A Brief Moment in the Sun: Politics, Race, Punishment, and the Rise of the Proto-Carceral State

A Brief Moment in the Sun: Politics, Race, Punishment, and the Rise of the Proto-Carceral State

Abstract

What explains the origins of the racialized carceral state? I explore this question in the context of 19th century U.S. South–a region which many point to as the crucible of punishment in America. I argue that outside intervention by the federal government during Reconstruction helped lay the groundwork for the proto-carceral state. I test the argument by assembling a new panel dataset from individual-level administrative records from Georgia in addition to data on black wealth and office holding. A difference-in-differences identification strategy demonstrates support for the argument: counties with greater exposure to Reconstruction had higher rates of incarceration especially against blacks after the end of Reconstruction. Additional results on black wealth, black office-holding, and the police force provide suggestive evidence in line with the theory. This article verifies key arguments going back to W.E.B. Du Bois in addition to crystallizing racialized and coercive dimensions of state power. Job Market Paper

Publication
Job Market Paper
Date