I’m an urban historian whose research explores how racist laws and customs maintain police power and legitimacy.
Image: Buffalo Bayou / Houston, TX / 2020
Hello, I’m Dr. Will Tchakirides, a public historian and scholar exploring the history of police power in America. While much of my work focuses on how public institutions and private organizations reinforce police legitimacy through race, I am also interested in how overpoliced workers, youth, and the poor have resisted state violence and reimagined community safety on their own terms.
My writing is largely anchored in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where I lived from 2010 to 2020 and completed a PhD in History at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. However, the lessons I seek to impart extend to the whole of metropolitan America. A dedication to anti-racism, gender and sex equity, labor rights, and human dignity informs my work.
To that end, I believe democracy will never be realized in the US until we abolish the Prison Industrial Complex and make any need for surveillance, policing, and punishment systems obsolete. That means honestly reckoning with this country’s formative history of indigenous genocide, white settler-colonialism, and racial-capitalist development. It means paying reparations to occupied First Nations and the descendants of enslaved Black families and diasporic communities who helped build the US and have steadily resisted criminalization, economic plunder, and state violence. And it means assertively investing in housing, jobs, education, and healthcare through equitable programs of economic relief that forgo revanchist, market-driven approaches. While research can help further these ends, I’d argue it is through political education and local organizing that we’ll realize, what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. referenced as, the “beloved community.”
Finally, I’m a public historian who has collaborated on community-based archiving, museum exhibition, and digital humanities projects across multiple cities. I earned a Master’s degree in US History, Public History track from American University in 2011. I hail from greater Hartford, CT, where trips to museums like the Mark Twain House and Wadsworth Atheneum as a youth instilled a sense of place and passion for storytelling and artistic visualization. I now reside in Tampa, FL, which occupies traditional Seminole, Calusa, and Tocobaga lands, working remotely as a Research Assistant on the Smithsonian Institution’s Our Shared Future: Reckoning with Our Racial Past initiative.