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History Dept., Herter Hall Room 612
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Amherst, MA 01003-9312

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2016-2017 Feinberg Family Distinguished Lecture Series

The U.S. in the Age of Mass Incarceration

Overview | Fall Calendar | Spring Preview | K-12 Offerings | Curricular Connections | Transportation and Accessibility | About the Lecture Series | About Kenneth Feinberg | Poster

How is it that the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world? What forces led us here? What alternatives are on the horizon?

The 2016-2017 Feinberg Family Distinguished Lecture Series will explore the ways that state violence, mass incarceration, and mass criminalization have transformed the U.S. economy, culture and society. More than a dozen panels, performances, gallery exhibitions, and lectures by the nation's leading scholars, artists and activists will explore a wide range of topics, from police brutality, immigration detention, and carceral feminism to the consequences of incarceration for women, people of color, and LGBTQ individuals. The series will culminate in the opening of the national traveling exhibition States of Incarceration: A National Dialogue of Local Stories.

This Feinberg Series aims to offer meaningful events that consider the carceral state in historical perspective and that will support and amplify ongoing work by community groups and activists, enriching undergraduate and graduate education at UMass and surrounding educational institutions. Taken together, these powerful events will explore the many ways in which the carceral state impacts our lives and our world in deep and far-reaching ways.

All events are FREE and open to the public. Click here to join out mailing list.


Fall Calendar of Events

Friday, September 9 – Inside/Outside: The Politics of Social Change, A Panel Discussion on Mass Incarceration

A panel discussion hosted by the University Without Walls Social Justice Residency with John Bracey (UMass Amherst W.E.B. DuBois Department of Afro-American Studies), Heshima Moja (University Without Walls), Marianne Bullock (Prison Birth Project). Co-sponsored by the Feinberg Family Distinguished Lecture Series. 7:30pm, UMass Center at Springfield


Wednesday, September 14 -- Middle of Nowhere

Film screening of Ava DuVernay's groundbreaking film Middle of Nowhere (2012). After the film, Geert Dhondt (John Jay College of Criminal Justice) will give a short talk exploring the political-economic structures that have led to the quadrupling of the US prison population 1980 to 2008, and why this growth has been targeted at black and brown people. Hosted by the Center for Popular Economics "Reel Economics" file series and co-sponsored by the Feinberg Family Distinguished Lecture Series. 7:00pm, Unitarian Universalist Community of Amherst (121 North Pleasant St, Amherst). More info here.

Tuesday, September 20 – Women, Incarceration and Carceral Feminism, Keynote Event

Women are the fastest growing segment of the US prison population, and women of color and trans women are incarcerated at disproportionate rates. This panel will discuss what this means for women, children, and families, including how to address violence against women in the age of mass incarceration. With Andrea James (Families for Justice as Healing, National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls), Mariame Kaba (Project NIA and Love & Protect), Victoria Law (freelance journalist, author of Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women), Herschelle Reaves (Activist, Springfield, MA), and Elias Vitulli (Gender Studies, Mount Holyoke College). Copies of the presenters' books will be available for purchase. 5:30pm, Cape Cod Lounge, UMass Amherst Student Center. More info here

Wednesday, September 28 – The Circumference of a Prison: Youth, Race, and the Failures of the American Justice System, Feature Lecture

Lecture and book signing with Reginald Dwayne Betts, author of A Question of Freedom, PEN New England Award winner and national spokesperson for the Campaign for Youth Justice. Arrested at age sixteen, Betts served eight years in an adult prison. Today, Betts uses his experiences to speak about the current state of the criminal justice system—including sentencing juveniles as adults, solitary confinement, maximum security prisons, the collateral consequences of a criminal record—and presents promising ideas for reform. Books will be available for purchase at the event, courtesy of Amherst Books. 7pm, Student Union Ballroom, UMass Amherst Student Center. More info here

Wednesday, October 5 Racist and Systemic Police Violence, Chicago Style

Attorney Flint Taylor (People's Law Office) will discuss police torture and violence in Chicago, focusing on the 1969 assassination of Black Panther leaders Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, the torture of African American suspects by police commander Jon Burge, and the recent videotaped police murder of Laquan McDonald. Co-sponsored by the Commonwealth Honors College, Legal Studies, the Pre-Law Advising Office, Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies, Anthropology, Afro-American Studies, and Western Mass ACLU. 4:30pm ,Herter Annex 231, UMass Amherst.

