Tag Archives: Law and legal history

Habeas Corpus, the Fugitive Slave Law, and Executive Authority

Last month, President Donald Trump issued an executive order prohibiting the entry of refugees or visa holders from seven Middle Eastern nations. It went into effect while some foreign nationals were in transit, thus they arrived in a different America than the one they had expected. Among these were two Iraqis, detained at Kennedy Airport on January 27, 2017. Their lawyers filed writs of habeas corpus the following morning, hoping to have their clients released.[1] They were not alone. According to the director of the International Refugee Assistance Project, Becca Heller, “we’ve gotten reports of people being detained all over the country…. They’re literally pouring in by the minute.”[2] This executive order has raised, for many Americans, concerns about the role of executive power in a political system that reveres checks and balances, how this will affect refugees from war torn regions, and about our nation’s core identity as a country of immigrants.

Although our twenty-first century context is much different, the implementation of habeas corpus to rescue a detainee from state or federal custody harkens back to the enslaved people who were detained under the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. This law was intended to protect slaveholders’ property interests and reinforce a pro-slavery interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. It mandated that in fugitive slave cases where the alleged fugitive was taken into custody in a free state, normal judicial processes were not in force—there was no opportunity for appeal, no jury was present, the alleged owner (i.e. “slave claimant”) was not required to have a warrant, and the appointed slave commissioner had significant leeway in determining what constituted adequate evidence of enslavement. Even more controversially, the act stated that the commissioner was entitled to a ten-dollar fee if he found for the claimant, and only a five-dollar fee if he found for the alleged fugitive. It was a system that encouraged corruption.[3]

Like President Trump’s executive order, the Fugitive Slave Law unleashed a torrent of controversy. Blacks across the nation, whether free or enslaved, knew that this legislation would make it more difficult for fugitives to remain safe in the North, and it would also make it easier for kidnappers to abduct free Northern blacks and sell them into slavery. Proslavery Americans were ecstatic about its passage, since it marshaled the power of the federal government to protect slaveholders’ property rights. Many white Northerners were appalled by the fact that what they believed to be normal judicial processes could simply be swept away. Lewis Tappan noted that “the heart of every antislavery individual will deeply sympathize with the panting fugitive…. In every way in which it can be viewed, it is a disgrace to the nation, an act of extreme cruelty, and can be viewed as an experiment on the part of the Slave Power to see how much the Free States will bear.”[4] In Massachusetts, a group of citizens stated that “the foundations of our government are shaken, and unless the work of destruction shall be stayed, we may soon see that great union, our honor and safety abroad and at home, broken into weak, discordant and shattered fragments.”[5] Much like recent conversations about executive authority, and our obligation to refugees and legal immigrants, the Fugitive Slave Law had a polarizing effect on political discourse.

Political cartoon illustrating a woman being taken into custody
“Practical Illustration of the Fugitive Slave Law,” E. C. del., 1851. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Although the use of habeas corpus has evolved over the past 160 years, it remains an example of our shared conviction that all persons are born free and cannot be deprived of that freedom without due process. Then, as now, a writ of habeas corpus was used to uncover why a person was being restrained or incarcerated; in the antebellum period, “upon the presentation of a prima facie case for issuing the writ, it would be directed to the person detaining another, commanding him to bring the person detained before the judge and to state the reasons for depriving him of his freedom.”[6] Counsel could request a writ, but it was issued by a judge who directed it to the state official responsible for the alleged fugitive’s arrest. Due process is a right enshrined in the 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and habeas corpus was one mechanism for protecting this right.

In the antebellum South, however, there was no presumption that all persons were born free, and indeed African Americans were presumed to be slaves unless they could prove otherwise. Northern states, however, began to pass personal liberty laws in the early nineteenth century, as a way to prevent the kidnapping of free blacks. No federal anti-kidnapping law existed, so this power remained with the states. Personal liberty laws became even more significant after 1850. For instance, in 1855 the Massachusetts legislature passed a stringent personal liberty law that not only guaranteed the alleged fugitive a writ of habeas corpus and the right to a jury trial, but also promised serious punishment for anyone who took into custody a free person. The slave claimant could not seek counsel from local citizens. Although the Fugitive Slave Law allowed a mere affidavit by the claimant, at the commissioner’s discretion, this state law went further to require “at least two credible witnesses.”[7] Its passage initiated a prolonged struggle in the Massachusetts statehouse between conservatives and moderates, each jockeying for power to either repeal the law altogether or amend it to ease the burden on slaveholders. In March 1858 the law was amended, but the right to the writ remained.[8]

