Special Issue

Historians and the Carceral State

Editor's ChoiceThe United States is covered by an extensive, overlapping, and expanding policing apparatus at local, county, state, and federal levels. This has produced the world’s largest prison population, with more humans caged in this nation than in any other country on earth. Every day more than 2 million people–mostly black, brown, or poor–are barred somewhere within the United States’ vast archipelago of prisons, jails, and immigrant detention centers. Unsurprisingly, mass incarceration has had cascading implications and created “collateral consequences” for urban and suburban spaces, family lives, national borders, and the shape of the U.S. economy and American democracy. Millions are directly affected by being imprisoned, and millions more are employed to maintain their incarceration. This special issue of the Journal of American History, “Historians and the Carceral State,” introduces readers to the growing literature on how the carceral state emerged in the early republic, was consolidated in the nineteenth century, and then underwent phenomenal expansion during the long twentieth century. The contributors to this special issue–Jeffrey S. Adler, Robert T. Chase, Miroslava Chávez-García, Edward J. Escobar, Kali Nicole Gross, Torrie Hester, Elizabeth Hinton, Julilly Kohler-Hausmann, Matthew D. Lassiter, Alex Lichtenstein, Donna Murch, Micol Seigel, and Timothy Stewart-Winter–take an expansive approach to the historical drivers of the carceral state and consider topics including the role of incarcerated black women, the rise of undocumented Latinos in the federal prison system, the role of white suburban drug use and the crack epidemic in the racialized war on drugs, and how prison building drove the political economy of the sun belt. Although no collection of essays can fully capture every element of the carceral state, this volume provides insight into the work of historians mapping the terrains of a burgeoning field.

Introduction: Constructing the Carceral State

by Kelly Lytle Hernández, Khalil Gibran Muhammad, and Heather Ann Thompson, pp. 18—24 Read online >

Listen to Kelly Lytle Hernández and Heather Ann Thompson discuss the special issue in the Journal of American History Podcast.

African American Women, Mass Incarceration, and the Politics of Protection

by Kali Nicole Gross, pp. 25—33 Read online >

Less Crime, More Punishment: Violence, Race, and Criminal Justice in Early Twentieth-Century America

by Jeffrey S. Adler, pp. 34—46 Read online >

Youth of Color and California’s Carceral State: The Fred C. Nelles Youth Correctional Facility

by Miroslava Chávez-García, pp. 47—60 Read online >

Queer Law and Order: Sex, Criminality, and Policing in the Late Twentieth-Century United States

by Timothy Stewart-Winter, pp. 61—72 Read online >

We Are Not Slaves: Rethinking the Rise of Carceral States through the Lens of the Prisoners’ Rights Movement

by Robert T. Chase, pp. 73—86 Read online >

Guns and Butter: The Welfare State, the Carceral State, and the Politics of Exclusion in the Postwar United States

by Julilly Kohler-Hausmann, pp. 87—99 Read online >

“A War within Our Own Boundaries”: Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society and the Rise of the Carceral State

by Elizabeth Hinton, pp. 100—112 Read online >

Flocatex and the Fiscal Limits of Mass Incarceration: Toward a New Political Economy of the Postwar Carceral State

by Alex Lichtenstein, pp. 113—25 Read online >

Impossible Criminals: The Suburban Imperatives of America’s War on Drugs

by Matthew D. Lassiter, pp. 126—40 Read online >

Deportability and the Carceral State

by Torrie Hester, pp. 141—51 Read online >

Objects of Police History

by Micol Seigel, pp. 152—61 Read online >

Crack in Los Angeles: Crisis, Militarization, and Black Response to the Late Twentieth-Century War on Drugs

by Donna Murch, pp. 162—73 Read online >

The Unintended Consequences of the Carceral State: Chicana/o Political Mobilization in Post—World War II America

by Edward J. Escobar, pp. 174—84 Read online >

OAH Media Guide on Race Relations

Designed for journalists seeking historical context, this guide offers contact information for selected OAH members who study, write, and speak on race in America, including several contributors to the June 2015 issue of Journal of American History.

Exhibition Reviews

  • “Introduction,” by Brian Horrigan and Kathleen Franz (p. 185)
    Read online >

  • The Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Long Struggle for Freedom, by Kevin Strait (p. 186)
    Read online >

  • The Woodrow Wilson Family Home: A Museum of Reconstruction in Columbia and Richland County, by Cecelia Moore (p. 188)
    Read online >

  • Women in Military Service for America Memorial, by Loren E. Miller (p. 193)
    Read online >

  • “Broken Bodies, Suffering Spirits: Injury, Death, and Healing in Civil War Philadelphia,” by Minju Bae (p. 198)
    Read online >

Book Reviews

June 2015, Vol. 102, No. 1

Alphabetical by the last name of the book's first author or editor.

