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Mary Poole



Mary Poole is an historian at Prescott College in Arizona. She teaches and publishes in the arenas of U.S. and African history, with emphasis on histories of social movements, racial capitalism, colonialism, feminist and other critical social theory, and Indigenous decolonizing research methods. She came to history through a prior career in welfare policy as a fiscal analyst for the Washington State Senate, a job she happened to assume at a time of the federal dismantling of the U.S welfare state, and of rapid prison expansion and the corresponding increase in racially discriminatory new drug laws. She later served as Executive Director for Early Options for Unintended Pregnancy, a non-governmental organization established to teach family practice doctors techniques of early abortion. She earned her PhD at Rutgers, where she studied the intersections of race and gender in federal welfare policy. Her first book The Segregated Origins of Social Security: African Americans and the Welfare State (UNC: 2006) demonstrates how the U.S. welfare state operates as a mechanism of racial capitalism, producing economic security as a property of whiteness. Mary is also an activist who has worked closely for over two decades with East African Indigenous Maasai community leader, Meitamei Olol Dapash, on land rights, environmental justice and decolonizing research. Together they built and co-direct the Institute for Maasai Education, Research & Conservation (MERC) and the Dopoi Center for community organizing, based in Maasailand, Southern Kenya. They have written a book: Decolonizing History in Maasailand: A Path to Indigenous African Futures, [forthcoming Zed Books, 2024.] She has lived in Egypt, Scotland, and many places in the U.S., and currently splits her time between Arizona and East Africa.