Similar situations played out in other Northern states, particularly in New England and the mid-Atlantic, which saw a number of high profile fugitive slave cases during the 1850s, and some prior to the new law’s passage, such as the Supreme Court case Prigg v. Pennsylvania (1842).[9] There are also less well-known cases where a writ was applied, such as that of Archy Lee in San Francisco in 1858 and Charley Fisher in Kansas in 1859.[10] The courts were caught between the property rights of slaveholders and a guarantee of due process for those who might be legally free. Antislavery resistance to an unjust law came, in these situations, through legal means.

Advertisement Seeking Assistance for Lee’s Legal Fees, c. 1858. Courtesy of Blackpast.org.

Before the Civil War, states could issue writs to rescue fugitives from federal custody, and national courts could not intervene at the state level.[11] This was, much to the chagrin of white Southerners, a states’ rights argument that contravened slavery instead of supporting the peculiar institution (the irony of this should not be lost on us today). From the antislavery perspective, free states should be able “to legislate on this subject for the preservation of their own peace and the protection of their own soil from insult and aggression,” to quote two attorneys who argued the Prigg v. Pennsylvania case.[12] This contest between federal and state power continued in other fugitive cases, including the prominent case of Joshua Glover in Wisconsin, where the territorial Supreme Court ignored a writ of error from the U.S. Supreme Court and even ruled that the Fugitive Slave Law was unconstitutional. Their decision was overturned in Ableman v. Booth (1859), when Chief Justice Roger Taney asserted that state courts did not have authority over federal courts.[13] States may have had the right to protect their citizens, but Congress and the Supreme Court also had responsibilities to slaveholders. Therein lay the rub.

The world of the 1850s is strikingly different from the world of 2017. Today we face challenges that would be unfamiliar to antebellum Americans who did not experience the 9/11 terrorist attack, nor had they seen their nation survive two world wars. The current administration’s immigration restrictions are predicated on the argument that they will protect us from terrorism, a justification decidedly unlike the property-rights argument used to justify the Fugitive Slave Law. Still, both then and now, those seeking to help detainees turned first to habeas corpus. Today we ask ourselves many of the same questions our nineteenth-century counterparts did. What are the limits of federal power? How freely should we accept immigrants and refugees, whether they be escaping slavery, or escaping war and persecution? What do we owe our allegiance to, human law or a higher law? Americans do not agree on the answers to these questions, nor did they in the 1850s. There is no doubt that the judicial system—and its defense of the Constitution—will play a central role in shaping the outcome.

[1] Brooke Seipel, “Refugees Detailed at US Airports After Trump Exec Order,” The Hill, http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/316656-refugees-detained-at-us-airports-following-refugee-ban (accessed January 28, 2017). This writ is available at https://www.scribd.com/document/337777796/1-Complaint?content=10079&campaign=Skimbit%2C+Ltd.&ad_group=&keyword=ft500noi&source=impactradius&medium=affiliate&irgwc=1 (accessed January 29, 2017).

[2] Michael D. Shear and Nicholas Kulish, “Trump’s Order Blocks Immigrants at Airports, Stoking Fear Around Globe,” The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/28/us/refugees-detained-at-us-airports-prompting-legal-challenges-to-trumps-immigration-order.html?smid=tw-share (accessed January 28, 2017).

[3] “Fugitive Slave Act of 1850,” The Avalon Project: Documents in Law, History and Diplomacy, http://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/fugitive.asp (accessed April 20, 2016).

[4] Lewis Tappan, The Fugitive Slave Bill: Its History and Unconstitutionality; With an Account of the Seizure and Enslavement of James Hamlet, and His Subsequent Restoration to Liberty (New York: William Harned, 1850), preface, https://www.loc.gov/resource/llst.076 (accessed February 11, 2017).

