NEW ARTICLE | ‘The Most Unprotected of All Human Beings’: Black Girls, State Violence, and the Limits of Protection in Jim Crow Virginia

Jones, Lindsey Elizabeth. “‘The Most Unprotected of All Human Beings’: Black Girls, State Violence, and the Limits of Protection in Jim Crow Virginia.” Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture & Society 20, no. 1 (2018): 14–37.

Journal Abstract

This article examines the Virginia Industrial School for Colored Girls (VISCG), the state’s only reformatory for delinquent black girls, which was established by the Virginia State Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs in 1915. Rather than punishing them for their adolescent misbehaviors, the founding organization intended to protect troubled black girls from inappropriate incarceration with adults and other state practices of violence and negligence. The founders also intended to prepare these girls for a discriminatory labor market by providing specialized training in the domestic arts and carefully supervised domestic parole placements. A closer look at the practice of domestic parole complicates the neat distinctions between education and incarceration, protection and punishment that the women of the Virginia State Federation made in their public discourse about the school. Instead of special protection, girls committed to the VISCG from courts across the state experienced vulnerability to violence, isolation, and exploitation at the hands of white employers during domestic parole placements. This article argues that the VISCG’s practice of domestic parole, despite the best intentions of school leadership, constituted a mode of carceral violence that warrants more interrogation.

Keywords: African American, black girls, clubwomen, domestic work, girlhood