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CONCRETE MAMA book launch and Washington Prison History Project forum
CONCRETE MAMA book launch and Washington Prison History Project forum
WhenTuesday, Jan 22, 2019, 5:30 – 8:30 p.m.
WhereNorth Creek Events Center, Bothell
Event typesLectures/Seminars, Special Events
Event sponsorsUniversity of Washington Libraries
Washington Prison History Project
University of Washington Press…

The University of Washington Libraries, the Washington Prison History Project, and the University of Washington Press are pleased to invite you to Bothell's North Creek Events Center on Tuesday, January 22, at 6:00 pm (doors open at 5:30), for a free public event launching the expanded new edition of Concrete Mama: Prison Profiles from Walla Walla. Reporter John McCoy and photographer Ethan Hoffman won the Washington State Book Award in 1982 for their acclaimed photojournalistic collaboration, offering unprecedentedly frank dispatches and images from inmates’ lives inside the Washington State Penitentiary. Concrete Mama’s long-awaited rerelease contains a new introduction by Washington Prison History Project founding contributor and UW professor Dan Berger.

A selection of photos from the book will be exhibited, documenting a transitional time in the state’s prison policy. Prison publications and photographs from the Washington Prison History Project will be on display, and a panel of compelling speakers will discuss imprisonment since the 1980s:

  • John McCoy, Concrete Mama’s original author
  • Dan Berger, prison scholar and contributor to the new edition
  • Gerard Boseman, UW student, Black Prisoners Caucus
  • Amani Sawari, independent journalist and national spokesperson for Jailhouse Lawyers Speak
  • Ed Mead and Mark Cook, activists formerly incarcerated at Walla Walla (Mead is featured in Concrete Mama; Cook cofounded the Black Panther Party chapter at the penitentiary)
The event will also feature contributions from people currently incarcerated in Washington, along with a Q&A, refreshments, and the opportunity to purchase Concrete Mama at a discount.

Journalists John McCoy and Ethan Hoffman spent four months inside the walls of the Washington State Penitentiary at Walla Walla in 1978-'79, just as Washington, once a leader in prison reform, abandoned its focus on reform and rehabilitation and returned to cell time and punishment. It was a brutal transition.

McCoy and Hoffman roamed the maximum-security compound almost at will, observing and befriending prisoners and guards. The result is a striking depiction of a community in which there was little to do, much to fear, and a culture that both mimicked and scorned the outside world. McCoy’s unadorned prose and Hoffman’s stunning black-and-white photographs offer as authentic a portrayal of life in the Big House as “outsiders” are ever likely to experience.

Originally published in 1981, the 128 photos in Concrete Mama revealed a previously unseen stark and complex world of life on the inside, for which it won the Washington State Book Award. Long unavailable yet still relevant, it is revitalized in a second edition with an introduction by scholar Dan Berger that provides historical context for the book’s ongoing resonance, along with several previously unpublished photographs.

JOHN A. MCCOY is the author of A Still and Quiet Conscience, a biography of Seattle Archbishop Raymond G. Hunthausen. He was a reporter and editor at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and Walla Walla Union-Bulletin and has taught writing courses at the University of Washington Tacoma and Seattle University.

ETHAN HOFFMAN (1949–1990) was a photographer for the London Sunday Times and Paris Match, and his photo essays appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Fortune, Esquire, and Life. His photography has been exhibited in several museums, including the Smithsonian.

DAN BERGER is associate professor at the University of Washington Bothell, and an interdisciplinary historian focusing on critical prison studies. He is the author of several books, including Captive Nation: Black Prison Organizing in the Civil Rights Era, and coauthor most recently of Rethinking the American Prison Movement.

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