  • Absher, The Black Musician and the White City: Race and Music in Chicago, 1900–1967, by Tony Gass
  • Agee, The Streets of San Francisco: Policing and the Creation of a Cosmopolitan Liberal Politics, 1950–1972, by Fritz Umbach
  • Andreas, Smuggler Nation: How Illicit Trade Made America, by Dael A. Norwood
  • Asselin, Hanoi’s Road to the Vietnam War, 1954–1965, by Jessica Elkind
  • Avila, The Folklore of the Freeway: Race and Revolt in the Modernist City, by Aaron Cavin
  • Barr, Loathing Lincoln: An American Tradition from the Civil War to the Present, by Harold Holzer
  • Battat, Ain’t Got No Home: America’s Great Migrations and the Making of an Interracial Left, by Tyler T. Schmidt
  • Bieger and Lammert, eds., Revisiting the Sixties: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on America’s Longest Decade, by Jeremi Suri
  • Blades and Siracusa, A History of U.S. Nuclear Testing and Its Influence on Nuclear Thought, 1945–1963, by J. Samuel Walker
  • Boster, African American Slavery and Disability: Bodies, Property, and Power in the Antebellum South, 1800–1860, by Marie Jenkins Schwartz
  • Boulton, Failing Our Veterans: The G. I. Bill and the Vietnam Generation, by Glenn C. Altschuler
  • Bradley, A Very Principled Boy: The Life of Duncan Lee, Red Spy and Cold Warrior, by John Philipp Baesler
  • Braun, Breathing Race into the Machine: The Surprising Career of the Spirometer from Plantation to Genetics, by Joel D. Howell
  • Brooks, A Voice That Could Stir an Army: Fannie Lou Hamer and the Rhetoric of the Black Freedom Movement, by Julie Armstrong
  • Burke, Information and Intrigue: From Index Cards to Dewey Decimals to Alger Hiss, by R. Bruce Craig
  • Cadle, The Mediating Nation: Late American Realism, Globalization, and the Progressive State, by Christopher P. Wilson
  • Chateauvert, Sex Workers Unite: A History of the Movement from Stonewall to SlutWalk, by Emily K. Hobson
  • Chávez-García, States of Delinquency: Race and Science in the Making of California’s Juvenile Justice System, by Robert T. Chase
  • Cheney, James Madison: A Life Reconsidered, by Alan R. Gibson
  • Chet, The Ocean Is a Wilderness: Atlantic Piracy and the Limits of State Authority, 1688–1856, by Evan Lampe
  • Clark, The Strange History of the American Quadroon: Free Women of Color in the Revolutionary Atlantic World, by Paul Lachance
  • Clemente, Dress Casual: How College Students Redefined American Style, by Jennifer Guiliano
  • Cohen and Glover, eds., Colonial Mediascapes: Sensory Worlds of the Early Americans, by Katherine Grandjean
  • Colhoun, Gangsterismo: The United States, Cuba, and the Mafia; 1933 to 1966, by Jennifer Lambe
  • Crouch, Nobility Lost: French and Canadian Martial Cultures, Indians, and the End of New France, by Saliha Belmessous
  • Curran, Papist Devils: Catholics in British America, 1574–1783, by Laura M. Chmielewski
  • Darden and Thomas, Detroit: Race Riots, Racial Conflicts, and Efforts to Bridge the Racial Divide, by Karen R. Miller
  • Day, Diamonds in the Rough: A History of Alabama’s Cahaba Coal Field, by Henry M. McKiven
  • Dietl, Equal Security: Europe and the salt Process, 1969–1976, by Jerald A. Combs
  • Duffy and Muller, Inventing Ethan Allen, by Stephanie Kermes
  • Dwyer-McNulty, Common Threads: A Cultural History of Clothing in American Catholicism, by Una M. Cadegan
  • Echeverría, Aztlán Arizona: Mexican American Educational Empowerment, 1968–1978, by Felipe Hinojosa
  • Ehlers, Racial Imperatives: Discipline, Performativity, and Struggles against Subjection, by Anne Elizabeth Carroll
  • Field, From Development to Dictatorship: Bolivia and the Alliance for Progress in the Kennedy Era, by Stephen Streeter
  • Field, The Struggle for Equal Adulthood: Gender, Race, Age, and the Fight for Citizenship in Antebellum America, by Beverly C. Tomek
  • Fisher and Silverman, Ninigret, Sachem of the Niantics and Narragansetts: Diplomacy, War, and the Balance of Power in Seventeenth-Century New England and Indian Country, by Daniel Mandell
  • Francis, Civil Rights and the Making of the Modern American State, by Jeffrey D. Gonda
  • Frank, Out in the Union: A Labor History of Queer America, by Ileen A. DeVault
  • Frank, Making Rocky Mountain National Park: The Environmental History of an American Treasure, by Douglas Dodd
  • Franzen, Anna Howard Shaw: The Work of Woman Suffrage, by Susan Goodier
  • Frederickson and Walters, eds., Gendered Resistance: Women, Slavery, and the Legacy of Margaret Garner, by Angela Boswell
  • Furstenberg, When the United States Spoke French: Five Refugees Who Shaped a Nation, by Simon Newman
  • Gallamore and Meyer, American Railroads: Decline and Renaissance in the Twentieth Century, by Mark Aldrich
