Citation

The colored girl must die’: Youth, criminality, and capital punishment in the Carolinas, 1885-1905

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Abstract:

Milbry Brown was a 14-year-old black domestic worker executed for poisoning a white toddler in 1892; Ida B. Wells cited the “legal lynching” of this female minor as a potent symbol of Southern depravity. Brown’s trial, with elite whites battling to save or condemn her, points to the imbricated factors that influenced the dispensation of justice: the well-trod trinity of race, class, and gender, but significant concerns about adolescence and the first stirrings of an anti-child labor movement. In the late nineteenth-century Carolinas, social ideas about women’s nature and definitions of childhood met legal structures in local courts. Notions of women's and youth's nature -- alternately, wildness and innocence -- were applied to defend or excoriate young black women and girls on trial. This study foregrounds a microhistory of Milbry Brown but follows three other capital cases involving black girls or young women. It examines how gender and youth affected the workings of the South Carolina upcountry judiciary and that of the nearby North Carolina Piedmont during Jim Crow’s foundational years. I argue that although national reformers’ views about “protected childhood” and separate juvenile justice systems were slowly trickling into the South and held little sway, Southerners were already conflicted about childhood’s meaning and its implications for criminal justice even when the offenders were African-Americans typically denied the privileges that accrued to (upper- or middle-class) white childhood. More broadly, this paper considers how dominant historiographical narratives of the nadir period obscure the significance of age to Southern punishment.
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Association:
Name: 95th Annual Convention
URL:
http://www.asalh.org


Citation:
URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p436164_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Greenlee-Donnell, Cynthia. "The colored girl must die’: Youth, criminality, and capital punishment in the Carolinas, 1885-1905" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the 95th Annual Convention, Raleigh Convention Center, Raleigh, North Carolina, Sep 29, 2010 <Not Available>. 2014-11-27 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p436164_index.html>

APA Citation:

Greenlee-Donnell, C. R. , 2010-09-29 "The colored girl must die’: Youth, criminality, and capital punishment in the Carolinas, 1885-1905" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the 95th Annual Convention, Raleigh Convention Center, Raleigh, North Carolina <Not Available>. 2014-11-27 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p436164_index.html

Publication Type: Individual Paper
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: Milbry Brown was a 14-year-old black domestic worker executed for poisoning a white toddler in 1892; Ida B. Wells cited the “legal lynching” of this female minor as a potent symbol of Southern depravity. Brown’s trial, with elite whites battling to save or condemn her, points to the imbricated factors that influenced the dispensation of justice: the well-trod trinity of race, class, and gender, but significant concerns about adolescence and the first stirrings of an anti-child labor movement. In the late nineteenth-century Carolinas, social ideas about women’s nature and definitions of childhood met legal structures in local courts. Notions of women's and youth's nature -- alternately, wildness and innocence -- were applied to defend or excoriate young black women and girls on trial. This study foregrounds a microhistory of Milbry Brown but follows three other capital cases involving black girls or young women. It examines how gender and youth affected the workings of the South Carolina upcountry judiciary and that of the nearby North Carolina Piedmont during Jim Crow’s foundational years. I argue that although national reformers’ views about “protected childhood” and separate juvenile justice systems were slowly trickling into the South and held little sway, Southerners were already conflicted about childhood’s meaning and its implications for criminal justice even when the offenders were African-Americans typically denied the privileges that accrued to (upper- or middle-class) white childhood. More broadly, this paper considers how dominant historiographical narratives of the nadir period obscure the significance of age to Southern punishment.


Similar Titles:
The North Carolina Racial Justice Act Study: Preliminary Findings on the Role of Race in the North Carolina Capital Punishment System

Bitch You Must Be Crazy: Mental Illness and Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls (1976)

Beyond the Performance of Criminality: Feminist Criminological Epistemology, Black Girls, and Punishment


 
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