writers Guild Award, “The Motorcycle Diaries” won top writing awards in Spain and Argentina. His screenplay, based on Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” premiered at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival and was distributed nationally in the winter of 2013. His film “Trade” was the first film to premiere at the United Nations, and he has many other screenplays and screenwriting credits to his name including work in television such as, “The House of Ramon Iglesia; A.K.A. Pablo” for PBS’s “American Playhouse” (Norman Lear, producer); “The Eddie Matos Story; Eerie, Indiana” (co-creator and producer); “Goosebumps; Mayhem” (Bob Cooper, producer); “The Conquest” (Ron Howard, producer); and “Latino Roots,” an untitled 10-hour limited series for HBO. Avery Willis Hoffman, Artistic Director of the Brown Arts Institute, says of Mr. Rivera’s writing:

José Rivera’s seminal works for stage and screen have tackled some of the most pressing social issues of our time — violence, racism and misogyny, mental illness, poverty, climate change; as we work towards the opening of our new Performing Arts Center in late 2023, new creative collaborations and ongoing engagements with artists such as José will define the powerful ways in which art makes space for the exploration of challenging topics.

Mr. Rivera is a former member of the Board of Directors of the Sundance Institute and has been a creative advisor for Screenwriting Labs in Utah, Jordan and India. A member of the LAByrinth Theatre Company and Ensemble Studio Theatre, he leads a weekly writing workshop in New York City, where he lives.

Cataloging of the contents of the collection is ongoing. Requests to view the collection can be made online through the John Hay Library’s website.

John Hay Library Acquires Archive of Spiderwoman Theater

Archive of legendary Indigenous theater furthers distinction and depth of Brown’s holdings in multiple interdisciplinary areas of study

First East Coast Pow Wow in New Haven in 1945, Spiderwoman Theater Archive

Providence, R.I. [Brown University] In 1976, when Muriel Miguel, her two sisters, and a diverse group of women founded Spiderwoman Theater in Brooklyn, NY, their aim was to interrogate and challenge anti-feminist narratives of the 1970s through high-caliber theatrical content written and performed by Native American women. A director, actor, playwright, choreographer, and educator, and member of the Kuna and Rappahannock Nations, Muriel — the Library’s connection to this incredible trove of materiel — is the Artistic Director for Spiderwoman Theater, and director for each of the 20 plus Spiderwoman productions. She and the Spiderwoman company draw on Indigenous storytelling traditions to create works that integrate art, dance, and music with humor and pop culture, simultaneously entertaining and educating. 

The archive is an indelible record of Spiderwoman’s history and the lives of Native American women onstage and off, and it brings extraordinary depth to the John Hay Library’s collections on Performance & Entertainment,  Global Lavender Voices, and more. Avery Willis Hoffman, Artistic Director, Brown Arts Institute, describes the impact Spiderwoman Theater and Muriel particularly have had on the practice of performance and the scholarly potential of her archive at Brown: “Muriel Miguel’s lifetime of contributions to the field of theater and Spiderwoman Theater’s mighty expansions on the realm of theatrical creativity is immeasurable; I have no doubt that the Archive will provide inspiration and a wealth of fruitful discoveries for future generations of students, faculty, visiting researchers and artists.” 

Recognized by Indigenous women in New York and beyond in the 1980s as a powerful representative of their voices and concerns, Spiderwoman Theater has since been globally renowned as an artistic force in the advancement of Indigenous women, artists, and cultural artisans. Its productions exist at the intersection of Indigenous life, sexism, classism, and violence in the lives of women — and at the vanguard of contemporary Western theatre. According to D. Rae Gould, Executive Director of Native American and Indigenous Studies, Adjunct Professor for American Studies, Affiliated Faculty in Anthropology, and Faculty Associate in the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice:

This collection will help to support and strengthen the new concentration in Critical Native American and Indigenous Studies that will launch in Fall 2022. We are grateful to have Spiderwoman Theater’s work at the University for future generations of students, faculty and other scholars. It will serve as a foundational collection for further development of the Creative Expressions area of the concentration, in particular, and expand our knowledge and understandings of her contributions to the field of Indigenous Theater.

