Race and Police Powers in the 19th Century U.S.

This seminar explores the history of American ideas and practices of policing, with a particular focus on slavery and the status of free African Americans in the nineteenth century. We will begin by examining the 18th-century concept of "police" and its relationship to more commonly understood ideas about liberty and equality. Building on that foundation, we will discuss why most antebellum Americans believed race-based police practices were constitutional and how some people attempted to challenge that idea.Finally we will look at how and why the U.S. government outlawed outlawed race-based policing during Reconstruction and why racist policing persisted nevertheless. Teachers will be invited to discuss how to integrate such themes into their existing history and government classes.