[5] To the Citizens of Massachusetts; The Undersigned Are Moved by an Imperative Sense of Duty to Address their fellow-citizens of the State of Massachusetts, Concerning the Portentous Condition of Our Public Affairs (1850), 1, https://www.loc.gov/resource/rbpe.06501000/ (accessed February 11, 2017).

[6] Thomas D. Morris, Free Men All: The Personal Liberty Laws of the North, 1780-1861 (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1974), 9.

[7] Mark Voss-Hubbard, “The Political Culture of Emancipation: Morality, Politics, and the State in Garrisonian Abolitionism, 1853-1863” Journal of American Studies 29 (August 1995): 172.

[8] Voss-Hubbard, 173.

[9] Prigg v. Pennsylvania 41 U.S. 539 (1842), https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/41/539/case.html (accessed February 8, 2017).

[10] Samuel May, The Fugitive Slave Law and Its Victims (New York: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1861), 97-98, 111-112.

[11] Morris, 10.

[12] Morris, 95.

[13] Early Maltz, “Slavery, Federalism, and the Constitution: Ableman v. Booth and the Struggle over Fugitive Slaves” Cleveland State Law Review 83 (2008): 92.

Kristen Epps

Dr. Kristen Epps is an assistant professor of history at the University of Central Arkansas. She is the author of Slavery on the Periphery: The Kansas-Missouri Border in the Antebellum and Civil War Eras (Georgia, 2016). Her research focuses on slavery, abolition, and the sectional crisis. She can be reached at kkepps@uca.edu.

New Political Histories of the Sectional Crisis: A Report from the AHA

In August 2016, Kenneth Osgood and Fredrik Logevall (fresh from winning the Pulitzer Prize for his recent book on the Vietnam War, Embers of War) co-authored an op-ed for the New York Times titled “Why Did We Stop Teaching Political History?”[1] Like so many nostalgic jeremiads, it assumes that we have stopped teaching political history (or military history, or “traditional” history, etc.), and that politics is now a marginalized field. This is a familiar complaint rising and falling with predictable regularity, and it remains a relevant discussion in Civil War and Reconstruction studies.

At an AHA panel in Denver, historians presented their work in response to this op-ed at Session 150, “Linking the Local and the National in the Politics of Sectional Conflict.” The panel was chaired by Amy Greenberg and included roundtable presentations and discussion featuring Rachel Shelden, Corey Brooks, and Joanne Freeman. Their scholarship confirmed what we were all probably thinking when we saw the Logevall/Osgood op-ed: historians of the antebellum and Civil War eras have never stopped writing or teaching political history. Yes, certainly, there are historians working on less overtly political topics, yet we recognize the many ways in which social and cultural history supplement or alter our writing and teaching about politics. As social and cultural histories become integrated into political history, New Political History emerged, and perhaps what we are all engaged in now is as I once heard Jonathan Earle ironically call label it: the New New Political History. Put whatever label you’d like to on it, but as Shelden emphasized, political history remains as urgent a field of inquiry as ever for scholars of sectionalism.

Shelden’s Washington Brotherhood (2013) exemplifies the way in which political historians have integrated social and cultural history into their studies of the deeply widening sectional conflicts between the war with Mexico and the Civil War. In her current research, Shelden plans to provide just the same new political history approach—integrating non-traditional forms of social and cultural history into her examination of how personal engagement and friendship, collegiality and rivalry, partisanship and ideology all affected the judicial outcomes of the era. Shelden maintains that compared to the Presidency and Congress, the judiciary remains understudied. There is nothing more traditionally political than giving a branch of the federal government close scrutiny, and detractors aside, political history today must be more than the traditional focus on only elite actors in official capacities. Her examination of the pre-Civil War judiciary proposes to be just the kind of scholarship that would satisfy both political and social historians, because it will take the best of both approaches and illuminate an area of the emerging political crisis of the Civil War so often overshadowed by case studies of Dred Scott.

