People’s History in Prison

Inmates in the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) Cumberland Camp have organized a study course for which they will be using A People’s History of the United StatesCumberland FCI is a minimum security penitentiary located in western Maryland.

The Zinn Education Project donated copies of Howard Zinn’s book to each of the 20 prisoners taking the course.

Organized and taught by the inmates themselves, the course is called “Elections 1912–2012.” With Eugene Debs’ candidacy and the presidential campaign of 1912 as the takeoff point, each session of the 10-week course will focus on the issues, policies, and underlying political economy of a succeeding decade.

Prisoner-students, all male, are otherwise diverse: black and white, southern and northern, rural, suburban and urban, straight and gay, of both white-collar and blue-collar backgrounds. They chose A People’s History based on a copy sent to one of them by an outside friend. It’s the “ability to make sparks fly in a political discussion” that attracts them, one remarked. Two others have already decided they’re taking their copies with them when they leave, to study again with their kids.

—Story submitted by Norm Diamond.