Date of Award

Summer 8-15-2020

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



By the 1830s, incarceration emerged as a two-pronged solution for racial control and economic expansion. Local and federal government built jails around the District of Columbia to detain "rowdy negro boys," men, and women, as a means to stymie their rapid movement and fuel a burgeoning domestic slave trade. People were jailed, fined, and often sold to the Deep South, providing a wellspring of capital for enslavers, justified through the lens of criminality. For the crime of petty theft, missing free papers, or in at least one case "using foul language," black people of the Washington region could find themselves jailed and subsequently sold to the highest bidder. This intersection between federal spending, public infrastructure and slavery will form the focus of this dissertation. It looks at slavery-capitalism's symbiotic development with the American carceral state - how racialized concepts of criminality became essential to the nineteenth century slave-making and freedom-making process in the United States.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Iver Bernstein

Committee Members

Iver Bernstein, Adrienne Davis, Peter Kastor, Rafia Zafar,