American Democracy Project

The Warren Center has initiated the American Democracy Project, with the objective to explore connections between scholars and scholarly work in American history, and the possibilities for application of historical insights in the realms of public discourse and policy.

The Warren Center American Democracy Project includes support of the following.

Kaia Stern (Fellow of the Charles Warren, 2018).
        Kaia Stern is cofounder and director of the Prison Studies Project, which began at Harvard University in 2008. Her work focuses on transformative justice and education in prison. Her first book, Voices from American Prisons: Faith, Education and Healing was published by Routledge (2014). Recognized as a national expert, her contribution to the Greenhaven Prison Program at Vassar College, Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, Vera Institute of Justice, Kings County District Attorney’s Office, The Riverside Church, Open Society Institute, Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice at Harvard Law School, Boston University’s Prison Education Program, Concord Prison Outreach, and the U.S. Department of Justice has facilitated work with numerous schools and prisons in various states for the last twenty-five years. She is currently a Faculty Fellow in the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History at Harvard University and Visiting Faculty at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where she leads the Transformative Justice Series. Kaia is ordained as an interfaith minister, holds a doctorate in religion from Emory University, and an M.A. of theological studies from the Harvard Divinity School.

Nicholas Estes (Fellow of the Charles Warren Center, 2017-18).
        Nick Estes is Kul Wicasa from the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe. In 2014 he co-founded The Red Nation in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The Red Nation is a Native-led political organization committed to revitalizing Indigenous kinship relations and combatting anti-Indigenous violence in all its manifestations, whether from police or prisons, discrimination in off-reservation spaces, or against Native women, youth, and LGTBQ2 relatives.

Estes is currently a doctoral candidate in American studies at the University of New Mexico. His forthcoming book Our History is the Future: Mni Wiconi and Native Liberation, which tells the story of the historical and political context of the struggle to stop the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock, will be published by Verso in 2018. Estes’ reporting on border town violence against Natives in white-dominated settlements ringing Indian reservations has won awards and national recognition. His advocacy and research focuses on traditions of Indigenous resistance, the histories and politics of anti-colonial struggle, abolition, decolonization, and anti-capitalism.

Vivek Bald (Fellow of the Charles Warren Center, 2017-18).
        Vivek Bald is a scholar, writer, and documentary filmmaker whose work focuses on histories of migration and diaspora, particularly from the South Asian subcontinent. He is the author of Bengali Harlem and the Lost Histories of South Asian America (Harvard University Press, 2013), and co-editor, with Miabi Chatterji, Sujani Reddy, and Manu Vimalassery of The Sun Never Sets: South Asian Migrants in an Age of U.S. Power (NYU Press, 2013). His films include "Taxi-vala/Auto-biography," (1994) which explored the lives, struggles, and activism of New York City taxi drivers from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, and "Mutiny: Asians Storm British Music" (2003) a hybrid music documentary/social documentary about South Asian youth, music, and anti-racist politics in 1970s-90s Britain. Bald is currently working on a transmedia project aimed at recovering the histories of peddlers and steamship workers from British colonial India who came to the United States under the shadows of anti-Asian immigration laws and settled within U.S. communities of color in the early 20th century. The project consists of the Bengali Harlem book as well as a documentary film, “In Search of Bengali Harlem,” (currently in production), and a digital oral history website in development at

Tef Poe (Fellow of the Charles Warren Center, 2016-17).
        Tef Poe is an American rapper, musician and activist. He is one of the co-founders of the Hands Up United movement.Tef has consistently advocated grass-roots involvement in improving the lives of African Americans and in racial justice within and outside the United States. In his art and activism, he insists on the value of local people taking charge of conversations about their own communities rather than relying on national organizations. 

Ann Jones (Fellow of the Charles Warren Center, 2015-16). 
        Ann Jones is an independent scholar, journalist, photographer, and the author of ten books of nonfiction. She received a PhD   in English and history from the University of Wisconsin. Her work focuses on women and other underdogs and on the historical/social/political structures that perpetuate injustice. She has written  extensively about violence against women in the U.S. (Women Who Kill; Next Time She’ll Be Dead); reported from Afghanistan (Kabul in Winter), Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East (War is Not Over When It’s Over) on the impact of war upon civilians; and embedded with U.S. forces in Afghanistan to report the damage done to them (They Were Soldiers). Widely published, her articles currently appear most often in The Nation and online at She is working on reflections on life in Norway (rated the best place to be a woman), Afghanistan (the worst), and the U.S.  Her work has received generous support from the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the Lannan Foundation, and the U.S.-Norway Fulbright Foundation.

Max Kenner (Fellow of the Charles Warren Center, 2013-14; Bard College Executive Vice-President for Institutional Initiatives, Founder and Executive Director of the Bard Prison Initiative). 
        The Bard Prison Initiative (BPI) is the largest college-in-prison program in the United States.  It enrolls 250 incarcerated college students in associate and bachelor’s degree granting programs across New York State.  The Consortium for the Liberal Arts in Prison anchors and cultivates a growing network of colleges and universities that are restoring educational access to prisons in their respective regions. Consortium partners currently include Wesleyan University, Grinnell College, Goucher College, University of Notre Dame, with projects in-development in Kentucky, Missouri, and Washington (state).

Emancipation at 150: a series of talks on the 150th-anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation (spring term, 2013).
        Alan Gilbert (University of Denver).  “Black Patriots and Loyalists: Fighting for Emancipation in the War for Independence.” Co-sponsored with the Center for American Political Studies.  (March 27, 2013)
        James Oakes (CUNY).  "The Scorpion's Sting:  The Irreconcilable Conflict Over Slavery." (April 16, 2013)

      Thavolia Glymph (Duke University).  "Refugees and Outlaws: Enslaved Women and the Struggle for Freedom on the Civil War's Battlefields." (April 22, 2013)

      Michael Ralph (New York University).  "The Afterlife of Slave Insurance." (April 30, 2013)

“Histories of Land, Economy, and Power,” a conference held at the Weatherhead Center on November 9-10, 2012.
        This conference gathered scholars working on the history and politics of land use in order to illuminate empirical patterns of the emergence of particular regimes of property rights in land, the role of such regimes in supporting or contesting inequality, the relationship of ownership to sovereignty – in short, the historical role of land use in elaborating political and economic systems. The conference explored moments of tension that revealed possibilities for alternative models of distribution and rights allocation.