The “To Say Their Own Word” archival project is an oral history component of the archival collection, which took place inside the Maryland Penitentiary in 1980. This project incorporates the oral tradition of storytelling to transmit the experiences of incarcerated people by documenting their contemporary reflections on the series and the ongoing struggle with the carceral state to reflect on this history and consider how these subjects resonate over forty years later. Through partnerships between the Real News network and UMBC faculty, Sarah Fouts, Assistant Professor of American Studies, will develop public programming around this collection by conducting oral history interviews, excerpts of which will be featured in a free public event in Baltimore in Spring 2023.
In 1980, Marshall “Eddie” Conway (April 23, 1946 – February 13, 2023) helped organize a prisoners’ educational outreach program called “To Say Their Own Word,” where thinkers and scholars came to Maryland Penitentiary and spoke about social topics like impending U.S. fascism, the prison-industrial complex, capitalism, increasing surveillance, and other pressing issues. Speakers included Amiri Baraka, Askia Muhammad, Bruce Franklin, Nijole Benokraitis, and Charlie Cobb. The “To Say Their Own Word” archival project incorporates the oral tradition of storytelling to transmit the experiences of incarcerated people by documenting their reflections over forty years later.
The Real News Network and UMBC’s Special Collections, Public Humanities, and Baltimore Field School partnered to develop public programming around this collection by conducting oral history interviews, excerpts of which will be featured at a free public event in Baltimore on April 26. In the words of Community Fellow Cameron Granadino, “this project is really about how political prisoners inspired people to organize in the community.” We hope this archive is one small part of the legacy of compassion and humanity Eddie Conway leaves behind to inform and inspire future generations.