Thursday, October 13 U.S. Neoslavery: A History of the Prison Industrial Present

Lecture by scholar-activist Dennis Childs (UC San Diego). Hosted by the Social Thought and Political Economy Program and co-sponsored by the American Studies Program, the Department of English, the Feinberg Family Distinguished Lecture Series, and the Department of History. 4:00pm, Bernie Dallas Room, Goodell Hall, UMass Amherst. More info here

Monday, October 17 – Chained in Silence: A History of Black Women and Convict Labor

Lecture and book signing with award-winning historian Talitha L. LeFlouria (University of Virginia) on the plight of post-Civil War black women prisoners and their day-to-day struggles to overcome work-related abuses and violence.  Copies of LeFlouria's prize-winning book Chained in Silence will be available for purchase. UMass/Five College Graduate Program in History Distinguished Annual Lecture. 4:30pm, Bernie Dallas Room, Goodell Hall, UMass Amherst. More info here

Wednesday, October 26 – Resisting Police Violence in Springfield and Beyond: Mothers, Scholars, and Queer People of Color Speak Out

An evening with local and national voices, Kissa Owens (mother of Delano Walker), Andrea Ritchie (attorney, writer, Soros Justice Fellow), ShaeShae Quest (OutNow), Maria Ververis (mother of Michael Ververis), and Rhonda Y. Williams (scholar and community activist). Co-hosted by OutNow, Arise for Social Justice, and Project Operation Change, with the STCC School of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. 7pm, Scibelli Hall Auditorium, STCC, Building 2. More info here

Thursday, October 27 – Conversation with Dr. Rhonda Y. Williams

"Dr. Rhonda," as she is called, has been engaged in local and community efforts, including on police and criminal justice reform. She is author of Concrete Demands: The Search for Black Power in the 20th Century and the award-winning The Politics of Public Housing; is founder and director of the Social Justice Institute at Case Western Reserve University; and as one of the "Cleveland 8," has been a voice for justice in the Tamir Rice case. Attendees are invited to bring their lunches. Beverages and dessert provided. 12pm, Herter Hall 601, UMass Amherst. More info here

Tuesday, November 1 – Concentration Camps, American Style: Japanese Americans and WWII

On the eve of the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066 which authorized the removal and incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans, this lecture by Franklin Odo (Amherst College) explores the history and legacy of Japanese internment. 5pm, Herter Hall 601, UMass Amherst. More info here

Monday, November 7 – Know Your Rights

Workshop with Northampton attorney Luke Ryan on rights and legal advice in handling encounters with law enforcement. 6:30pm, Campus Center 904, UMass Amherst

Thursday, November 10 – “Alien” Incarcerations: Migrants in Detention

A panel discussion on the history and current realities of the migrant detention regime. With David Hernández (Latina/o Studies, Mount Holyoke College), Carl Lindskoog (History, Raritan Valley Community College), Megan Kludt, (Curran and Berger Immigration Law), and Mizue Aizeki (Immigrant Defense Project). With the UMass School of Public Policy. 4:30pm, Bernie Dallas Room, Goodell Hall, UMass Amherst. More info here

Tuesday, November 15 – Historicizing the Carceral State: Race, Sex, and Power in Early America

This lecture by Jen Manion (Amherst College) explores how the penitentiary system in early America exploited racist ideologies, gender norms, sexual desire, and antipathy towards the poor to justify its existence and expansion. Manion’s research suggests that the use of incarceration grew as women, enslaved people, and indentured servants—those previously with no legal standing—increasingly claimed their own right to life, liberty, and happiness. 5pm, Herter Hall 601, UMass Amherst. More info here

Tuesday, November 29 – The Collateral Consequences of a Criminal Record

A panel discussion with Veronica McNair, Elaine Arsenault, Donald Perry, and Jafet Robles. These four western Massachusetts residents will share their experiences with incarceration, providing a first-hand, human perspective on the effects of being directly impacted by the carceral state Co-hosted with Project Operation Change. 6pm, Herter Hall 601, UMass Amherst. More info here


Spring Preview


Check back in the fall for a full schedule of spring 2017 events


January 23 - March 3, 2017 – Made in America: Unfree Labor in an Era of Mass Incarceration

Made in America is a contemporary art exhibition featuring the work of artists and activists who explore how exploitative prison labor profits state correctional services, private corporations, political interests, and passive consumers. In contrast to these formalized systems of labor, the creative and intellectual work of incarcerated individuals, also included in the exhibition, is often actively suppressed as subversive. Includes work by Sheila Pinkel, Jesse Krimes, Chelsea Hogue (UMass MFA) and Sarah Rice, and incarcerated cartoonists and writers whose work is featured in the digital archives of the Real Cost of Prisons Project. Exhibit Hours: M-F, 10:30-4:30pm, Su, 2-5pm. Opening Reception, Thursday, Feb 2, 5-8pm, Hampshire College Art Gallery, Harold F. Johnson Library, Hampshire College

Thursday, February 16 – Crack Attack: Los Angeles and the Forgotten History of America's War on Drugs

Lecture by award-winning historian and public intellectual Donna Murch (Rutgers University). Location and Time TBA.