Muriel Miguel, Co-founder, Spiderwoman Theater; credit: Shawn McPherson

In September 2019, Muriel presented Muriel Miguel: A Retrospective for the Brown University Library’s 15th Annual Don Wilmeth Endowed Lectureship in American Theatre, during which she shared the fascinating journey from her roots in Brooklyn to her landmark contributions to the contemporary feminist and Indigenous theatre movements in the United States, Canada, and around the world. Amanda Strauss, Associate University Librarian for Special Collections, reflects: 

Hearing Muriel speak in such an intimate setting and spending time with her since the lecture, learning about her life and her collection, are experiences that I will always treasure. I’m proud of the enduring relationship that the Hay has built with Muriel and, through her, Spiderwoman Theater, and am thrilled that we can be a gateway for the researchers, students, performing artists, and community members who will immerse themselves in this collection and draw from it inspiration and knowledge that will generate new scholarship and art.

The Library was honored to host Muriel, and is proud to preserve and provide broad research access to this unique collection. Once at the Hay Library, the materials will have an immediate and lasting impact on many areas of study at Brown, including Native American and Indigenous Studies, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Theatre Arts and Performance Studies and the Brown Arts Institute, where Muriel’s daughter Murielle Borst-Tarrant (Kuna, Rappahannock), Artistic Director and Founder of the Safe Harbor Indigenous Collective, is currently a visiting Professor of the Practice. Sarah dAngelo, Assistant Professor for Theatre Arts and Performance Studies, knows Murielle well and states, “Murielle is a third generation New Yorker, and carries her family’s legacy as an Indigenous theatre artist, activist, and cultural change maker. The Brown community is incredibly fortunate to have this opportunity to engage with her as one of the most vital and accomplished storytellers working in the American Theatre today.” Access to the Spiderwoman Theater archive and Murielle’s knowledge and experience will offer Brown students and faculty deep and authentic knowledge of Indigenous theatre specifically and the art of theatre writ large.

Muriel and her wife Deborah Ratelle are currently preparing the large archive for retrieval from their home in Brooklyn, NY. The Library anticipates that it will be at Brown and available for study in late spring 2023.

Announcement | New Publication on Chinese Rare Books in the Brown University Library

An Illustrated Catalogue of Ancient Chinese Books in the Brown University Library by Li Wang

Prestigious Chinese publisher, China Book Company, has published An Illustrated Catalogue of Ancient Chinese Books in the Brown University Library by Dr. Li Wang, the Library’s Curator of the East Asian Collection. The volume contains detailed bibliographic and research information on all Chinese rare books found in the Library published before the end of the Qing dynasty (1912). Most of the 256 books in the Catalogue are part of the Gardner Collection at the Rockefeller Library, though several of the books are held at the John Hay Library. 

This published work is a result of many years’ dedicated efforts in special collection management and providing Library patrons with an effective reference and research tool in Chinese and East Asian studies. In the Preface, the author expresses his sincere gratitude to many people who have helped and supported the long journey of research, especially Prof. Gardner and his family, former East Asian Collections curators and staff, other library colleagues, East Asian Studies faculty at Brown, students and scholars, and other friends, both domestic and international. 

The publication is a milestone in the development of the East Asian Library at Brown. 2020 marks the the 120th anniversary of the birth of Charles S. Gardner (Jan.1, 1900 – Nov. 30, 1966). This new book is not only a scholarly summary of Gardner’s legacy, but also a way to pay homage to this devoted and pioneering scholar in East Asian studies and cross-cultural exchange.

Announcement | Daniel G. Siegel ’57 Gift and Fellowship

Daniel G. Siegel ’57

The Library is pleased to announce the acquisition of books and manuscripts from the personal library of Daniel G. Siegel ’57, a member of the Library Advisory Council, a board member on the Friends of the Library, and a long and dedicated supporter of special collections at Brown. Mr. Siegel has twice received the Library’s highest honor, the William Williams Award–once as an individual for his generous gifts to special collections and once as a 2012 member of the Library Advisory Council for its support of the renovation of the John Hay Library.

Comprising over 3,000 books and 100 manuscripts, the items included in this recent gift focus mainly on American literature, American history, and the history of science, but also encompass a broad range of other subjects. The gift is particularly strong in association copies, which document the various ways in which intellectuals and activists interacted with ideas and with one another. 

