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Criminal Injustice

Slaves and Free Blacks in Georgia's Criminal Justice System

Glenn McNair

Publication Year: 2009

Criminal Injustice: Slaves and Free Blacks in Georgia’s Criminal Justice System is the most comprehensive study of the criminal justice system of a slave state to date. McNair traces the evolution of Georgia’s legal culture by examining its use of slave codes and slave patrols, as well as presenting data on crimes prosecuted, trial procedures and practices, conviction rates, the appellate process, and punishment.

Published by: University of Virginia Press

Contents

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pp. vii-

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-

This book has been a work in progress for more than ten years. In those years, I have found myself in the debt of a number of individuals, without whose assistance the successful completion of this project would not have been possible. I received...

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Note on Methodology

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pp. xi-xii

The 417 cases that form the core of analysis in chapters 3-6 are drawn from the minute books of Georgia’s inferior and superior courts, housed at the Georgia Department of Archives and History (GDAH) in Atlanta. During the 1960s, archivists...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-7

In the fall of 1995 I was a graduate student in history at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville, Georgia. When a course in research methods required a seminar paper and I had no idea on what to write, my professor, Martha Keber, provided...

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1 "MY LORD THEY ARE STARK MAD AFTER NEGROES": Slavery and the Corruption of Georgia's Legal Culture

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pp. 9-35

Georgia’s founders intended the colony to be unlike any other in British North America. It would be a colony where those denied opportunity in England could make new lives for themselves. Georgia would be an egalitarian society where thrift, hard work, and Christian brotherhood would be the guiding societal values....

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2 "FOR THE BETTER ORDERING AND GOVERNING NEGROES": Blacks and the Law

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pp. 36-57

While slavery had been a reality in Georgia since the 1730s, it had existed without a supporting legal structure. The trustees wrote the colony’s first slave code in 1750 and included it in the act that legalized African enslavement. This code reflected the trustees’ own view of slavery: that it was an institution...

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3 "NEGROES MIGHT CUT THE THROATS OF OUR PEOPLE": Black Crime and Its Causes

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pp. 58-81

For the law to be respected, all must be protected by it and subject to it. If it operates equitably, a legal system has legitimacy; as long as the people believe—correctly or incorrectly—that their life chances are maintained, improved, or left largely...

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4 "SOME CONVENIENT METHOD AND FORM OF TRYAL": The Trial Process

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pp. 82-117

For white Georgians, the blacks in their midst constituted a dangerous internal enemy—one whose behavior had to be strictly controlled. Georgia legislators crafted a criminal justice system that charged masters with maintaining their slave forces in due subordination, and granted them wide latitude to enable them...

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5 "THE SLAVE SHOULD LOOK TO HIS MASTER AND THE COURTS TO AVENGE HIS WRONGS": The Appellate Process

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pp. 118-142

“Subordination on the part of the slave is absolutely necessary, not only to the existence of the institution, but to the peace of the community. The policy of the law, therefore, requires that the slave should look to his master and the courts to avenge his wrongs.”1 In this uncompromising language, the Georgia jurist...

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6 "MAY THE LORD HAVE MERCY ON HIS SOUL": Punishment

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pp. 143-165

Punishment was the final act in the criminal justice process. The overwhelming majority of blacks sanctioned for crimes in the South received their punishments on plantations, far beyond the eyes and ears of the public and the present generation of historians. But, from available records, we do know they were routinely...

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Conclusion

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pp. 166-173

The criminal justice system in Georgia functioned for more than a century to protect the prerogatives of slavery and white racial domination. When the Confederacy collapsed in the spring of 1865, Georgia’s criminal justice system for blacks fell...

Appendix

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pp. 175-188

Notes

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pp. 189-224

Index

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pp. 225-234


E-ISBN-13: 9780813929835
E-ISBN-10: 0813929830
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813927930
Print-ISBN-10: 0813927935

Page Count: 240
Illustrations: 8 tables
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: Carter G. Woodson Institute Series

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Georgia -- Race relations -- History -- 19th century.
  • Slaves -- Legal status, laws, etc. -- Georgia -- History.
  • Free African Americans -- Legal status, laws, etc. -- Georgia -- History.
  • African Americans -- Legal status, laws, etc. -- Georgia -- History -- 19th century.
  • Crime and race -- Georgia -- History.
  • African Americans -- Legal status, laws, etc. -- Georgia -- History -- 18th century.
  • Discrimination in criminal justice administration -- Georgia -- History.
  • Criminal justice, Administration of -- Georgia -- History -- 18th century.
  • Georgia -- Race relations -- History -- 18th century.
  • Criminal justice, Administration of -- Georgia -- History -- 19th century.
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