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Elizabeth Hinton is John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences in the Department History and the Department of African and African American Studies at Harvard University. Hinton’s research focuses on the persistence of poverty and racial inequality in the 20th century United States. She is particularly interested in the rise of the American carceral state and the transformation of domestic social programs after the Civil Rights Movement.
In her award-winning book, From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime: The Making of Mass Incarceration in America (Harvard University Press, 2016), Hinton examines the implementation of federal law enforcement programs beginning in the mid-1960s that made the United States home to the largest prison system in world history. In revealing the links between the emergence of national crime control and earlier anti-poverty programs, Hinton presents Ronald Reagan’s War on Drugs not as a sharp policy departure but rather as the full realization of a shift towards surveillance and confinement that began during the Johnson administration. From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime has received numerous awards and recognition, including the Ralph Waldo Emerson Prize from the Phi Beta Kappa Society and being named to the New York Times’s 100 notable books of 2016. Hinton recently won an Andrew Carnegie Fellowship from the Carnegie Corporation and the Rosslyn Abramson Award for Excellence and Sensitivity in Teaching Undergraduates from Harvard University.
In March 2018, Hinton co-organized the landmark conference “Beyond the Gates: The Past and Future of Prison Education at Harvard.” The mission of the conference and the continued commitment of Beyond the Gates is to expand educational access for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people and to create a more inclusive community of learners at Harvard. This work enriches the experiences of Harvard students on and off campus, improves the vitality of democratic institutions, and promotes the overall social good by stimulating meaningful dialogue about justice and inequality.
Before joining the Harvard faculty, Hinton spent two years as a Postdoctoral Scholar in the Michigan Society of Fellows and Assistant Professor in the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies at the University of Michigan. A Ford Foundation Fellow, Hinton completed her Ph.D. in United States History from Columbia University in 2013.
Considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the history of criminalization and mass incarceration, Hinton has worked with the National Network for Safe Communities, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the Vera Institute of Justice, and other law enforcement and crime control institutions at all levels to broaden the terms of debate and inform effective policy choices. Hinton's articles and op-eds can be found in the pages of the Journal of American History, the Journal of Urban History, The New York Times, The New York Times Book Review, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Review, The Nation, and Time. In addition to numerous radio commentaries and public lectures, Hinton has appeared on The Tavis Smiley Show, C-SPAN Book TV, and C-SPAN’s After Words. She also co-edited The New Black History: Revisiting the Second Reconstruction (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011) with the late historian Manning Marable.
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