Modern Victorian, part 2

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Most plantations actually looked like this St. Joseph plantation in Louisiana

Victorian America is best understood with an intersectional frame of mind. There were many Victorian experiences, dictated by gender, race, and class and codified into a law. Each person born on a Georgia plantation or in New York City had very different odds at birth of living the life they wanted. Opportunities were afforded to some and denied to others based on such factors. one lived in had enormous impact as well, especially for black Americans. Slavery was the law of the land in the South, but there were limited opportunities for free blacks in the other regions.

The South was marked by extreme income inequality among whites and very little investment in public infrastructure. The first public university in the South was built about 150 years after the first public university in the Northeast. That region was most profoundly impacted by industrialization and immigration.

The Midwest “bread basket” of farmland had more economic equality. German immigrants came with enough money to move inland and buy farms and businesses along the Mississippi River, and were treated with less hostility and bigotry than the largely poor Irish who settled in the Eastern port cities where they landed.

The West was stolen in the Mexican-American War, and the free states and slave states argued over the fate of the territories. While the argument went on, eventually culminating in Civil War, pioneer settlers moved West, looking for land or gold.

In most of the rural and wild United States, law enforcement was carried out by sheriffs with little oversight who sometimes employed bounty hunters and sometimes used citizen brigades of vigilantes. In the cities, local police departments were charged with law enforcement. Police brutality against poor, blacks, Indians, immigrants, and other marginalized groups was common and unpunished.

A black woman in the South would have been born a slave. A black woman in the Northeast might be a factory worker. Out West she might be a rancher or schoolteacher. A poor white man in the South might mine coal, or in the North he might work at a shipyard. When considering this period in history where certain bodies were criminalized by region, location has to be understood as an axis of privilege and oppression.

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