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Atlanta is also a useful site for analyses and engaged discussions about post-emancipation transitions to new regimes of control, punishment, and labor exploitation. Within the field of carceral studies, a range of works detail how Atlanta and its surrounds—the Capitol of the New South—became the epicenter of new ideas about race and new modes of unfreedom. Just as the slave ship and the plantation became catalysts for early forms carcerality in the U.S.—including regimes of surveillance, policing, disciple, and bodily confinement—the transition to Jim Crow as a new mode of racial control generated new carceral logics and technologies. The slave ship and the plantation were replaced by chain gangs and prison camps; chattel slavery gave way to convict leasing; and slave patrols transformed into organized police forces. In the contemporary scholarly discourse about the shift from slavery to Jim Crow, the lexicon of human bondage has been mobilized to draw attention to historical continuities. Thus, convict leasing and chain gangs have been subsumed, discursively, under the headings of “slavery by another name,” “worse than slavery,” and “neo-slavery.” Indeed, when contemporary activists mention “abolition” in this context, prison reform is often the target as they make discursive and historical links between slavery and modern carcerality. Even calls to “defund the police” have connected the modern institution to its antebellum origins.[1] This session will focus on the historical, discursive, and theoretical connections between slavery and carcerality in the U.S. by detailing how the persistence of anti-Black racism and Black criminalization determined shifts in regimes of racial control from the 18th century to the present.


[1] David M. Oshinsky, Worse Than Slavery: Parchman Farm and the Ordeal of Jim Crow Justice (New York: Free Press, 1996); Blackmon, Slavery by Another Name; Talitha LeFlouria, Chained in Silence: Black Women and Convict Labor in the New South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015); Sarah Haley, No Mercy Here: Gender, Punishment, and the Making of Jim Crow Modernity (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015); Simone Brown, Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness (Durham: Duke University Press, 2015); Patrick Elliot Alexander, From Slave Ship to Supermax: Mass Incarceration, Prisoner Abuse, and the New Neo-Slave Novel (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2018); Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Change Everything: Racial Capitalism and the Case for Abolition (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2021); Connie Hassett-Walker, “How You Start is How You Finish? The Slave Patrol and Jim Crow Origins of Policing,” American Bar Association;; Jill Lepore, “The Invention of the Police,” The New Yorker (July 13, 2020);