Date of Award

Fall 2015

Document Type

Restricted Thesis

Terms of Use

© 2015 Rachel Berger. All rights reserved. Access to this work is restricted to users within the Swarthmore College network and may only be used for non-commercial, educational, and research purposes. Sharing with users outside of the Swarthmore College network is expressly prohibited. For all other uses, including reproduction and distribution, please contact the copyright holder.

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


History Department

First Advisor

BuYun Chen


In its final decades of operation, a range of actors from scholars and prison reformers to prison administrators, staff, and incarcerated persons debated the rehabilitation program at Eastern State Penitentiary. Drawing on policy reports, archives of an inmate-produced magazine, and new oral histories, this paper shows that race and ideas of “modernity” influenced each group’s arguments and shaped experiences of rehabilitation for staff and inmates. Both race and modernity are essential to understanding how the American postwar period connects to the period of racialized mass incarceration which followed it.


Recipient of the Robert S. DuPlessis Prize, awarded in 2016.