Doctoral Student Explores Criminal Trials of Black Women During the Civil War

Richeson_Tamika[2]Tamika Richeson, a doctoral candidate in history at the University of Virginia, has received a Dissertation Fellowship from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation that will help fund her research on Black women who were jailed during the Civil War. Her dissertation, entitled, “Wild Colored Woman: A Legal and Cultural Examination of Black Female Criminality During the Civil War,” examines the experiences of enslaved and free Black women in Washington, D.C., who were defendants in the criminal courts.

Richeson’s research focuses on records in the National Archives showing more than 500 arrests of Black women in Washington in the years 1861 and 1862. Richeson, who is a graduate of Miami University in Ohio, said her goal is to “learn more about the extent of their law-breaking and how it affected local and national perceptions of Black women at a time when many enslaved women were becoming free.”

One case uncovered in Richeson’s research involves a slave named Agnes who killed her master with an axe after he repeatedly raped and beat her. She was convicted and executed.

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  1. I am interested in this research. I wonder if the rates and convictions are commensurate with the current arrest and convictions rates. FYI, the US incarcerates more of its population than any other country in the world. African American women are the fastest growing demographic in this mass incarceration scheme.

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