The Smith College School for Social Work is pleased to present its annual anti-racism lecture as part of the Public Lecture Series. Lectures are free, open to the public, and wheelchair accessible. (See additional accessibility information below).
Jane Crow (In)Justice: African American Women, Mass Incarceration, and the Mainstreaming of White Supremacy (A History of the Present)
Leigh-Anne Francis, Ph.D.
Today, African-American females comprise 6 percent of the United States’ population, yet they represent almost 33 percent of the country’s incarcerated women. Black women’s high incarceration rate reflects the culmination of a historical trend in their disproportionate arrests, convictions and confinement in the U.S. prison system, a lynchpin of institutional racism, classism and sexism. It is impossible to stem this crisis in African-American women’s lives without an adequate historical record of the forces that brought them into conflict with the law.
In Jane Crow (In)Justice: African American Women, Mass Incarceration, and the Mainstreaming of White Supremacy (A History of the Present), Leigh-Anne Francis analyzes the intersections of gender, race and class by exploring the social construction of crime, punishment and labor through the lens of black women’s experiences in early 20th century New York. She demonstrates that anti-black discourse circulating through the media and among social workers validated the discriminatory policing that resulted in the over-representation of black women and girls in prison. The criminalization of impoverished black females’ survival strategies also produced their disproportionately high imprisonment rates. Francis argues that the prison system, a site of racialized sexual terror, was and is not a cure for social ills, but rather a manifestation of the disease of white supremacy.
This talk engages clinical social work students in an intersectional analysis of the racist-sexist conceptions of crime that live in the white imagination. Past and present-day fictions of blackness as criminal and violent and whiteness as innocent and under siege fuel the poverty-to-prison cycle that ensnares and obliterates black lives. This lecture supports students’ work to become social work practitioners who understand the historical, convergent forces of ideological and institutional racism, classism, sexism, and carceral state violence impacting the individuals and communities they encounter in the field.
Leigh-Anne Francis is an assistant professor with a dual appointment in the departments of African American Studies and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies at The College of New Jersey. Francis holds a Ph.D. in United States and African American History, an M.A. in U.S. and World History, and a B.F.A. in Painting and Illustration. Her unpublished book manuscript, Jane Crow (In)Justice: Race, Crime, and Punishment in New York State, 1893–1916, analyzes the intersections of gender, race and class by exploring crime and punishment, labor and community, through the lens of black women’s experiences while offering comparisons with imprisoned U.S. born and European immigrant white women. As a Rutgers graduate student, she was a volunteer instructor at Mountainvew Youth Correctional Facility for Men in New Jersey. When she is not teaching, researching or writing, she enjoys spending time with her life partner, Jenny, and their 3-year-old twins, Rustin and Langston.
Continuing Education Credits (CECs)
Lectures also provide one and one-half (1.5) Continuing Education Credits (CECs). The cost to register for CECs will be $15 per lecture. Those who wish to earn CECs should arrive 15 minutes ahead of the lecture to register; the registration fee will be collected at that time. Payment must be made by check or money order ONLY.
Weinstein Auditorium is wheelchair accessible. For other disability accommodations or sign language interpreters, please contact the Office of the Dean at 413-585-7983 or email firstname.lastname@example.org, at least two weeks in advance of the lecture.