Nell Irvin Painter – Institutionalized Racism

On the Shreveport grand jury in 1873, [Henry] Adams came face to face with the workings of the criminal justice system. Although the grand jury was composed of ten Black and six white men, the judge, lawyers, district attorney, foreman, and clerk were all white and discriminated in favor of rich, white defendants. Black men, women, and children were jailed before they were indicted; if they were indicted they were usually convicted. The chain gang was the usual punishment for convicted Blacks, women as well as men. Adams noted that all Blacks brought before the grand jury for indictments were brought by whites, and that many Black women came before the jury but never any white women. In all the cases considered by the 1873 session of the grand jury, only one white man was indicted and tried for killing a Black man in cold blood. Yet after the trial stretched out for a year, the defendant was acquitted.22

  • 22 Henry Adams, Senate Report 693, II: p.180
  • P.80, Exodusters – Nell Irvin Painter, ISBN 0-393-00951-3



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