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Carter G. Woodson Institute Series

Deborah E. McDowell

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Criminal Injustice

Slaves and Free Blacks in Georgia's Criminal Justice System

Glenn McNair

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.

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Freedom Has a Face

Race, Identity, and Community in Jefferson's Virginia

Kirt von Daacke

In his examination of a wide array of court papers from Albemarle County, a rural Virginia slaveholding community, Kirt von Daacke argues against the commonly held belief that southern whites saw free blacks only as a menace. Von Daacke reveals instead a more easygoing interracial social order in Albemarle County that existed for more than two generations after the Revolution—stretching to the mid-nineteenth century and beyond—despite fears engendered by Gabriel’s Rebellion and the Haitian Revolution.

Freedom Has a Face tells the stories of free blacks who worked hard to carve out comfortable spaces for existence. They were denied full freedom, but they were neither slaves without masters nor anomalies in a society that had room only for black slaves and free white citizens. A typical rural Piedmont county, Albemarle was not a racial utopia. Rather, it was a tight-knit community in which face-to-face interactions determined social status and reputation. A steep social hierarchy allowed substantial inequalities to persist, but it was nonetheless an intimately interracial society. Free African Americans who maintained personal connections with white neighbors and who participated openly in local society were perceived as far more than stereotypical dangerous blacks.

Based on his work building a cross-referenced database containing individual records for nearly five thousand documents, von Daacke reveals a detailed picture of daily life in Albemarle County. With this reinsertion of individual free blacks into the neighborhood, community, and county, he exposes a different, more complicated image of the lives of free people of color.

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Keep On Keeping On

The NAACP and the Implementation of Brown v. Board of Education in Virginia

Brian J. Daugherity

Virginia was a battleground state in the struggle to implement Brown v. Board of Education, with one of the South’s largest and strongest NAACP units fighting against a program of noncompliance crafted by the state’s political leaders. Keep On Keeping On offers a detailed examination of how African Americans and the NAACP in Virginia successfully pursued a legal agenda that provided new educational opportunities for the state’s black population in the face of fierce opposition from segregationists and the Democratic Party of Harry F. Byrd Sr.

Keep On Keeping On is one of the first books to offer a broad, statewide view of African Americans’ efforts to obtain racial equality in Virginia in the later twentieth century. Brian J. Daugherity considers the relationship between the various levels of the NAACP, the ideas and actions of other African American organizations, and the stances of Virginia’s political leaders, white liberals and moderates, and segregationists. In doing so, the author provides a better understanding of the connections between the actions of white political leaders and those of black civil rights activists working to bring about school desegregation. Blending social, legal, southern, and African American history, this book sheds new light on the civil rights movement and white resistance to civil rights in Virginia and the South.

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The Punitive Turn

New Approaches to Race and Incarceration

Edited by Deborah E. McDowell, Claudrena N. Harold, and Juan Battle

The Punitive Turn explores the historical, political, economic, and sociocultural roots of mass incarceration, as well as its collateral costs and consequences. Giving significant attention to the exacting toll that incarceration takes on inmates, their families, their communities, and society at large, the volume’s contributors investigate the causes of the unbridled expansion of incarceration in the United States. Experts from multiple scholarly disciplines offer fresh research on race and inequality in the criminal justice system and the effects of mass incarceration on minority groups' economic situation and political inclusion. In addition, practitioners and activists from the Sentencing Project, the Virginia Organizing Project, and the Restorative Community Foundation, among others, discuss race and imprisonment from the perspective of those working directly in the field. Employing a multidisciplinary approach, the essays included in the volume provide an unprecedented range of perspectives on the growth and racial dimensions of incarceration in the United States and generate critical questions not simply about the penal system but also about the inner workings, failings, and future of American democracy.

Contributors: Ethan Blue (University of Western Australia) * Mary Ellen Curtin (American University) * Harold Folley (Virginia Organizing Project) * Eddie Harris (Children Youth and Family Services) * Anna R. Haskins (University of Wisconsin–Madison) * Cheryl D. Hicks (University of North Carolina at Charlotte) * Charles E. Lewis Jr. (Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy) * Marc Mauer (The Sentencing Project) * Anoop Mirpuri (Portland State University) * Christopher Muller (Harvard University) * Marlon B. Ross (University of Virginia) * Jim Shea (Community Organizer) * Jonathan Simon (University of California–Berkeley) * Heather Ann Thompson (Temple University) * Debbie Walker (The Female Perspective) * Christopher Wildeman (Yale University) * Interviews by Jared Brown (University of Virginia) & Tshepo Morongwa Chéry (University of Texas–Austin)

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Rambles of a Runaway from Southern Slavery

Henry Goings. Edited by Calvin Schermerhorn, Michael Plunkett, and Edward Gaynor

Rambles of a Runaway from Southern Slavery tells of an extraordinary life in and out of slavery in the United States and Canada. Born Elijah Turner in the Virginia Tidewater, circa 1810, the author eventually procured freedom papers from a man he resembled and took the man’s name, Henry Goings. His life story takes us on an epic journey, traveling from his Virginia birthplace through the cotton kingdom of the lower South, and upon his escape from slavery, through Tennessee and Kentucky, then on to the Great Lakes region of the North and to Canada. His Rambles show that slaves were found not only in fields but also on the nation’s roads and rivers, perpetually in motion in massive coffles or as solitary runaways.

A freedom narrative as well as a slave narrative, this compact yet detailed book illustrates many important developments in antebellum America, such as the large-scale forced migration of enslaved people from long-established slave societies in the eastern United States to new settlements on the cotton frontier, the political-economic processes that framed that migration, and the accompanying human anguish. Goings’s life and reflections serve as important primary documents of African American life and of American national expansion, the Civil War, and Reconstruction. This edition features an informative and insightful introduction by Calvin Schermerhorn.

