Roots of Disorder
Race and Criminal Justice in the American South, 1817-80
Awards and Recognition:
Winner of the McLemore Prize, given by the Mississippi Historical Society, 1999.
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. Roots of Disorder shows how the criminal justice system itself plays a role in shaping the attitudes that encourage vigilantism.
"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
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