The opening chapter introduces the broader story that the next seven chapters will tell, and makes clear that this is a study of policing which culminates in the mass black incarceration of late 1860s Baltimore. The book has two primary arguments: first, that Baltimore’s police institutions were from the onset shaped by a liberal order that assumed criminality as the essence of black freedom; and second, that the criminalization of black freedom in turn encouraged white police power. The introduction also defines three concepts central to these arguments – police, property, and manhood – while situating the book in existing historiography, especially that of 19th century criminal justice and American liberalism. Finally, it suggests that this history of the nineteenth-century is an antecedent to today’s stories of racialized police brutality and mass black incarceration.
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