Survival and Surveillance: Recovering Narratives of Black Female Criminality during the Civil War
The nation’s capital was a shared space, occupied by local black and white inhabitants, immigrants, politicians, and soldiers. Applying geospatial methods, as well as Omeka and Neatline tools, the project involves a detailed examination of criminal data from 1861 and 1862 to capture the tensions and conflicts within that shared space and at centers of power. Moreover, I have compiled a database that includes a listing of all documented arrests, charges, and sentences of black women in the District from jail registers, warrants, and police court reports documented from 1861 to 1862. My research demonstrates that black women strategically navigated wartime Emancipation in their quest for independence, stability, and survival. This case study at the heart of national politics and culture resituates lower-class black women from the margins to the center to examine the racial and gendered context in which American criminal law took shape.
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