"While There is a Soul in Prison, I Am Not Free": History of Solidarity in Social and Economic Justice, Eugene V. Debs Foundation

Wesley Bishop (he/him/his) Announcement
Indiana, United States
Subject Fields
African American History / Studies, American History / Studies, Human Rights, Labor History / Studies, Peace History / Studies

Call for Conference Papers

“While There Is A Soul In Prison, I Am Not Free”:

The History of Solidarity in Social and Economic Justice


Sponsored by the Eugene V. Debs Foundation, the Cunningham Memorial Library, and

the Department of History at Indiana State University

Keynote Address: Peter Cole, PhD.

Professor of History at Western Illinois University


Date: November 13-14, 2020.

Place: Cunningham Memorial Library,

Indiana State University,

Terre Haute, Indiana


In 1918, the American labor organizer and socialist leader Eugene Victor Debs was sentenced to ten years in prison for his anti-war activities opposing America’s involvement in World War One. In his closing defense, Debs said, “Your honor… I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.” After being remanded to prison, Debs then went on to run in the 1920 presidential campaign, garnering nearly a million votes.

To honor the hundredth anniversary of the court decision, the 1920 election, and Debs’ commitment to economic and social justice, the Eugene V. Debs Foundation, the Cunningham Memorial Library, and Indiana State University’s History department are calling for papers as part of a daylong conference in Terre Haute, Indiana on November 14, 2020.

The conference’s theme is broadly the history of “solidarity in social and economic justice,” and the organizers are specifically interested in the fields of labor and social movement history. However, to give specific focus to prison abolitionism and mass incarceration, special attention will be given to scholars and activists working in the prison abolitionist movement. Themes in terms of geographic location and time are being left purposefully open to encourage a wide range of topics in world history throughout the long struggle of working class social movements.

Contact Information

To submit a paper or panel proposal, email a 200-300 word abstract with a CV by May 15, 2020 to all of the organizers at—

Wesley Bishop, wbishop@marian.edu

Nancy Gabin, ngabin@purdue.edu

Micki Morahn, michelle.morahn@debsfoundation.org  

Lisa Phillips, Lisa.Phillips@indstate.edu