In the late nineteenth century, progressive reformers recoiled at
the prospect of the justice system punishing children as adults.
Advocating that children's inherent innocence warranted
fundamentally different treatment, reformers founded the nation's
first juvenile court in Chicago in 1899. Yet amid an influx of new
African American arrivals to the city during the Great Migration,
notions of inherent childhood innocence and juvenile justice were
circumscribed by race. In documenting how blackness became a marker
of criminality that overrode the potential protections the status
of "child" could have bestowed, Tera Eva Agyepong shows the
entanglements between race and the state's transition to a more
punitive form of juvenile justice.
In this important study, Agyepong expands the narrative of
racialized criminalization in America, revealing that these
patterns became embedded in a justice system originally intended to
protect children. In doing so, she also complicates our
understanding of the nature of migration and what it meant to be
black and living in Chicago in the early twentieth century.