About

websiteDr. Heather Ann Thompson is a native Detroiter and historian on faculty of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Her recent book, Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and its Legacy, has been profiled on television and radio programs across the country, was named a finalist for the National Book Award, has been named on 13 Best Books of 2016 lists including those compiled by The New York Times, Newsweek, Kirkus Review, the Boston Globe, Publishers Weekly, Bloomberg, the Marshall Project, the Baltimore City Paper, Book Scroll, and the Christian Science Monitor. Additionally, Blood in the Water was named on the Best Human Rights Books of 2016 list, and received starred reviews from Library Journal, Kirkus, and Publishers Weekly. Blood in the Water has also been optioned by TriStar Pictures and will be adapted for film by acclaimed screenwriters Anna Waterhouse and Joe Schrapnel.

Thompson has written extensively on the history of policing, mass incarceration and the current criminal justice system for The New York Times, Newsweek, Time, The Atlantic, Salon, Dissent, NBC, New Labor Forum, The Daily Beast, and The Huffington Post, as well as for the top publications in her field. Her award-winning scholarly articles include: “Why Mass Incarceration Matters: Rethinking Crisis, Decline and Transformation in the Postwar United States,” Journal of American History (December 2010) and “Rethinking Working Class Struggle through the Lens of the Carceral State: Toward a Labor History of Inmates and Guards.” Labor: Studies in the Working Class History of the Americas (Fall, 2011). Thompson’s piece in the Atlantic Monthly on how mass incarceration has distorted democracy in America was named a finalist for a best magazine article award in 2014.

Thompson is also the author of Whose Detroit? Politics, Labor, and Race in a Modern American City (new edition out in 2017), and the editor of Speaking Out: Activism and Protest in the 1960s and 1970s. 

On the policy front Thompson 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 has served 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 has also worked in an advisory capacity with the Center for Community Change, the Humanities Action Lab Global Dialogues on Incarceration, and the Open Society Foundation on issues related to work. Thompson has also spent considerable time  presenting her work on prisons and justice policy to universities and policy groups nationally and internationally as well as to state legislators in various states.  She has given talks in countries such as Switzerland, Germany, Ireland, the UK, as well as across the Unites States including in Hawaii.

In 2012 Thompson recently was honored to be named a Distinguished Lecturer by the Organization of American Historians and, along with Rhonda Y. Williams (Case Western Reserve), she currently edits a manuscript series for UNC Press, Justice, Power, and Politics. She is also the sole editor of the series, American Social Movements of the Twentieth Century published by Routledge.  Thompson has consulted on several documentary films including Criminal Injustice at Attica and assisted with other documentary films including one on Criminalization in America by filmmakers Annie Stopford and Llewellyn Smith from BlueSpark Collaborative, another produced by Henry Louis Gates entitled, And Still I Rise: Black Power to the White House for PBS, and one soon to be done on the Bard Prison Initiative.

More on Thompson’s biography here.