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Authors: Schwarz, Susanne
Advisors: Frymer, Paul
Contributors: Politics Department
Keywords: American Political Development
Carceral State
Convict Leasing
Public Policy
Southern Politics
Subjects: Political science
African American studies
Issue Date: 2022
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: The end of the Civil War marked a jubilant moment for the almost four million formerly enslaved blacks who finally found their freedom. However, their “moment under sun,” as W.E.B Dubois put it, was brief. Not long after the Civil War, African Americans found themselves persecuted and imprisoned in Southern carceral institutions at unprecedented rates. Under the newly introduced Southern convict leasing systems, prisoners were rented out to private contractors for a fee. In turn, they had to labor for these lessees for the duration of their sentence—on railroads and plantations, in brickyards, lumber camps and coal mines all over the postbellum South.In three essays, I explore the political development of Southern carceral states, particularly their convict leasing systems, after the Civil War. To do so, I rely on original quantitative data and historical evidence that I collected during field trips to Southern state archives. Many of my analyses rely on a novel database on Postbellum Incarceration in the American South (PIAS), which documents annual county- level convictions for eight Southern states between 1865-1920. The first essay in this series uses PIAS data between 1868 and 1880 to understand how black politi- cal empowerment affected incarceration during Reconstruction. I find that Southern blacks enjoyed important political efficacy as counties with black political representatives showed substantially lower annual conviction rates. The second essay uses a case study approach to develop a better understanding of the political origins of Southern convict leasing systems. I argue that the initial introduction of these policies was less driven by a programmatic attempt to re-enslave African Americans, but seemed more a consequence of limited state and fiscal capacity in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War. The third essay explores dynamics of the “extractive carceral state” and asks whether Southern Redeemer governments were able to use their convict leasing systems to expand fiscal capacities over time. Using PIAS data between 1880 and 1910, I show that annual conviction growth was negatively associated with state revenue growth, suggesting that that states balanced their finances by scaling fee collection from convict leasing.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Politics

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