Captive in Promised Land: Black Lives, Confinement, and Incarceration in Nineteenth Century Urban America


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




“Captive in Promised Land” is a history of the incarceration and labors of African Americans in the early nineteenth century urban North. This project foregrounds African Americans as subjects within the nation’s first prisons and penitentiaries, and examines how they figured into and challenged nineteenth century discourse on abolition, prison reform, and criminalization. The study reanimates the early history of the nation through the narratives of captivity and confinement experienced by Black Americans, and attends to the battles they waged when contesting the demands of legislators, prison administrators, and reformers. “Captive in Promised Land” argues that early nineteenth century carceral institutions set a precedent model for the incarceration of African Americans after the Civil War and across the nation.