Heather Ann Thompson

ThompsonAssociate Professor


Website: http://sites.temple.edu/heatherannthompson/


Crime, prisons, protest, movements, labor, urban, incarceration


Dr. Heather Ann Thompson is writing the first comprehensive history of the Attica Prison Rebellion of 1971 and its legacy for Pantheon Books. 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 received several research fellowships and awards including the Soros Justice Fellowship from the Open Society Institute.

Selected Publications

Heather Thompson is also the author of Whose Detroit: Politics, Labor and Race in a Modern American City (Cornell University Press: 2001) and has recently published an edited collection, Speaking Out: Protest and Activism in the 1960s and 1970s (Prentice Hall, 2009), as well as chapters on crime, punishment, and prison activism during the 1960s and 1970s in several edited collections. Thompson has also written numerous scholarly articles on the current crisis of mass incarceration including: “Why Mass Incarceration Matters: Rethinking Crisis, Decline and Transformation in Postwar American History” (Journal of American History, December 2010);  ”Downsizing the Carceral State: The Policy Implications of Prisoner Guard Unions” (Criminology and Public Policy, August, 2011);  ”The Prison Industrial Complex: A Growth Industry in a Shrinking Economy“ (New Labor Forum, Fall, 2012), <Also see: Response: Scott to Thompson (New Labor Forum, Spring, 2013); Reply: Thompson to Scott (New Labor Forum, Spring, 2013)>; “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, Fall, 2011); Blinded by a “Barbaric” South: Prison Horrors, Inmate Abuse, and the Ironic History of American Penal Reform (2010); and Criminalizing Kids: The Overlooked Reason for Failing Schools. (Dissent, October, 2011) and How Prisons Have Changed the Balance of Power in America. (The Atlantic. October 7, 2013.). In September 2011, she also published an oped in the New York Times on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of Attica titled: “The Lingering Injustice of Attica.” 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 is also consulting on two documentary films at present: a new  documentary on the Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 by award-winning filmmaker Chris Christopher and a new documentary on Algiers Hijacking of 1972 by award-winning filmmaker Maia Weschsler.

This spring and next fall Thompson will be speaking at a number of symposia, conferences, and institutions around the country and you will find her on various radio stations, including programs on NPR and Sirius Radio. Recently, two of Thompson’s publications, “Why Mass Incarceration Matters” and “Rethinking Working Class Struggle Through the Lens of the Carceral State” were awarded Most Distinguished Scholarly Article prizes and she was honored to be named a Distinguished Lecturer by the Organization of American Historians. Thompson was, last year, named to a National Academy of Sciences blue-ribbon panel to study the causes and consequences of high rates of incarceration in the United States. The two-year, $1.5 million project is sponsored by the National Institute of Justice and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Thompson currently serves as well on the boards of the Eastern State Penitentiary, a historic site, the Prison Policy Initiative, and on the advisory board of Life of the Law.