In his book Liberty Power (2016), and at the session, Corey Brooks argues that antislavery activists and the few politicians sympathetic to their aims used Congressional debates not to win over colleagues, and therefore votes, but instead as a national lyceum. The published speeches and reprinted pamphlets provided much needed labor in building a northern consensus from the 1830s to the 1860s that slavery, if not abolished, certainly needed to be limited in the West. Through the antislavery associations and ultimately through the Liberty Party, Free Soil Party, and Republican Party, Brooks attends closely to the ways in which partisans made effective use of both Congress and the press to move public opinion in the years leading to the election of Abraham Lincoln. For Brooks, the election of Lincoln, and perhaps the Civil War itself, is best explained by studying how political antislavery activists and politicians lobbied, petitioned, and simply harangued their constituents until politicians like Lincoln could express sentiments or support for policies (policies that a generation or two before would have been inconceivably marginal). For many historians of abolition, it is the social pressure of Garrisonians and the moral weight of antislavery intellectuals like Frederick Douglass which capture our attention when writing and teaching about antislavery. Often it is our understanding of the increasing anxiety in the U.S. about how to integrate newly acquired western lands into a nation with sharply diverging sectional economic structures, or the rise of Southern nationalism, or the collapse of the Democratic party, which dominate our understanding of the rise of the Republican party in the 1850s. Brooks, like Shelden, makes the best use of social and cultural history produced over the past twenty-five years in support of his argument that antislavery third-party politics needs greater attention because its role in the politics of the 1840s and 1850s has too long been overshadowed by other explanations for why the War came.

In her classic work Affairs of Honor (2001), Joanne Freeman may well have established the model for the New New Political History by taking seriously the role that cultural traits related to honor, reputation, and violence played in the lives and careers of early national politicians. Not surprisingly, the Hamilton-Burr duel brings many readers to Freeman’s book. (Too soon to call it a classic? I will anyway.) Since its publication Freeman edited Alexander Hamilton: Writings (2001) for the Library of America and has been consumed lately with interviews about the Broadway musical Hamilton (its success attests to the public’s continued interest in “traditional” political history). Her next research project carries her interest in political violence and early U.S. history into the 1830s and 1850s. For Freeman, this period experienced a noticeable shift in print culture in terms of format, content, and accessibility, which along with western expansion, led to the rise of a particular class of “fighting men” within partisan politics. Beyond “affairs of honor” such as duels, these antebellum fighting men provided election day muscle to intimidate people into voting (or not), demonstrated to voters and partisan opponents that words would and often were backed by actions, and may well have led to the escalation of violence in America’s urban centers, but also, of course, in Kansas. She suggests that Representative Preston Brooks’s vicious caning of Senator Charles Sumner in 1856 is in need of greater political context than traditional explanations of Southern honor codes and widening sectional indecorum on the floor of Congress. So frequently in the Northern antebellum press, but also in our scholarship, political violence is attributed to either the genteel Southerner bound to defend his reputation or, alternatively, the barbaric lower classes, often immigrants, who resorted to violence rather than politics or law to settle their disputes. Despite these assumptions, Freeman has identified “fighting men” in the North and South, among Democrats and Republicans, and it may no longer be tenable to maintain that political violence operated on the margins, utilized only be those to be deplored.

Generally, when anyone bewails the decline of the study of traditional forms of history, I tend to shrug because I know that they are wrong. Traditional history is just fine, and I also find the ongoing inquiry into less traditional topics to be both interesting in its own right, but also so obviously useful to political historians like those who participated in this AHA panel. For models of scholarship that integrate social and cultural history into political history on the coming of the Civil War, you could do little better than reading or teaching these panelists.

[1] Fredrick Logevall and Kenneth Osgood, “Why Did We Stop Teaching Political History?” https://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/29/opinion/why-did-we-stop-teaching-political-history.html (accessed January 17, 2017).

Nicholas Cox

Nicholas P. Cox is currently the Program Coordinator for the History Department of Houston Community College. He is currently writing a political biography of Colonel Richard M. Johnson of Kentucky, as well as instructional supplements for OUP’s Texas history textbook, Gone to Texas. He has given presentations on his research and teaching at the AHA, SHEAR, TXSHA, ETHA, and HASH; referees article submissions for the Journal of South Texas; and reviews books for a number of journals. You can easily find him on Twitter @npcox or by email at nicholas.cox@hccs.edu.

Mass Incarceration And Its Mystification: A Review Of The 13th

aaihsThis article was originally published by The African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS) and is reprinted here with permission. Although some of the material falls outside the temporal boundaries of this blog, we believe our readers will find it to be a valuable review, due to its connections to the Civil War.


