The New Jim Crow? Recovering the Progressive Origins of Mass Incarceration

30 Pages Posted: 7 Mar 2014 Last revised: 3 Apr 2014

See all articles by Anders Walker

Anders Walker

Saint Louis University - School of Law

Date Written: March 6, 2014


This article revisits the claim that mass incarceration constitutes a new form of racial segregation, or Jim Crow. Drawing from historical sources, it demonstrates that proponents of the analogy miss an important commonality between the two phenomena, namely the debt that each owe to progressive and/or liberal politics. Though generally associated with repression and discrimination, both Jim Crow and mass incarceration owe their existence in part to enlightened reforms aimed at promoting black interests; albeit with perverse results. Recognizing the aspirational origins of systematic discrimination marks an important facet of comprehending the persistence of racial inequality in the United States.

Keywords: race, segregation, Jim Crow, new Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander, incarceration

Suggested Citation

Walker, Anders, The New Jim Crow? Recovering the Progressive Origins of Mass Incarceration (March 6, 2014). Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly, Forthcoming; Saint Louis U. Legal Studies Research Paper 2014-8. Available at SSRN:

Anders Walker (Contact Author)

Saint Louis University - School of Law ( email )

100 N. Tucker Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63101
United States

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