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The Knotted Line

Evan Bissell, Author

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1877: Hundreds of Laws and 70-Plus Years

1877: Jim Crow—Reconstruction fails and laws intended to criminalize black life make it illegal to change employers without permission, be a vagrant, ride freight cars without a ticket, engage in sexual activity or talk loudly with white women. Despite no evidence of crime increase by black people, thousands of random black citizens are imprisoned.  Western states pass laws that criminalize Asian and Native Americans.

Actions for Self-Determination:

Discussion Questions:
  • Discuss Ruth Wilson Gilmore's statement, "Defined in the simple terms of the secular state, crime means a violation of the law. Laws change, depending on what, in a social order, counts as stability, and who, in a social order, needs to be controlled."
  • How has our acceptance of laws changed over time?
  • How are gang injunctions similar or different to Jim Crow laws?
  • Beyond a set of laws, Jim Crow was also an unspoken "culture."  What types of "policing" are not in laws but are present in your life today?
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