RIHS Executive Director to Give “Reading Across RI” Talk

What: Social Order and Disorder: Exploring the History of Incarceration in the United States

When: Wednesday, April 12, 6:30pm

Where: West Warwick Public Library (1043 Main St.)

Admission: Free

With so much discussion of the United States as a nation of incarceration, it’s easy to lose sight of spirit of reform and redemption associated with the creation of the prison system in America.  During her April 12 Reading Across Rhode Island talk “Social Order and Disorder,” Dr. C. Morgan Grefe, RIHS Executive Director, will explore the history of prisons in this country to help us better understand how we’ve reached our current state, so far removed from the hopeful concepts of the 19th century.

Reading Across Rhode Island, Rhode Island’s One Book, One State community reading program invites everyone to join in the reading of Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson.  Reading Across Rhode Island is a program of the Rhode Island Center for the Book at the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, made possible through a vibrant collaboration of librarians, teachers, book group leaders, and readers from across the state. The 2017 program runs through May with readers in Rhode Island classrooms, libraries, community centers, bookstores and book groups invited to join discussions and participate in local community events such as lectures, exhibits, and dramatic interpretations centered on this year’s selection.

C. Morgan Grefe is the Executive Director of the Rhode Island Historical Society. She has been at the RIHS for 12 years, serving as the Director of the Goff Center for Education and Public Programs for 6.5 of those. In the summer of 2011 she took the helm of the RIHS. Her work as a historian focuses on U.S. social, cultural, and public history, with special attention on Rhode Island. She holds a Ph.D. in American Civilization from Brown and a B.A. and M.A. from the University of Pennsylvania in the same. While Grefe now concentrates on topics relating to Rhode Island’s social and cultural history, as well as the history education crisis in our state and nation, her academic work culminated in a study of historic prison tourism in the United States.

Her dissertation, “Museum of Order: Truth, Politics, and the Preservation of America’s Prisons,” examined not only the history of American incarceration, but also the ways in which we remember it and contextualize it – or not. America’s troubled history of racial injustice is clearly evident in these sites, though it is often unverbalized, leaving only silent representations of race for the tourist to consume. She has also written, for the Connecticut History Journal, “Making Prison History Matter: Field Trips and Lessons for History and Civics,” along with accompanying lesson plans. Grefe’s teaching focus included African-American and ethnic history from the Civil War to the present.