Roots of Disorder

Race and Criminal Justice in the American South, 1817-80
Author: Christopher Waldrep
How the criminal justice system encouraged vigilantism and lynching
Paper – $33
Publication Date
Paperback: 01/01/1998
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About the Book

Every white southerner understood what keeping African Americans "down" meant and what it did not mean. It did not mean going to court; it did not mean relying on the law. It meant vigilante violence and lynching.

Looking at Vicksburg, Mississippi, Roots of Disorder traces the origins of these terrible attitudes to the day-to-day operations of local courts. In Vicksburg, white exploitation of black labor through slavery evolved into efforts to use the law to define blacks' place in society, setting the stage for widespread tolerance of brutal vigilantism. Fed by racism and economics, whites' extralegal violence grew in a hothouse of more general hostility toward law and courts.

About the Author

Christopher Waldrep is an emeritus professor and Jamie and Phyllis Pasker Chair in the Department of History at San Francisco State University. His books include Night Riders: Defending Community in the Black Patch, 1890-1915.



"Delivers what no other study has yet attempted. . . . Waldrep's book is one of the first systematically to use local trial data to explore questions of society and culture."--Vernon Burton, author of "A Gentleman and an Officer": A Social and Military History of James B. Griffin's Civil War

"Waldrep has written the most detailed and nuanced study of crime in a Southern community. His deep research, originality, and fairness marks every page."--Edward L. Ayers, author of Southern Crossing: A History of the American South


Winner of the McLemore Prize, given by the Mississippi Historical Society, 1999.