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The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America

4.3  ·  Rating Details ·  218 Ratings  ·  29 Reviews
Lynch mobs, chain gangs, and popular views of black southern criminals that defined the Jim Crow South are well known. We know less about the role of the urban North in shaping views of race and crime in American society.

Following the 1890 census, the first to measure the generation of African Americans born after slavery, crime statistics, new migration and immigration tr
Hardcover, 380 pages
Published February 15th 2010 by Harvard University Press
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Oct 23, 2012 Andre rated it really liked it
I'm a big enthusiast for history books that inform the present by examining the past. This is such a book! I was grabbed right from the introduction, on page 1, when the question is asked, "How was the statistical link between blackness and criminality initially forged?" Many ignore or are ill-informed about such a link. You hear today a lot of talk about "black-on-black" crime. Once you understand the history of linking blackness to criminality, and this book will cement that comprehension you ...more
Apr 22, 2012 Chris rated it really liked it
I picked up Dr. Muhammad's book after reading his thought-provoking article in the New York Times, "Playing the Violence Card", earlier this month. In the wake of recent murders, such as those in Florida and Oklahoma, which seem to hinge on issues of race, Dr. Muhammad asked us to scrutinize the origins of America's common conflation of blackness with criminality. By examining the use and misuse of racialized statistics, and comparing the experiences of blacks, poor whites, and european immigran ...more
Aug 27, 2012 Camille marked it as to-read
I saw Muhammad on Moyers & Co. a couple of weeks ago and he sold me on his book, but he also caught my attention and respect in that he recognized the experiences of Native Americans as the civil/human rights case that has still to be fully faced in this country. I appreciated that he took time away from a discussion on black folks to remind people about that.
Chris brown
Jul 10, 2014 Chris brown rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorite-books
somehow, my original review of this book vanished.
Luckily I posed the same review to my blog.

"If you are interested in how the systematic racial structures became established in the East and West then this book is a must have. The historical documentation that i found in this book might have taken a life time of searching in the realm of obscurity to find on my own. This book is an instant classic and has earned its place along side the classics of African American Studies like the Mis-Education
David Lucander
Condemnation of blackness is a study of race and crime, but the author also has a handle on progressive era ideology, urban politics, and that old phrenology race science stuff (researching that must have gotten tiresome). No one can ever call this book under researched. In fact, the notes themselves are worth reading. Muhammad is a real historian's historian, and that might put some general readers off because his arguments are subtle, accurate, and comprehensive. This isn't the kind of stuff t ...more
Jo Stafford
Apr 25, 2015 Jo Stafford rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent study of how race and crime came to be linked during the period between Reconstruction and the 1930s. Muhammad shows how crime statistics, stripped of their socio-economic context, were used to bolster racist arguments about African American criminality and traces the development of theories about supposed racial inferiority. He demonstrates how the application of social science theories impacted on African American communities, usually to their detriment.

Muhammad's comparis
Aug 17, 2014 Sugy rated it really liked it
This thorough analysis of how the late 1800s and early 1900s helped to continue and enhance the idea of inferiority and criminality of black people in the US is just one great reference. The emotional toll this book takes it not simply because the toll bad science and rampant personal bias took on relations between people, but even more so because the situations described and the cherry picking of data still occur today. It would be wonderful to see this book bridged with a modern volume that in ...more
Feb 02, 2013 Susie rated it liked it
Shelves: for-school
A little hard to get through, but definitely well researched and very interesting subject material. A must read for anyone interested in the origins of black criminality.
Sean O'Brien
Sep 09, 2012 Sean O'Brien rated it it was amazing
An important alternate history of both the rise of racism post-Civil War and the antecedents of the civil rights movement. This history should be taught to our children in school.
Jan 27, 2017 Catherine rated it liked it
A tough read but important to understanding how crime was racialized, and why America is where it is in terms of unequal police treatment and application of justice - why indeed #blacklivesmatter
Laura Aranda
Jan 21, 2017 Laura Aranda rated it it was amazing
Excellent, historical analysis.
Jan 31, 2014 Frank rated it really liked it
An astoundingly well-researched and annotated study of the racialization of crime from the beginning of the Jim Crow era to the New Negro Renaissance. Not exactly a page-turner (I occasionally found myself lost in the weeds of Muhammad's examples and analyses), the book nevertheless offers a fine-grained historiography that details the racism of many American criminologists and social theorists, along with the work of people like W. E. B. Du Bois, Ida B. Wells, and Charles S. Johnson who tried t ...more
"A gripping account of the origins of statistical justifications for the harsh policing of African Americans. Readers interested in our current debates on racial profiling may find the latter revealingly illuminated by Muhammad’s genealogy of the early statistical foundations of claims about the intrinsic nature of black criminality." - Aziz Z. Huq
Kim Martin
Sep 01, 2013 Kim Martin rated it really liked it
This book will change forever the way I think about crime, prisons, education, race relations, and our current sociological problems involving all of these things. While the book was pretty dense, and addressed historical racism with a narrower focus, on late nineteenth/early twentieth century urban crime, than I anticipated, the application is broad, and will cause me to look at current efforts to address drug laws, the school-to-prison pipeline, and sociological research differently.
Dec 10, 2012 Pascal rated it really liked it
Excellent chronicling of the way race and racism has been woven in social science data on crime. This is a very important book in understanding how notions of racial inferiority were tied to crime in order to justify racist abuse and neglect by municipal police departments throughout the northeast from the 1890s to the 1940s.
Claudio Rivera
Jan 15, 2014 Claudio Rivera rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book essentially details the origins of "Stop and Frisk" and the injustice of it all. A worthwhile read for anyone who has ever subscribed to the notion that since blacks are arrested more often, there is something inherently criminal about them.
Mar 16, 2013 Chelsea rated it it was amazing
Extremely detailed historical account of how criminality was linked to Blackness post-slavery through the beginning of World War II. It is a work of incredible scholarship and very relevant today.
Jul 16, 2012 Keith rated it really liked it
Fascinating argument but the level of detail and laser focus on the Progressive period made this moderate-length book a bit of a slog.
Mark Middleton
A well written, researched and documented book on its subject matter. Many of the issues raised still exist today, as well as the attitudes.
Michelle B.
Jun 20, 2011 Michelle B. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very insightful examination. Dr. Muhammad has a unique style that is both informative and compelling.
Soya rated it it was amazing
Jul 10, 2015
David Hernandez
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Oct 03, 2015
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Apr 09, 2015
Shirley F. Grigsby
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Reginald Babin
Reginald Babin rated it it was amazing
Feb 07, 2017
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“If you reveal your secrets to the wind, you should not blame the wind for revealing them to the trees.” 10 likes
“In the preface to Southern Horrors, she wrote, “Somebody must show that the Afro-American race is more sinned against than sinning, and it seems to have fallen upon me to do so. The Afro-American is not a bestial race. If this work can contribute in any way toward proving this, and at the same time arouse the conscience of the American people to a demand for justice to every citizen, and punishment by law for the lawless, I shall feel I have done my race a service.” 0 likes
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