February – Climbing PoeTree

Multi-voice spoken word, hip hop, and multimedia theater performance in Holyoke, MA by the award winning duo Climbing PoeTree. Co-hosted by Wistariahurst Museum. Date and location TBA.

March 1-30 – States of Incarceration: A National Dialogue of Local Histories, Exhibit and Community Events

Created by over 500 people in 17 states, this interactive, nationally traveling exhibit by the Humanities Action Lab explores the past, present, and future of incarceration, including experiences of incarceration here in western Massachusetts. The exhibit will be in Holyoke, MA from March 1-12 at the Wauregan Bldg (420 Dwight St) and hosted by Wistariahurst Museum. Opening reception at 6pm on March 1. The exhibit will be in Northampton, MA from March 13-30 at Forbes Library (20 West St.), and Historic Northampton (46 Bridge St). A full schedule of community programs accompanying the exhibit is forthcoming. Additional events include a Northampton-wide read of Orange is the New Black hosted by Forbes Library, gallery events, a local history installation at Historic Northampton, and more. With support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

March 30 – Local Action Forum, Exhibit Capstone Event

This highly participatory forum will bring students, scholars, community members and activists from central and western Massachusetts together to talk about work going on to support and build the collective power of individuals, families, and communities affected by mass incarceration. Registration required. Participants will view the exhibit and complete shared readings in advance. Hosted and facilitated by the UMass Alliance for Community Transformation. 4:30-6:30pm, Location TBA.

Offerings for K-12 Teachers and Students

K-12 Educators! Please join us for an associated professional development series led by award-winning social justice educator Dr. Antonio Nieves Martinez (UMass Amherst). This free series, Teaching in the Age of Mass Incarceration, will support educators across content areas in exploring these issues in their classrooms. PDPs and graduate credit available (additional fees may apply for graduate credit). This series is offered with the Collaborative for Educational Services. More info here.

Additionally, financial support is available for school field trips to series events and exhibits. Contact for more information.


Curricular Connections

Five College students and the general public are invited to enroll in the UMass History Department’s official Feinberg course History 200: “New Approaches to History: Warfare in the American Homeland, Police and Prisons in the US” taught by Professor Chris Tinson. Additional university courses are connected to the series in various ways, including field trips to Feinberg events and class projects contributing to series initiatives. For more information about individual courses, contact the instructor. Courses may be open to the general public upon request. The Feinberg series welcomes additional collaborations from classes at UMass, the Five Colleges, local community colleges and beyond! To inquire about possibilities and to list your course here, contact outreach@

Official Course
Fall 2016, History 200 (UMass): "New Approaches to History: Warfare in the American Homeland, Police and Prisons in the US." Professor Chris Tinson, HS GenEd, more info here

