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NCJ Number: 212241 Find in a Library
Title: Wounds of Savagery: Negro Primitivism, Gender Parity, and the Execution of Rosanna Lightner Phillips
Journal: Women & Criminal Justice  Volume:16  Issue:1/2  Dated:2005  Pages:29-64
Author(s): Trina N. Seitz
Date Published: 2005
Page Count: 36
Type: Research (Applied/Empirical)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article examines the harsh punishments and treatment of Black females in the southern justice system and discusses the ideas of Negro primitivism and gender parity as viable explanations for this phenomenon.
Abstract: An examination of the data regarding female executions in the United States reveals that 49 women have been executed since 1900. A closer look at the details of several of the cases shows that the majority of Black women who were executed had murdered a domestic employer, nearly all had committed their crimes in the South, and most had murdered a White victim. The harsh treatment and punishment of these women can be traced to the scientific theories conceptualized during the Victorian era and the early 20th century which characterized Blacks as uncontrollable, uncivilized brutes and naturally predisposed miscreants. This characterization resulted from a convergence of Social Darwinistic individualism, the eugenics movement, and a conservative Protestant philosophy espousing the divinely ascribed superiority of the Anglo-Saxon race. This perspective not only made racism respectable, but provided a scientifically based logic for legislation and social policies that justified an inordinate number of death sentences for violent Black offenders, as well as their disproportionately high representation among the overall prison population of the South during this time. These theoretical assumptions slowly permeated nearly every element of American popular culture, filtering outward from academic and political realms to mainstream society, thus legitimizing the harsh treatment of Blacks in the criminal justice system. This article examines in detail the trial and execution of Rosanna Phillips, the first Black female executed in North Carolina, and looks at how her case reaffirmed and perpetuated the systematic symbolic social construction of the Negro as ‘primitive.’ Notes, references
Main Term(s): Female offenders
Index Term(s): Capital punishment; Cruel and unusual punishment; Female crime patterns; Female murderers; North Carolina; Offenders; Southeastern States
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