When prisoners in Alabama last spring proposed a national strike to protest “prison slavery,” they called out the infamous clause in the Thirteenth Amendment. The amendment most known for abolishing slavery included a rider that sanctioned slavery “as punishment for a crime wherein the party shall have been duly convicted.”

That exception provides the foundation for Ava DuVernay’s The 13th, an exploration of racial criminalization from the end of slavery to the present. The documentary features interviews with several leading scholars, pundits, and activists working on the issue, as well as a host of other commentators, including journalists and politicians. It moves quickly through more than 150 years of history, with a clear goal of providing the backdrop to the present moment of racial violence and resistance.

“Kalief Browder, 1993–2015,” by Jennifer Gonnerman (Photo by Zach Gross).
“Kalief Browder, 1993–2015,” by Jennifer Gonnerman (Photo by Zach Gross).

The film is at its best when it chronicles individual fates of those who encounter the carceral state. For example, the tragedy of Khalief Browder, the 22-year-old New Yorker who committed suicide after being held for three years in Rikers Island awaiting trial on charges—ultimately dropped—of having stolen a backpack, is portrayed with wrenching grace. Browder’s courage is evident in his refusal to accept a plea bargain for something he did not do. Yet the violence he faced during his imprisonment, some of it captured on film, led him to take his own life after his release. The film also presents a thoughtful, searing discussion among Black scholars and activists about the ethics of visualizing Black suffering, from lynching to contemporary killings by police.

The 13th effectively demonstrates that criminalization has been a persistent feature of anti-Black racism. It shows the recursive nature of “law and order” politics, as DuVernay juxtaposes scenes from Trump’s speeches and rallies with police and vigilante attacks on Black activists in the 1960s. Such scenes, with the accompanying commentary, vindicate the mission, purpose, and structure of Black Lives Matter as the latest manifestation of a long struggle against criminalization. The footage underscores Malkia Cyril’s powerful comment that Black Lives Matter is “about changing the way this country understands human dignity.”

The 13th describes mass incarceration as a backlash to the civil rights and Black Power movements, with some compelling footage of Black Panther Assata Shakur and other activists. Yet the film focuses more on what FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and President Nixon thought than on what they—or others—did. The reference by CNN contributor Van Jones to the imprisonment, exile, or death of Black activists in the 1960s appears only in the context of why there was not more opposition to the 1994 Crime Bill rather than as part of examining the foundations of mass incarceration in the political repression of 1960s-era social movements. The film does not discuss the policies that gave greater power to police, prosecutors, and prisons in those critical years.

Mass incarceration is the recent expression of a larger edifice of carceral power. It is a political project that began in response to the rebellious social movements in U.S. cities and prisons during the 1960s. It began with state and national politicians giving greater resources and authority to police and prosecutors and expanding the criminal code before embarking on the world’s biggest prison construction program. It now maintains an interlinked system of policing, surveillance, and imprisonment concentrated on the most marginalized sectors of society.

Mass incarceration began through twinned campaigns of targeted antiradicalism alongside the broad political economic destabilization of working class communities of color in the 1960s. It was not simply the “evolution of racial caste,” as Michelle Alexander states. Rather, mass incarceration has always been a bipartisan political project of social control—a counterrevolution by liberals and conservatives alike. It is too narrow to, as the film does, date mass incarceration to Ronald Reagan’s expansion of the war on drugs in the 1980s and Bill Clinton’s 1994 crime bill.  That puts the onus on federal prison policy, when 90 percent of the 2.3 million people incarcerated in this country are in state prisons and local jails. Prisons, as Ruth Wilson Gilmore documents in Golden Gulag, were the state-by-state geographic solution to the American government in crisis.

aaihs-2In discussing the time between Bill Clinton’s presidency and the present, the film makes several significant factual errors: it states that arrests spiked after the 1994 Crime Bill when arrests have actually fallen since that time (the bill’s more pernicious effects concerned sentencing policy, not arrest rates); it shows a graph claiming that the prison population has expanded dramatically since 2010, when incarceration rates have plateaued or even fallen since that time; and it says that Black men account for 40% of the prison population, which has not been the case for several years. Although Black people remain dramatically overrepresented in prisons, the last several years have seen the number of Black men in prison drop and the number of white and Latino men—as well as women of all races—rise.

