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Beyond Prisons — Episode 9: Captive Nation feat. Dan Berger

Dan Berger joins Brian Sonenstein and Kim Wilson for episode 9 of Beyond Prisons to discuss his book, “Captive Nation: Black Prison Organizing in the Civil Rights Era.”

We begin the conversation by looking at whose voices are heard in conversations on mass incarceration and the importance of telling the history of this struggle from the vantage point of incarcerated people. Dan explains that although jails and courtrooms have been critical battlegrounds for Black people’s human rights movements throughout American history, the influence of Black prison organizing is often glossed over, despite its central role in struggles from emancipation to the 1960’s era civil rights movement and beyond.

We discuss the increasing use of prisons as props in mainstream culture, where the focus is placed on the phenomenon of mass incarceration instead of the problem that is prison. We also talk about the erasure of Black political prisoners, who have their revolutionary ideas stolen from them by white American and European intellectuals.

In addition to telling us what abolition means to him, Dan shares how letter writing with Black political prisoners was formative to his understanding of race, capitalism, and incarceration in America from a young age.

Dan Berger is an associate professor of comparative ethnic studies at the University of Washington Bothell. He is the author of several books and won the 2015 James A. Rawley Prize from the Organization of American Historians for “Captive Nation.”

Buy “Captive Nation” from UNC Press.

Follow Dan Berger on Twitter @dnbrgr.

Read Dan’s work at AAIHS.

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Jailhouse Lawyers Speak:

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Music & Production: Jared Ware

Beyond Prisons

Beyond Prisons

Beyond Prisons is a podcast on incarceration and prison abolition that elevates people directly impacted by the system. Hosted by Kim Wilson and Brian Sonenstein.