Tuesday, March 27, 2018

From Slavery to Jail

Last week Spencer Baucke created a very faithful interactive reproduction of an 1860 Census Slavery Map. The original map, on which Spencer's map is based, was made in 1861 by the United States Census Office "for the benefit of sick and wounded soldiers". The map was based on data from the 1860 and shows the distribution of slaves in the southern United States. You can view the original map online at the Library of Congress website.

Last year The Pudding used the same data used in the 1860 Slavery Map to explore the legacy of slavery on modern incarceration rates in the United States. The Pudding's The Shape of Slavery allows you to view the 1860 distribution of slaves in the Southern States alongside present day incarceration rates in each state.

America likes to put people behind bars. The NAACP reports that 21% of the entire world's prison population is living in American jails. This propensity to lock up its citizens affects African Americans more than most other Americans. The NAACP says that African Americans are incarcerated at nearly five times the rate of white Americans.

There is a geographical factor at play in these incarceration rates. The Prison Policy Initiative states that "the South has consistently had a higher rate of incarceration than the other regions of the United States". The Pudding decided to explore if there was any connection between the high rate of incarceration in Southern states and the legacy of slavery. By mapping 150 years of census and incarceration data they wanted to see if historic incarceration rates differ between the former slave states and the non-slave states of the North.

They do. The Pudding concludes that "we still see the shadow of the undeniable, institutionalized, strategic racism of the 100 years after the Civil War".

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