The prison system is racist and violent, but in ways that constantly evolve. Presenting old statistics or inventing new ones overlooks the deadly dynamism of mass incarceration. It can also reinscribe some of the same connections between Blackness and criminality that the film seeks to interrupt, such as the mistaken idea–taken from Bureau of Justice Statistics projections and debunked by professor Ivory Toldson–that there are more Black men in prison than in college or that one in three Black men will serve time in prison.

The film also suggests that mass incarceration is a profit-driven system controlled by the American Legislative Executive Council (ALEC), the shadowy lobbying group of major corporations and mostly Republican officials.  The 13th implies that mass incarceration is driven by private prisons and prison labor, and that ALEC oversees this nefarious scheme. These claims are simply false. As loathsome as ALEC is, it is a minor player in a complex network of public and private interests shaping crime policy. And as the Prison Policy Initiative has documented, private prisons account for less than ten percent of the overall prison population in the United States and are now at the frontlines of pursuing privatized alternatives to incarceration rather than mass incarceration itself. (The one exception is in the realm of immigrant detention, where more than seventy percent of detainees are held in privately run facilities.)

Beyond inflating the role of ALEC and companies like the Corrections Corporation of America, this focus on private prisons obscures the real ways money moves through or is extracted from the prison system, including both the vast expenditure of public funds dedicated to caging human beings as well as the nefarious ways private companies seek to profit off of incarceration. The film does cover the exorbitant rates charged for phone calls incarcerated people make to their loved ones, but only after the long and misleading emphasis on private prisons. Private companies, especially private prison companies, are not the driving forces of mass incarceration. They are the venal byproducts of racial state violence in a capitalist society. And as these entities now seek to steer the ship of prison reform, blaming ALEC for mass incarceration overlooks the true centers of gravity in the terrifying evolution of carceral control. It leaves students or others fired up by the film’s moral power with few places to turn to express their outrage.

Such missteps muddle the issue of where mass incarceration comes from or what it means to end it. One would be hard-pressed to find more astute analysts of racial criminalization and mass incarceration than Malkia Cyril, Angela Davis, Marie Gottschalk, James Kilgore, Khalil Muhammad, and some of the other commentators who appear in the film. Yet they appear alongside several people who have promoted and upheld anti-Black, free-market “solutions”—first to crime and now to mass incarceration. The film makes no narrative intervention to differentiate between its many interviewees, suggesting they are all equally reliable and trustworthy experts. While the cacophony of voices in the film—38 interviewees in 100 minutes—may be meant to suggest the breadth of voices opposed to the American carceral state, in practice it normalizes some dangerous or misleading analyses.

Some of the most robust avenues for understanding mass incarceration are unexplored in the film. The loudest silence is the inattention to women’s incarceration as well as the incarceration of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people. As many do, The 13th treats mass incarceration as only a story of Black men in prison. Yet while women have always been a small percentage of the overall number of prisoners, their rate of incarceration—especially for Black women—has been higher than men. The film also overlooks the other labor women and queer and trans people do as a result of mass incarceration in maintaining families and communities. Other distinctive, and distinctly racist, areas of American prisons—such as the death penalty and long-term solitary confinement—are barely mentioned or overlooked entirely.

aaihs-3

DuVernay is exactly right to insist that criminalization has been and remains yoked to racism. And she has assembled some of the sharpest minds—if also, sadly, some of the dullest—to excavate why that is the case. The end result, however, is underwhelming. Overall, the film is too inattentive to the historical ebb and flow of racial criminalization, and it misses some of the most damning components of punishment. As Brett Story, director of another recent documentary on mass incarceration, The Prison in 12 Landscapes, told me, “dehumanization is the consequence, not the cause, of mass incarceration. It is not an attitude but a relation systematically organized and corroborative of other structures of abandonment.” Attending to those structures of abandonment is critical to understand and eradicate mass incarceration.

Dan Berger

Dan Berger is an assistant professor of comparative ethnic studies at the University of Washington Bothell. He is the author of several books including Captive Nation: Black Prison Organizing in the Civil Rights Era. The book shows that prisons produce a unique and influential form of antiracist politics. Follow him on Twitter @dnbrgr.