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The Social Organization of Jim Crow Justice

The Social Organization of Jim Crow Justice

Chapter:
(p.105) Four The Social Organization of Jim Crow Justice
Source:
The Black Child-Savers
Author(s):
Geoff K. Ward
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226873190.003.0005

This chapter focuses on the societal mechanisms and implications of Jim Crow juvenile justice. This sociological interpretation helps account for the formation and endurance of this peculiar institution while also providing a context for the oppositional racial project it inspired—the black child-saving movement. The basic argument here is that Jim Crow juvenile justice was a racially oppressive social system that grew and flourished amid the racial group power imbalance created by denials of black representation. Black Americans showed tremendous concern for black youth protection, in the interest of youth and community welfare, yet white domination of the public sphere led to monopolization of child-welfare resources and authority. Thus, Jim Crow juvenile justice was defined by a dynamic of underdevelopment, a systematic attempt to deny black youth (and, therefore, community) development, or self-realization, through the racially selective provision of parental state resources. In the urban North, this oppression typically manifested as institutionalized neglect or subtle exploitation, while the oppression of black youths and communities in the South often took more explicit, violent, and politically expressive forms.

Keywords:   Jim Crow justice, American juvenile justice, American democracy, Jim Crow, black youth, black community, civil rights, rehabilitation, black child-saving movement

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