  • Giles, Antipodean America: Australasia and the Constitution of U.S. Literature, by Paola Gemme
  • Gioielli, Environmental Activism and the Urban Crisis: Baltimore, St. Louis, Chicago, by Gregory S. Wilson
  • Gleeson and Lewis, eds., The Civil War as Global Conflict: Transnational Meanings of the American Civil War, by Andrew Witmer
  • Goldstein, ed., Little “Red Scares”: Anti-Communism and Political Repression in the United States, 1921–1946, by Donna T. Haverty-Stacke
  • Goldstene, The Struggle for America’s Promise: Equal Opportunity at the Dawn of Corporate Capital, by Chad Pearson
  • Green, The Other Americans in Paris: Businessmen, Countesses, Wayward Youth, 1880–1941, by Brooke Blower
  • Green, McKiernan-González, and Summers, eds., Precarious Prescriptions: Contested Histories of Race and Health in North America, by Susan E. Lederer
  • Gritter, River of Hope: Black Politics and the Memphis Freedom Movement, 1865–1954, by Darius Young
  • Guasco, Slaves and Englishmen: Human Bondage in the Early Modern Atlantic World, by Robin Blackburn
  • Gura, Truth’s Ragged Edge: The Rise of the American Novel, by Carl Ostrowski
  • Hackett, That Religion in Which All Men Agree: Freemasonry in American Culture, by R. William Weisberger
  • Hales, Outside the Gates of Eden: The Dream of America from Hiroshima to Now, by Lawrence B. Glickman
  • Halliwell and Rasmussen, eds., William James and the Transatlantic Conversation: Pragmatism, Pluralism, and Philosophy of Religion, by Amy Kittelstrom
  • Hamlin, From Eve to Evolution: Darwin, Science, and Women’s Rights in Gilded Age America, by Megan J. Elias
  • Heineman, Civil War Dynasty: The Ewing Family of Ohio, by G. Aley
  • Heitmann and Morales, Stealing Cars: Technology and Society from the Model T to the Gran Torino, by David Blanke
  • Heller, Israel and the Cold War from the War of Independence to the Six Days War: The United States, the Soviet Union, the Arab-Israeli Conflict, and the Question of Soviet Jewry, by Matthew Silver
  • Helo, Thomas Jefferson’s Ethics and the Politics of Human Progress: The Morality of a Slaveholder, by John Michael
  • Howell, Old Islam in Detroit: Rediscovering the Muslim American Past, by Dawn-Marie Gibson
  • Hughes, Spectacles of Reform: Theater and Activism in Nineteenth-Century America, by Scott C. Martin
  • Jacobs and Roper, eds., The Worlds of the Seventeenth-Century Hudson Valley, by Donna Merwick
  • Jensen, The Battle against Anarchist Terrorism: An International History, 1878–1934, by Andrew Cornell
  • Johnson, Diplomacy in Black and White: John Adams, Toussaint Louverture, and Their Atlantic World Alliance, by Arthur Scherr
  • Judd, Second Nature: An Environmental History of New England, by Brian Donahue
  • Kammen and Beatty, eds., Zen and the Art of Local History, by Terry A. Barnhart
  • Kett, Merit: The History of a Founding Ideal from the American Revolution to the Twenty-First Century, by Mark D. McGarvie
  • Kilson, Transformation of the African American Intelligentsia, 1880–2012, by Touré F. Reed
  • Kimble, Prairie Forge: The Extraordinary Story of the Nebraska Scrap Metal Drive of World War II, by Maury Klein
  • Kopelson, Faithful Bodies: Performing Religion and Race in the Puritan Atlantic, by Brian Connolly
  • Lansbury, A Spectacular Leap: Black Women Athletes in Twentieth-Century America, by Amy Essington
  • LeMenager, Living Oil: Petroleum Culture in the American Century, by Elizabeth D. Blum
  • Lifset, ed., American Energy Policy in the 1970s, by Burton I. Kaufman
  • Lindgren, Preserving South Street Seaport: The Dream and Reality of a New York Urban Renewal District, by Catherine McNeur
  • Link, Atlanta, Cradle of the New South: Race and Remembering in the Civil War’s Aftermath, by Bruce Baker
  • Lobel, Urban Appetites: Food and Culture in Nineteenth-Century New York, by Katherine Leonard Turner
  • Lupack, Richard E. Norman and Race Filmmaking, by Ryan Friedman
  • Mace, In Remembrance of Emmett Till: Regional Stories and Media Responses to the Black Freedom Struggle, by Davis W. Houck
  • Madison, Hoosiers: A New History of Indiana, by James J. Connolly
  • Marsden, The Twilight of the American Enlightenment: The 1950s and the Crisis of Liberal Belief, by Daniel Geary
  • Marten, America’s Corporal: James Tanner in War and Peace, by Barbara A. Gannon
  • McLaughlin, The Long, Hot Summer of 1967: Urban Rebellion in America, by Andrea A. Burns
  • Mitchell, A New History of Mississippi, by Charles C. Bolton
  • Mizelle Jr, Backwater Blues: The Mississippi Flood of 1927 in the African American Imagination, by George Lipsitz
  • Mooney, Race Horse Men: How Slavery and Freedom were Made at the Racetrack, by Joshua D. Rothman