Additional Associated Courses

Fall 2016, First Year Seminar 110PQ (Mount Holyoke College): “The Politics of Inequality,” Professor David Hernandez. More info here
Fall 2016, Gender Studies 333PN (Mount Holyoke College): “Mass Incarceration in the U.S.
Professor Elias Vitulli. Students will attend several events over the course of the fall semester. More info here
Fall 2016, History 150 (UMass): “U.S. History to 1876,” Professor Dan Chard. More info here
Fall 2016, History 151 (UMass): “U.S. History since 1876,” Professor Julie de Chantal. More info here
Fall 2016, History 154 (UMass): “Social Change in the 1960s,” Professor Dan Chard. More info here
Fall 2016, History 220 (UMass): “Capatalism and Alternatives in Latin America,” Professor Kevin Young. More info here
● Fall 2016, History 245 (Amherst College): “U.S. Carceral Culture” Professor Jen Manion, more info here
Fall 2016, History 280 (Smith College): “Globalization, Im/migration, and Transnational Cultures,” Professor Jennifer Guglielmo. More info here
● Fall 2016, History 373 (UMass): "U.S. Thought and Culture II,"
Professor Jennifer Fronc. More info here
● Fall 2016, History 388 (UMass): "Women's History to 1890," Professor Julie de Chantal. More info here
● Fall 2016, History 397DV (UMass): "History of Domestic Violence Law,"
Professor Jennifer Nye. More info here
● Fall 2016, History 398A (UMass): "Career Development Practicum,"
Mark Roblee. More info here
● Fall 2016, History 450 (UMass): "Junior Year Writing Seminar: Latin American Revolutions,"
Professor Kevin Young. More info here
● Fall 2016, Latina/o Studies 360 (Mount Holyoke College): "Latina/o Studies," Professor David Hernandez. More info here
● Fall 2016, Sociology 392J (UMass): "Race and Policing,"
Professor Benjamin Brucato. More info here
● Fall 2016, University Without Walls Social Justice Residency
, more info here
● Spring 2017, Anthropology 380 (UMass): “Grassroots Community Organizing”
Professor Jen Sandler with the University Alliance for Community Transformation. Students in this course will be active participants in the Local Action Forum
● Spring 2017, History 389 (UMass): "US Women's History since 1890" Professor Laura Lovett
● Spring 2017, History 397 (UMass): “Public History Workshop: Social Justice Humanities”
Professor Marla Miller. Students will develop projects contributing to the States of Incarceration exhibit. More info here.



Transportation and Accessibility

Campus parking lots and the Campus Center Parking Garage off Commonwealth Ave (1 Campus Center Way) are free after 5pm. For earlier events, please use the Campus Center Garage ($1.75/hr) or the metered Visitor Parking Lot (300 Massachusetts Ave, $1.50/hr). Goodell Hall, the Student Center and the Campus Center are a short walk from the Campus Center Garage. UMass Herter Hall is located directly behind the Haigis Mall bus stop and is a short walk from the the Visitor Parking Lot. Click here for bus schedules, and click here for an interactive campus map.

All UMass events are wheelchair accessible. Click here for more information about accessible parking on the UMass campus. Accessibility information forthcoming about off-campus venues. We are working to make all events more accessible to all of our community members. If you have questions or would like to request specific accommodations, please contact

About the Lecture Series

The Feinberg Family Distinguished Lecture Series is series of events hosted every other academic year by the Department of History at UMass Amherst. Each series focuses on a pressing contemporary issue in historical perspective. In previous years, the series has addressed themes such as Civil Rights, sport and society, the value of human life, truth and reconciliation, and immigration. The Series is made possible thanks to the generosity of UMass History Department alumnus Kenneth R. Feinberg (1967) and associates.

Kenneth Feinberg (Diane Lederman / The Republican)

The 2016-2017 Feinberg series was planned by the UMass Amherst History Department in consultation with a community and faculty advisory committee. We thank our advisors: Lois Ahrens (Real Cost of Prisons Project), Elaine Arsenault, Vira Douangmany Cage (Western Mass ACLU), David Hernández (Mount Holyoke College), Toussaint Losier (UMass Amherst), Donald Perry (Project Operation Change), Holly Richardson (OutNow, Arise for Social Justice), Jen Sandler (UMass Amherst), Chris Tinson (Hampshire), and Elias Vitulli (Mount Holyoke College). History Department committee members include Marla Miller (co-chair), Jennifer Nye (co-chair), Sigrid Schmalzer, Brian Bunk, and Jessica Johnson, with leadership from History Department Chair Joye Bowman and support from graduate assistants Julie Peterson and Chelsea Miller.

The Feinberg Family Distinguished Lecture Series is made possible thanks to the generosity of UMass history department alumnus Kenneth R. Feinberg (B. A., 1967) and associates. Kenneth R. Feinberg grew up in Brockton, Massachusetts and received his B. A. in History from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1967. A renowned attorney and one of the nation’s leading experts in resolving legal disputes out of court, he served as special-settlement master in a number of major class-action suits involving victims of asbestos, Agent Orange, securities fraud, and the Dalkon shield. Most prominently, Feinberg served as director of the Congressional fund to assist the families of those killed or injured in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. He oversaw the distribution of almost $7,000,000,000 and his book, What is Life Worth?: The Unprecedented Effort to Compensate the Victims of 9/11 (Perseus, 2005), grew out of that experience. Mr. Feinberg has been the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including an honorary doctorate from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2002.

Image Credit: "Freedom" by Ronnie Goodman.