About the Project

Survivor Files

Survivor Files will include a portrait (both still and moving) of a subject as well as a brief narrative of something they’ve struggled to survive.

The subjects will include those with justice-involved backgrounds and those without, as well as subjects who represent other diversities: gender, age, ethnicity, etc. Their interviews will be transformed into second-person narratives. Their portraits will be shot with as much uniformity as possible, so as to present the least amount of contextual information.

The audience will be invited to judge which stories belong to which subject—which is an explicit invitation to question, among other things, their implicit biases.

Back to the 2021 Envisioning Justice Commissioned Artists & Humanists Listing

About the Artist

Mitchell S. Jackson

Award-winning author and well-regarded speaker Mitchell S. Jackson’s debut novel The Residue Years received wide critical praise. Jackson is the winner of a Whiting Award and the Ernest J. Gaines Prize for Literary Excellence. Jackson’s honors include fellowships, grants, and awards from Creative Capital, the NYPL’s Cullman Center, the Lannan Foundation, the Ford Foundation, PEN America, and TED.

Jackson’s writing has appeared in The New York Times Book Review, Time, The New Yorker, Harpers, The Paris Review, The Guardian, Harper’s Bazaar, and elsewhere. His nonfiction book Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family was named a best book of the year by fifteen publications.

Jackson’s next novel—John of Watts—will be published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. Jackson covers race and culture as the first Black columnist for Esquire Magazine and teaches creative writing at the University of Chicago.

Learn More and Follow Mitchell

Mitchell S. Jackson

Back to the 2021 Envisioning Justice Commissioned Artists & Humanists Listing

About Illinois Humanities' Envisioning Justice program

Envisioning Justice brings Illinois together to examine and reimagine the criminal legal system through the arts and humanities.

Envisioning Justice leverages the arts and humanities to envision alternatives to the enduring injustice of mass incarceration. This Illinois Humanities initiative works with communities and people impacted by mass incarceration to spark conversation and illuminate community-based strategies that address our racist and unjust criminal legal system.

From 2017 to 2019, Envisioning Justice was concentrated in Chicago. Moving forward, Illinois Humanities is expanding this initiative and its attendant activities throughout the state. As a part of this next phase of Envisioning Justice, we will host and document community conversations, provide grant opportunities, and commission projects by artists and humanists working to shift the narrative around incarceration and system impacted communities.

Learn more about the Envisioning Justice program, including upcoming events and grant offerings.

Back to the 2021 Envisioning Justice Commissioned Artists & Humanists Listing