Outstanding Highlights of the Gift

First edition of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass inscribed by Whitman and Oscar Wilde

Highlights of the gift include:

  • A first edition of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass inscribed by Whitman and Oscar Wilde
  • Lydia Maria Child’s Letters from New York inscribed to Margaret Fuller
  • King George III’s copy of Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson’s copy of the report on the Dred Scott case
  • Typescript of Philip Roth’s early short story “The Conversion of the Jews”
  • A letter from Albert Einstein discussing the Rosenbergs’ trial and Stalinist purges
  • A draft of the constitution of the Confederate States of America with annotations and corrections by Confederate Vice President Alexander Stevens
  • First editions of 19th century Russian novels
  • A complete set of pamphlets by visionary rocket scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky
  • Liberia Herald, vol. 1, no. 1, Monrovia, Liberia, March 6, 1830
Liberia Herald, vol. 1, no. 1, Monrovia, Liberia, March 6, 1830

Areas of Distinction

The gift expands on the existing holdings in Special Collections in nearly every direction, adding works of significant interest to alcohol and addiction studies, the development of the American West, the history of technology and its uses, natural history and materia medica, the Civil War era, women’s rights, religion, and social reforms of all kinds.

Access to the Materials

The collection is currently in-process. Available titles can be browsed here.

A Lifetime of Collecting and Giving

The materials in this gift reflect Mr. Siegel’s expansive vision of collecting and are an invaluable addition to the John Hay Library’s resources for research and teaching. The items in this gift join those from previous gifts from Mr. Siegel, which include the only surviving manuscript of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and foundational works in the history of science.

Manuscript of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four

Daniel G. Siegel ’57 Fellowship

To honor Mr. Siegel’s breathtaking generosity and the impact of his giving on special collections at Brown, the Library has established the Daniel G. Siegel ’57 Fellowship, a specialized component of the John Hay Library Undergraduate Fellowship Program.

The fellowship review committee will select one John Hay Library Undergraduate Fellow to be the Siegel Fellow, whose research focuses specifically on the collections of American literature and/or history at the Hay. Like the other fellows in the cohort, the Siegel Fellow will spend ten weeks in the summer building research skills using primary sources to develop an original project. Projects can take the form of a traditional research paper or may be creative or digital in format. Projects do not have to be completed by the end of the summer; the fellowship can serve as a start for a senior thesis, be a further exploration of work begun during a course, or allow a student a non-evaluative framework within which to explore a new topic. Fellows will work primarily in the Hay’s Gildor Family Special Collections Reading Room and will participate in a wide range of relevant workshops, with topics such as the history of the book and letterpress printing. All fellows will present their projects at a showcase in the fall.

Exhibit | Collecting with Distinction: Faculty Insights into Recent Acquisitions

Peruse the gallery and discover what is new and unique about Special Collections at the Hay Library.  Explore recent acquisitions from the 14th century to the present through the lens of renowned Brown faculty, and gain insight into the place where the past, present and individual connect.

Opening reception:  Friday, November 22nd, 4-6 PM

Dates: November 22, 2019 – February 28, 2020
Time: John Hay Library Hours
Location: Exhibition Gallery, John Hay Library, 20 Prospect Street, Providence

Exhibit | The Last Will of Walt Whitman

Camden, New Jersey: June 29, 1888
Brown University Library, Special Collections

In June of 1888, celebrated American poet Walt Whitman suffered a stroke, which left him partially paralyzed. Fearful he would not recover, Whitman drafted this will, which leaves the majority of his money to his sisters, his property to his brother, and names three literary executors. Whitman would survive for four more years, and go on to publish four more works, including his “Deathbed Edition” of Leaves of Grass.

This manuscript is just one of several thousand books and manuscripts recently presented to the library by Daniel G. Siegel ’57.

Exhibit Dates: October 4 – 31, 2019
Exhibit TimeJohn Hay Library Hours
Exhibit Location: Second Floor Landing, John Hay Library, 20 Prospect Street, Providence

Announcement | Network of Women Writers and Readers Crux of John Hay Library’s Janis Ian Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy

The John Hay Library is now home to renowned recording artist, writer, and activist Janis Ian’s collection of personally inscribed works of science fiction and fantasy, many by women and LGBTQ authors. 

