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Dr. Heather Ann Thompson is a native Detroiter currently  on faculty in the Departments of African American Studies and History at Temple University. In 2015 she will be joining the faculty of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Thompson has just completed the first comprehensive history of the Attica Prison Rebellion of 1971 and its legacy for Pantheon Books. This book is slated for a 2015 release. To recover this story Thompson has immersed herself in legal, state, federal, prison, and personal records related to the Attica uprising and its aftermath (some never-before-seen) located in archives, governmental institutions, and various individual collections around the country and the world. With these varied and rich resources she seeks to recapture the full, dramatic, gripping, multi-faceted, and complex story that was Attica, and hopes to underscore for readers everywhere this event’s historical as well as contemporary importance.

While completing this history of the Attica Uprising, Thompson has written numerous popular as well as scholarly articles on the history of mass incarceration as well as its current impact. These include pieces for the New York Times, The Atlantic, Salon.com, Dissent, New Labor Forum, as well as the award-winning articles: “Why Mass Incarceration Matters: Rethinking Crisis, Decline and Transformation in Postwar American History” (Journal of American History) and “Rethinking Working Class Struggle through the Lens of the Carceral State: Toward a Labor History of Inmates and Guards (Labor: Working  Class Studies of the Americas). Thompson’s recent piece in the Atlantic Monthly on how mass incarceration has distorted democracy in America  has also just been named a finalist for the best magazine article of 2014 award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

On the policy front Thompson recently served on a National Academy of Sciences blue-ribbon panel that studied the causes and consequences of mass incarceration in the U.S. The two-year, $1.5 million project was sponsored by the National Institute of Justice and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Thompson serves as well on the boards of several policy organizations including the Prison Policy Initiative  the Eastern State Penitentiary, a historic site, and on the advisory boards of Life of the Law. . She also works in an advisory capacity with the Center for Community Change and the Open Society Foundation on issues related to work.

On the history front,  Thompson recently was honored to be named a Distinguished Lecturer by the Organization of American Historians and, in addition to recently completing Blood in the Water: the Attica Prison uprising of 1971 for Pantheon books, Thompson is also the author of Whose Detroit: Politics, Labor and Race in a Modern American City as well as the edited collection, Speaking Out: Protest and Activism in the 1960s and 1970s. Along with Rhonda Y. Williams (Case Western Reserve) Thompson also edits a manuscript series for UNC Press, Justice, Power, and Politics and is the sole editor of the series, American Social Movements of the Twentieth Century published by Routledge.  She has also consulted on several documentary films including Criminal Injustice at Attica.  

This spring and next fall Thompson will be speaking at a number of symposia, conferences, and institutions around the country as well as in Europe and you will find her on various radio stations, including programs on NPR and Sirius Radio.


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