Robert Chase

Assistant Professor (Ph.D., University of Maryland, 2009)
Curriculum Vitae
Research Interests
As a scholar of the post-1945 period, my areas of research and teaching include state and racial politics, African American and Latino/a history, urban history, labor history and working-class culture, critical race theory, political and sexual violence, social movements, and civil rights.  Born in New York City and raised in Washington, D.C., I received my Ph.D. in US history at the University of Maryland, College Park, where my dissertation was the recipient of the University of Maryland’s Ann G. Wylie dissertation award and the E. B. and Jean Smith Dissertation Prize in Political History. Previously, I was the Public Historian of the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture at the College of Charleston. Outside of academia, I spent eight years as a public policy analyst for Washington, D.C.-area think tanks and public policy research centers.

My forthcoming manuscript, Civil Rights on the Cell Block: The Prisoners’ Rights Movement and the Construction of the Carceral State, 1945–1990, reexamines the southern prisoners’ rights movement of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s and the subsequent construction of what many historians now call the era of mass incarceration and the “New Jim Crow.” By placing the prisoners’ rights movement squarely in the labor organizing and civil rights mobilizing traditions, my work reconceptualizes what constitutes “civil rights” and to whom it applies. Focusing on 1945 to the mid-1990s when the nation’s prison population skyrocketed from 300,000 to 2.1 million and became disproportionately Black and Latino, Civil Rights on the Cell Block exposes how the criminal justice system, which was at the heart of an older racial and labor order, fueled a prison-made civil rights movement. My manuscript shows that this inmate civil rights rebellion, while mounting a successful legal challenge, was countered by a new prison regime – one that utilized paramilitary practices, promoted privatized prisons, endorsed massive prison building programs, and embraced 23-hour cell isolation—that established what I call a “Sunbelt” carceral state approach that became exemplary of national prison trends. This forthcoming manuscript has been supported by postdoctoral fellowships at the Center for Historical Analysis at Rutgers University, Case Western Reserve University, and Southern Methodist University’s Clements Center for the Study of Southwestern America.

Scholarly Works
Civil Rights on the Cell Block: The Prisoners' Rights Movement and the Construction of the Carceral State, 1945–1990 (forthcoming monograph).

Sunbelt Prisons and the Carceral State: New Frontiers of State Power, Racial Oppression, and Resistance (forthcoming co-edited anthology).

"'Slaves of the State' Revolt:  Southern Prison Labor and a Prison-Made Civil Rights Monvement, 1945–1980," in Robert H. Zieger, ed., Life and Labor in the New New South (2012).

"'Rioting Peacefully': Rethinking Sunbelt Prison Rebellions during the 1970s," in Robert T. Chase and Norwood Andrews, eds., Sunbelt Prisons and the Carceral State: New Frontiers of State Power, Racial Oppression, and Resistance, in preparation.

"From the City to the Cell Block: Urban Chicano Inmates, Rural Prisons, and the Prisoners' Rights Movement in the Sunbelt," Journal of Urban History (special issue on "Urban Spaces and the Carceral State"), in preparation.

"Class Resurrection: The Poor People’s Campaign of 1968 and Resurrection City," Essays in History 40 (1998).