Sarah Haley

No Mercy Here

Gender, Punishment, and the Making of Jim Crow Modernity

University of North Carolina Press 2016

New Books in African American StudiesNew Books in American StudiesNew Books in Critical TheoryNew Books in Gender StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books Network September 15, 2017 Christine Lamberson

Recent popular and scholarly interest has highlighted the complex and brutal system of mass incarceration in the United States. Much of this interest has...

Recent popular and scholarly interest has highlighted the complex and brutal system of mass incarceration in the United States. Much of this interest has focused on recent developments while other scholars have revealed the connections between the development of the prison system after Reconstruction and the legacies of slavery. In her new book, No Mercy Here: Gender, Punishment, and the Making of Jim Crow Modernity (University of North Carolina Press, 2016), Sarah Haley points to an often under recognized part of this history. Haley, an associate professor of gender studies and African American Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, focuses on the Southern criminal justice system’s treatment and exploitation of black women during the Jim Crow era. Though black women were caught up in the criminal justice system in smaller numbers than men were, Haley shows their treatment was very important to the development of Jim Crow modernity. The brutal and violent treatment, the ideological narratives surrounding black women, and the exploitation of their labor were all key in creating the ideologies of racial capitalism and patriarchy. Haley also discusses the ways black women resisted this treatment and contented the related ideologies.

In this episode of New Books in History, Haley discusses No Mercy Here and this history of gender, criminal justice, and race. She tells listeners about some of experiences of black women in this criminal justice system, explaining the development of the system from convict leasing to chain gangs with an the exploitative parole system. Haley also clearly explains the ideological role this system played in the development of the Jim Crow system. Finally, Haley also discusses some of her research and the challenges of accurately and thoroughly portraying the experiences of women whose voices were mediated by the criminal justice system.


Christine Lamberson is an Assistant Professor of History at Angelo State University. Her research and teaching focuses on 20th century U.S. political and cultural history. Shes currently working on a book manuscript about the role of violence in shaping U.S. political culture in the 1960s and 1970s. She can be reached at [email protected].

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