Introduction

Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States was instrumental in bringing widespread attention to the human dimension of the death penalty.  First published in 1993, it has been reprinted, translated, and adapted for film, theater, and opera.  Universities, high schools, libraries, churches, and theater groups have hosted community-wide reading experiences, panel discussions, performances, and visits from Sr. Helen herself for nearly 25 years.

This teaching kit, including primary sources available for viewing or download and curricular materials for teachers, is meant to complement, enhance, deepen, and challenge the experience for those reading, performing, or viewing Dead Man Walking. These digitized primary sources are but a sampling of the Sr. Helen Prejean papers, which provide a unique and intimate perspective on the death penalty and intersecting social justice issues, the development of Sr. Helen’s activism, and the creative and practical processes of writing and publishing books and bringing the story to screen and stage.

DePaul University Library Special Collections and Archives is honored to care for Sr. Helen’s archival collection and to make materials available for teaching, learning, engagement, and reflection.  We are grateful to our partners from the DePaul University College of Education, David Bates and John Geiger, who shared their expertise gained from the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources program.

by Jamie Nelson, Head of Special Collections and Archives, DePaul University Library

Banner image credits: Sr. Helen Prejean at Hope House by David Rea Morris/Impact Visuals, undated; artwork by Ed Morgan, Jr., award presented to Sr. Helen Prejean by the Chicago Committee to Defend the Bill of Rights and Bill of Rights Foundation, 2007; photograph of Sr. Helen Prejean taken during the filming of Angel of Death Row, PBS Frontline documentary, 1995; cover of first edition of Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States, published by Random House, Inc. 1993.