James Kilgore is a writer, educator and activist based in Urbana, Illinois. He currently works at the Center for African Studies and lectures in the Global Studies Program at the University of Illinois (UIUC). He spent six and a half years in state and federal prisons in California for convictions related to his political activities in the 1970s and his subsequent two plus decades underground.
Since his release from prison in 2009 he has written widely on issues related to mass incarceration and social justice for The Chronicle of Higher Education, Truthout, Counterpunch, Prison Legal News, Dissent, Labor Studies, Critical Criminology, and Radical Teacher. In addition, he has been active in his community, playing a leading role in Build Programs, Not Jails, a campaign dedicated to stopping jail construction in Champaign County, helping to found First Followers, a local re-entry program and serving on the Advisory Council of the Education Justice Project, which delivers university classes to men held in Danville Correctional Center. During his years of incarceration, he drafted several novels, three of which have been published, We Are All Zimbabweans Now, Freedom Never Rests and Prudence Couldn’t Swim .
In spring of 2014, an attempt to fire him from his job at the University of Illinois because of his political and criminal background prompted a groundswell of opposition, including a petition signed by over 300 (UIUC) faculty members opposing Kilgore’s dismissal. After a university- appointed committee cleared him of any wrongdoing, Kilgore’s employment was restored in January 2015.
He remains eternally grateful to all those who have supported him over the years, especially his family, his friends and comrades from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Illinois, and the various prisons where he did time. along with all those who took part in the campaign to help him regain his job at the University of Illinois. The bonds of love and solidarity with those people are his most cherished possession.