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Rearing Wolves to Our Own Destruction

Slavery in Richmond Virginia, 1782–1865

Midori Takagi

Richmond was not only the capital of Virginia and of the Confederacy; it was also one of the most industrialized cities south of the Mason-Dixon Line. Boasting ironworks, tobacco processing plants, and flour mills, the city by 1860 drew half of its male workforce from the local slave population. Rearing Wolves to Our Own Destruction examines this unusual urban labor system from 1782 until the end of the Civil War. Many urban bondsmen and women were hired to businesses rather than working directly for their owners. As a result, they frequently had the opportunity to negotiate their own contracts, to live alone, and to keep a portion of their wages in cash. Working conditions in industrial Richmond enabled African-American men and women to build a community organized around family networks, black churches, segregated neighborhoods, secret societies, and aid organizations. Through these institutions, Takagi demonstrates, slaves were able to educate themselves and to develop their political awareness. They also came to expect a degree of control over their labor and lives. Richmond's urban slave system offered blacks a level of economic and emotional support not usually available to plantation slaves. Rearing Wolves to Our Own Destruction offers a valuable portrait of urban slavery in an individual city that raises questions about the adaptability of slavery as an institution to an urban setting and, more importantly, the ways in which slaves were able to turn urban working conditions to their own advantage.

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Schooling Jim Crow

The Fight for Atlanta's Booker T. Washington High School and the Roots of Black Protest Politics

Jay Winston Driskell Jr.

In 1919 the NAACP organized a voting bloc powerful enough to compel the city of Atlanta to budget $1.5 million for the construction of schools for black students. This victory would have been remarkable in any era, but in the context of the Jim Crow South it was revolutionary. Schooling Jim Crow tells the story of this little-known campaign, which happened less than thirteen years after the Atlanta race riot of 1906 and just weeks before a wave of anti-black violence swept the nation in the summer after the end of World War I. Despite the constant threat of violence, Atlanta’s black voters were able to force the city to build five black grammar schools and Booker T. Washington High School, the city’s first publicly funded black high school. Schooling Jim Crow reveals how they did it and why it matters.

In this pathbreaking book, Jay Driskell explores the changes in black political consciousness that made the NAACP’s grassroots campaign possible at a time when most black southerners could not vote, let alone demand schools. He reveals how black Atlantans transformed a reactionary politics of respectability into a militant force for change. Contributing to this militancy were understandings of class and gender transformed by decades of racially segregated urban development, the 1906 Atlanta race riot, Georgia’s disfranchisement campaign of 1908, and the upheavals of World War I. On this cultural foundation, black Atlantans built a new urban black politics that would become the model for the NAACP’s political strategy well into the twentieth century.

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Segregation's Science

Eugenics and Society in Virginia

Gregory Michael Dorr

Blending social, intellectual, legal, medical, gender, and cultural history, Segregation's Science: Eugenics and Society in Virginia examines how eugenic theory and practice bolstered Virginia's various cultures of segregation--rich from poor, sick from well, able from disabled, male from female, and black from white and Native American. Famously articulated by Thomas Jefferson, ideas about biological inequalities among groups evolved throughout the nineteenth century. By the early twentieth century, proponents of eugenics--the "science" of racial improvement--melded evolutionary biology and incipient genetics with long-standing cultural racism. The resulting theories, taught to generations of Virginia high school, college, and medical students, became social policy as Virginia legislators passed eugenic marriage and sterilization statutes. The enforcement of these laws victimized men and women labeled "feebleminded," African Americans, and Native Americans for over forty years.

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Strategies for Survival

Recollections of Bondage in Antebellum Virginia

William Dusinberre

Strategies for Survival conveys the experience of bondage through the words of former slaves themselves. The interviews—conducted in Virginia in 1937 by WPA interviewers—are considered among the most valuable of the WPA interviews because in Virginia the interviewers were almost all African Americans; thus the interviewees almost certainly spoke more frankly than they would otherwise have done. Dusinberre uses the interviews to assess the strategies by which slaves sought to survive, despite the severe constrictions bondage imposed upon their lives. Religion and escape were common means of coping with the indignity of family disruption, contempt, and the harsh realities of slavery. However, while Dusinberre recognizes the creativity and variety of slaves' responses to oppression, he acknowledges the dispiriting realities of the limits of slave resistance and agency.

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Whispers of Rebellion

Narrating Gabriel's Conspiracy

Michael L. Nicholls

An ambitious if ultimately unrealized plan to revolt that ended in the conviction and hanging of over two dozen men, Gabriel’s Conspiracy of 1800 sought nothing less than to capture the capital city of Richmond and end slavery in Virginia. Whispers of Rebellion draws on recent scholarship and extensive archival material to provide the clearest view yet of this fascinating chapter in the history of slavery--and to question much about the case that has been accepted as fact.

In his examination of the slave Gabriel and his group of insurgents, Michael Nicholls focuses on the neighborhood of the Brook, north of Richmond, as the plot’s locus, revealing the area’s economic and familial ties, the geographic proximity of the key conspirators, and how their contacts allowed their plan to spread across three counties and into the cities of Richmond and Petersburg.

Nicholls explores underdocumented aspects of the conspiracy, such as the participants’ recruitment and motives, showing them to be less ideologically driven than previously supposed. The author also looks at the state’s swift and brutal response, and argues persuasively that, rather than the coalition between blacks and whites that has been described in other accounts, the participants were all slaves or free blacks, suffering under an oppressive white population and willing to die for their freedom.

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