Janis Ian holding guitar
Janis Ian

Providence, R.I. [Brown University Library] The John Hay Library at Brown University is delighted to announce the acquisition of Janis Ian’s personal library, including collections of books of contemporary science fiction and fantasy authors inscribed to her. Among these authors are Anne McCaffrey, George R. R. Martin, Mercedes Lackey, Mike Resnick, Nancy Kress, Neil Gaiman, Connie Willis, Harlan Ellison, Jane Yolen, Tanith Lee, Diane Duane, and many others. In all, the Library received approximately 200 volumes from Ms. Ian’s collection.

The John Hay Library is the Brown University Library’s repository for rare books, manuscripts, archives, and other special collections. Its holdings of U.S. and Canadian poetry, plays, and vocal music dating from 1609 to the present day are considered to be among the largest and most comprehensive of their kind in any research library, including significant clusters in women’s writings, LGBTQ literature, science fiction and fantasy, and modern first editions.

cover of The Dragonriders of Pern
Cover of “The Dragonriders of Pern” by Anne McCaffrey, part of the Janis Ian Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy at the John Hay Library

The Janis Ian Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy will take its place alongside unique items like the only surviving manuscript of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, the preeminent collection of H. P. Lovecraft’s papers, and a robust array of writings by more recent masters of speculative fiction such as Caitlín Kiernan and Samuel Delany.

Heather Cole, Curator for Literature and Popular Culture at the Hay Library observed, “The Janis Ian Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy substantially increases our holdings of women science fiction and fantasy authors. In addition, the fact that the books were owned by Ms. Ian—most with inscriptions—provides a wonderful record of a network of women writers and readers, something that is not always easily captured in library collections. Already a broad area of strength at the Hay, our materials in the science fiction and fantasy genres are significantly enhanced by this exciting acquisition. Brown students and researchers are certain to make great use of these materials, furthering scholarship in the many important areas of inquiry that are supported by this collection.”

Title page of “The Dragonriders of Pern,” inscribed by author Anne McCaffrey to Janis Ian

A Grammy Award-winning singer and musician, Janis Ian has been writing and recording music for five decades with a total of ten Grammy nominations in eight different categories. She has been at the forefront of numerous social movements, using music as a force of change, and has impacted the lives and works of artists from Nina Simone to Johnny Cash to Joan Baez. Artists including Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, and Trevor Sewell have recorded duets with her.

Janis and her wife Pat are currently downsizing while Janis continues to make music and write children’s books, the first of which is the recently published The Tiny Mouse.

Ms. Ian’s library was cataloged by Mary Jo Duffy of Temporary Culture (Upper Montclair, New Jersey), who acted as Ms. Ian’s representative in the sale. Proceeds will benefit the Pearl Foundation, which endows scholarships for returning students.

Items in the Janis Ian Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy at the John Hay Library

The collection is currently in the process of being cataloged. Over 160 titles can now be found in the Library’s online catalog, with more titles being added each month.

Event | Exhibit Opening Reception for “Learning through Play: British and French Tabletop Games from the 18th and 19th Centuries”

Dissected puzzle, The British Sovereigns from William the Conqueror to George IV [1825] William Darton, London, England

On Friday, May 24, 2019 from 4 – 6 p.m. at the John Hay Library, the exhibit, Learning through Play: British and French Tabletop Games from the 18th and 19th Centuries,” will officially launch with an opening reception. This exhibit was created through a gift of Georgian and Victorian games, along with jigsaw puzzles and other related items, from Ellen Liman ’57, P’88, as well as a loan of 19th and 20th century French board games from Doug Liman ’88.

At 5 p.m., Ellen Liman and her son, celebrated filmmaker Doug Liman, will deliver remarks.

This event is free and open to the public.

More information about the exhibit.

The games join the John Hay Library’s rich collections of material on popular culture, and will be available online in May, and in the John Hay Library special collections reading room following the exhibition.

Date: Friday, May 24, 2019
Time: 4 – 6 p.m.; remarks at 5 p.m.
Location: John Hay Library, 20 Prospect Street, Providence, RI