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African Americans And The Prison System

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African Americans in Prison

Is the criminal Justice system replacing slavery as a Means of Oppression?

Table of Contents


Part 1 : SLAVERY

I. The History of Oppression and African AmericansÐŽKÐŽKÐŽKÐŽKÐŽKÐŽKÐŽKÐŽK..

III. The lasting effects of slavery: continuous oppressionÐŽKÐŽKÐŽKÐŽKÐŽKÐŽKÐŽK

a. The lost sense of culture and cultural pride: Feeling of inferiority

b. No economic foundation

c. Unleveled playing field


PART 2 : THE NEW AGE SLAVERY: The Prison System





a. Demise of the Black family

b. Lost political voice



I. Introduction

In the book the Mugging of Black America, Earl Ofari Hutchinson relays an interesting experience by a reporter. The reporter, who spent two and a half hours watching suspects march before Washington, D.C. Superior Court Judge Morton Berg, noted that all but one of these subjects was Black. He stated, ÐŽ§There is an odd air about the swift afternoonÐŽXan atmosphere like that of British Africa in colonial timesÐŽXas the procession of tattered, troubled, scowling, poor blacks plead guilty or not guilty to charges of drug possession, drug distribution, assault, armed robbery, theft, breaking in, fraud and arson.ЎЁ According to Hutchinson, the reporter witnessed more than a courtroom scene; he witnessed the legacy of slavery.

This paper will attempt expand on HutchinsonÐŽ¦s theory. It will do so by first describing slavery and its lasting impact then it will attempt to show how the current criminal justice system mirrors slavery.

PART 1: Slavery

I. The History of Oppression and African Americans

The history of the oppression as it relates to African Americans began in 1619. It was this year in which a Dutch ship brought the first slaves from Africa to North America. Following this arrival of twenty Africans in Virginia, white European-Americans created the institution of slavery.

Slavery spread so quickly that by 1860 the original twenty slaves turned into nearly four million. In the beginning the legal status of these Africans was undefined. This absent definition created a lack of certainty which allowed for some slaves to become free after years of service. This only lasted briefly. In the 1660s, however, the colonies began enacting laws that defined and regulated slaves and the institution of slavery. One of the most important of these was the provision that black slaves, and the children of slave women, would serve for life.

These ÐŽ§breedingЎЁ laws were just the beginning. Soon, slavery in the United States was governed by a body of laws developed from the 1660s to the 1860s. Even though every slave state had its own slave code and case law, it became universal that slavery was a permanent condition.

In addition to slavery being a permanent condition, slaves were also, under these laws, considered property. Slaves, being property, could not own property or be a party to a contract. Since marriage is a form of a contract, slave marriages had no legal standing. Most codes also had sections regulating free blacks. Under these codes blacks who were not slaves were still subject to controls on their movements and employment.

These laws served not only as a physical limitation, but an ideological one also. In addition to granting slave owners and white people power over slaves and in some cases free blacks, the laws also granted slaveholders and white-Europeans an intangible source of power. Socially, the institution of slavery allowed white slave owners to believe they had not only physical control, but physical and mental superiority over the slaves. With only a few exceptions, all slaves were Africans. This fact placed the label of inferiority on black skin.

The actual institution of slavery as it relates to master and slave lasted up in till the Civil war. The American Civil War was fought, in part, over slavery. During the war, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which ÐŽ§freedЎЁ all slaves. This seemingly, brought the end of slavery throughout the United States, but unfortunately left a lasting impression. From this point on slavery took on a new form as former slaves being associated with the label of inferiority.

II. The lasting effects of slavery: continuous oppression

Slavery is defined by WebsterÐŽ¦s dictionary as ÐŽ§The state of being under the control of



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