  • Morris, Oberlin, Hotbed of Abolitionism: College, Community, and the Fight for Freedom and Equality in Antebellum America, by Sherry H. Penney
  • Nackenoff and Novkov, eds., Statebuilding from the Margins: Between Reconstruction and the New Deal, by Gregory P. Downs
  • Needham, Power Lines: Phoenix and the Making of the Modern Southwest, by Adam Rome
  • Nichols, Warrior Nations: The United States and Indian Peoples, by Thomas S. Abler
  • Nicolaisen and Spahn, eds., Cosmopolitanism and Nationhood in the Age of Jefferson, by Darren Staloff
  • Ninkovich, The Global Republic: America’s Inadvertent Rise to World Power, by Richard H. Pells
  • Noe, ed., The Yellowhammer War: The Civil War and Reconstruction in Alabama, by Robert Tinkler
  • Orvell and Benesch, eds., Rethinking the American City: An International Dialogue, by A. K. Sandoval-Strausz
  • Osburn, Choctaw Resurgence in Mississippi: Race, Class, and Nation Building in the Jim Crow South, 1830–1977, by James Taylor Carson
  • Overy, The Bombers and the Bombed: Allied Air War over Europe, 1940–1945, by Jeremy R. Kinney
  • Peacock, Innocent Weapons: The Soviet and American Politics of Childhood in the Cold War, by Marilyn Irvin Holt
  • Peart, Era of Experimentation: American Political Practices in the Early Republic, by Kristofer Ray
  • Rebok, Humboldt and Jefferson: A Transatlantic Friendship of the Enlightenment, by Darren Staloff
  • Reed, Robert Cantwell and the Literary Left: A Northwest Writer Reworks American Fiction, by Barbara Foley
  • Robinson, The Diaries of John Gregory Bourke, vol. 5: May 23, 1881–August 26, 1881, by Steve Sabol
  • Ruef, Between Slavery and Capitalism: The Legacy of Emancipation in the American South, by Howard Temperley
  • Ruffin, Uninvited Neighbors: African Americans in Silicon Valley, 1769–1990, by Kevin Allen Leonard
  • Schulman, ed., Making the American Century: Essays on the Political Culture of Twentieth Century America, by Jason Parker
  • Serna, Making Cinelandia: American Films and Mexican Film Culture before the Golden Age, by Mark Lynn Anderson
  • Shankman, ed., The World of the Revolutionary American Republic: Land, Labor, and the Conflict for a Continent, by T. H. Breen
  • Sheehan-Dean, ed., A Companion to the U.S. Civil War, vols. 1–2:, by Stephen D. Engle
  • Smith, Trouble in Goshen: Plain Folk, Roosevelt, Jesus, and Marx in the Great Depression South, by Catherine McNicol Stock
  • Smith, The Smell of Battle, the Taste of Siege: A Sensory History of the Civil War, by Jim Cullen
  • Smithers and Newman, eds., Native Diasporas: Indigenous Identities and Settler Colonialism in the Americas, by Janne Lahti
  • Spanagel, DeWitt Clinton and Amos Eaton: Geology and Power in Early New York, by Thomas M. Allen
  • Sparks, Where the Negroes are Masters: An African Port in the Era of the Slave Trade, by David Richardson
  • Sprinkle, Crafting Preservation Criteria: The National Register of Historic Places and American Historic Preservation, by Rebecca Conard
  • Stievermann and Scheiding, eds., A Peculiar Mixture: German-Language Cultures and Identities in Eighteenth-Century North America, by William O’Reilly
  • Sumner, Collegiate Republic: Cultivating an Ideal Society in Early America, by Amy Thompson McCandless
  • Swanson, A Golden Weed: Tobacco and Environment in the Piedmont South, by Megan Kate Nelson
  • Swindall, The Path to the Greater, Freer, Truer World: Southern Civil Rights and Anticolonialism, 1937–1955, by James H. Meriwether
  • Tribbe, No Requiem for the Space Age: The Apollo Moon Landings and American Culture, by Tom D. Crouch
  • Trigg, Feminism as Life’s Work: Four Modern American Women through Two World Wars, by Melissa Estes Blair
  • Tsai, America’s Forgotten Constitutions: Defiant Visions of Power and Community, by Sophia Z. Lee
  • Tyler and Dubrulle, eds., The Correspondence of Thomas Hutchinson, vol. 1: 1740–1766, by Bradford J. Wood
  • Van Atta, Securing the West: Politics, Public Lands, and the Fate of the Old Republic, 1785–1850, by Tamara Venit-Shelton
  • Weaver, The Red Atlantic: American Indigenes and the Making of the Modern World, 1000–1927, by Daniel K. Richter
  • Whitehead, Notes from a Colored Girl: The Civil War Pocket Diaries of Emilie Francis Davis, by Erica L. Ball
  • Wiener, How We Forgot the Cold War: A Historical Journey across America, by David J. Snyder
  • Wuthnow, Rough Country: How Texas Became America’s Most Powerful Bible-Belt State, by John W. Storey
  • Young, Name, Rank, and Serial Number: Exploiting Korean War pows at Home and Abroad, by Melinda Pash
  • Zappia, Traders and Raiders: The Indigenous World of the Colorado Basin, 1540–1859, by Morgan LaBin Veraluz
  • Ziegler, Harlots, Hussies, and Poor Unfortunate Women: Crime, Transportation, and the Servitude of Female Convicts, by Gwenda Morgan

