Over the years, Alcatraz Island has been home to a lighthouse, military fort and prison, a year-and-one-half long occupation by Native Americans, and, of course, the infamous Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary. Today, it is part of the National Park system and open for tours.
Alcatraz Island’s place in history began with a military post in 1850. It played a part in the Civil War, and, over time, became a military disciplinary barracks until being turned over to the federal prison system in 1934. The prison was known for its harsh conditions and treatment of inmates and housed several infamous people–Al Capone, Robert Stroud (the “Birdman of Alcatraz”), Machine Gun Kelly, and James “Whitey” Bulger, among others.
In 1969, a group of Native American activists occupied the largely abandoned island. The occupation ended after 19 months, and resulting in significant positive changes in the treatment of Native Americans by the US.
As part of the National Park system, Alcatraz Island is open to the public. Guided tours and exhibits are available on site–including the opportunity to visit the actual cellblocks,