Blackness As Delinquency
This article makes several important contributions to the scholarly literature on the juvenile court. To my knowledge, this will be the first law review article to address both the role of “Blackness” in shaping the first juvenile court as well as the Black community’s response to the court’s jurisprudence. This article breaks new ground on two fronts. First, it considers the first juvenile court’s treatment of Black youth within the context of the heightened racial oppression immediately following the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Plessy v. Ferguson. Second, this Article recovers the lost story of the Black club movement’s response to race issues within the juvenile court movement. In doing so, this article reconsiders the history of the national black club women’s movement within a new framework – that of Black women as advocates for juvenile and criminal justice reform. Furthermore, a major issue that these child savers faced remains one that scholars of the juvenile court’s early history have not fully explored – race. Thus, article makes two main arguments. First, from its inception, the juvenile court perpetuated existing racial myths about Blackness and delinquency and enforced societal notions of race and class stratification. Second, the National Association of Colored Women (NACW) responded by placing criminal and juvenile justice issues as a major component of its civil rights agenda. From 1899 to 1930, the NACW’s efforts to challenge myths about Black delinquency impacted the development of the juvenile court system and its jurisprudence. The NACW’s particular interest in juvenile justice sheds new light on how black female activists shaped the national discourse on race and crime and formulated their own strategies for juvenile justice reform.
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