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Historical Origins of Racial Inequality in Incarceration in the United States

Muller, Christopher Michael
Fonte: Harvard University Publicador: Harvard University
Tipo: Thesis or Dissertation
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This dissertation consists of three essays on the historical roots of racial disparity in incarceration in the United States. The first essay examines the origins of racial inequality in convict leasing in the postbellum U.S. South. Following emancipation, white southerners feared two primary challenges to the region's agricultural economy and social order: African Americans' flight from farms to cities, and African Americans' ability to procure land. In their capacities as accusers and jurors, white civilians exercised considerable discretion over the arrest and conviction of African Americans for minor offenses such as property crimes. Using archival administrative records of the Georgia convict lease system, combined with the complete 1880 U.S. Census, I find that African-American men living in urban counties or in counties where the per-capita value of land owned by African Americans was high were much more likely to be incarcerated for property crimes than similar individuals in rural counties or in counties where African Americans were largely excluded from landownership. The second essay traces a portion of the rise of racial inequality in incarceration in northern and southern states to increasing rates of African-American migration to the North between 1880 and 1950. It employs three analytical strategies. First...