New release! A groundbreaking look at how America exported mass incarceration around the globe, from a rising young historian “ American Purgatory will forever change how we understand the rise of mass incarceration. It will forever change how we understand this country.” —Clint Smith, bestselling author of How the Word Is A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America
In this explosive new book, historian Benjamin Weber reveals how the story of American prisons is inextricably linked to the expansion of American power around the globe.
A vivid work of hidden history that spans the wars to subjugate Native Americans in the mid-nineteenth century, the conquest of the western territories, and the creation of an American empire in Panama, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines, American Purgatory reveals how “prison imperialism”—the deliberate use of prisons to control restive, subject populations—is written into our national DNA, extending through to our modern era of mass incarceration. Weber also uncovers a surprisingly rich history of prison resistance, from the Seminole Chief Osceola to Assata Shakur—one that invites us to rethink the scope of America’s long freedom struggle.
Weber’s brilliantly documented text is supplemented by original maps highlighting the global geography of prison imperialism, as well as illustrations of key figures in this history by the celebrated artist Ayo Scott. For readers of Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow , here is a bold new effort to tell the full story of prisons and incarceration—at home and abroad—as well as a powerful future vision of a world without prisons.
By Benjamin D. Weber. Hardcover. 304 pages. Published by the New Press, 2023.