Movie Reviews

  • Unbroken; Devil at My Heels: A Heroic Olympian’s Astonishing Story of Survival as a Japanese pow in World War II; and Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, by Richard Frank (p. 317) Read online >
  • Selma, by James I. Deutsch (p. 321) Read online >
  • The Sixties, by William L. O’Neill (p. 323) Read online >
  • The 50 Year Argument; and Regarding Susan Sontag, by Stephen J. Whitfield (p. 325) Read online >
  • A Fragile Trust: Plagiarism, Power, and Jayson Blair at the New York Times, by Michael J. Socolow (p. 328) Read online >

Digital History Reviews

  • Lowcountry Digital Library; and Lowcountry Digital History Initiative, by Bradford J. Wood (p. 330) Read online >
  • Early American Crime: An Exploration of Crime, Criminals, and Punishments from America’s Past, by Katie Hemphill (p. 331) Read online >
  • Crossroads of War: Maryland and the Border in the Civil War, by Kanisorn Wongsrichanalai (p. 332) Read online >
  • History through Deaf Eyes, by Lindsey Patterson (p. 332) Read online >
  • African American Women Writers of the Nineteenth Century, by Betsy Glade (p. 333) Read online >


Recent Scholarship

View “Recent Scholarship” listing online >

Recent Scholarship is available as a searchable database, Recent Scholarship Online >

cover image

On the cover:

Displayed during the 1985 Tennessee state prison uprising, this hand-painted sign connected the southern prisoners’ rights movement to northern resistance and served as a poignant historical admonition. Courtesy Nashville Public Library. See Robert T. Chase, “We Are Not Slaves: Rethinking the Rise of Carceral States through the Lens of the Prisoners’ Rights Movement,” 73.