The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America, With a New Preface

The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America, With a New Preface

by Khalil Gibran Muhammad


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Winner of the John Hope Franklin Prize
A Moyers & Company Best Book of the Year

“A brilliant work that tells us how directly the past has formed us.”
—Darryl Pinckney, New York Review of Books

How did we come to think of race as synonymous with crime? A brilliant and deeply disturbing biography of the idea of black criminality in the making of modern urban America, The Condemnation of Blackness reveals the influence this pernicious myth, rooted in crime statistics, has had on our society and our sense of self. Black crime statistics have shaped debates about everything from public education to policing to presidential elections, fueling racism and justifying inequality. How was this statistical link between blackness and criminality initially forged? Why was the same link not made for whites? In the age of Black Lives Matter and Donald Trump, under the shadow of Ferguson and Baltimore, no questions could be more urgent.

“The role of social-science research in creating the myth of black criminality is the focus of this seminal work…[It] shows how progressive reformers, academics, and policy-makers subscribed to a ‘statistical discourse’ about black crime…one that shifted blame onto black people for their disproportionate incarceration and continues to sustain gross racial disparities in American law enforcement and criminal justice.”
—Elizabeth Hinton, The Nation

“Muhammad identifies two different responses to crime among African-Americans in the post–Civil War years, both of which are still with us: in the South, there was vigilantism; in the North, there was an increased police presence. This was not the case when it came to white European-immigrant groups that were also being demonized for supposedly containing large criminal elements.”
New Yorker

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674238145
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 07/22/2019
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 181,685
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Khalil Gibran Muhammad is Professor of History, Race, and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and Suzanne Young Murray Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix

Preface 2019 xi

Introduction: The Mismeasure of Crime 1

1 Saving the Nation: The Racial Data Revolution and the Negro Problem 15

2 Writing Crime into Race: Racial Criminalization and the Dawn of Jim Crow 35

3 Incriminating Culture: The Limits of Racial Liberalism in the Progressive Era 88

4 Preventing Crime: White and Black Reformers in Philadelphia 146

5 Fighting Crime: Politics and Prejudice in the City of Brotherly Love 192

6 Policing Racism: Jim Crow Justice in the Urban North 226

Conclusion: The Conundrum of Criminality 269

Manuscript Sources 279

Notes 281

Acknowledgments 369

Index 375

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