From the late-nineteenth to mid-twentieth century juvenile reformatories served as citizen-building institutions and a political tool of state racism in post-emancipation America. New South advocates cemented their regional affiliation by using these reformatories to showcase mercies which were racialized, gendered, and linked to sexuality.
Southern Mercy uses four historical examples of juvenile reformatories in North Carolina to explore how spectacles of mercy have influenced Southern modernity. Working through archival material pertaining to race and moral uplift, including rare photos from the private archives of Samarcand Manor (the State Home and Industrial Manor for Girls) and restricted archival records of reformatory racial policies, Annette Bickford examines the limits of emancipation, and the exclusions inherent in liberal humanism that distinguish racism in the contemporary "post-race" era.
"Annette Louise Bickford inquires as to the degree of mercy that operated in early-twentieth century juvenile reform in the U.S. South … The book offers excellent archival research about the realities of life in mid-century juvenile reformatories… Her theoretical framework grounded in a critique of liberal humanism is intriguing and should raise interest especially among graduate students. "
"Southern Mercy is a fascinating study of North Carolina’s juvenile reform institutions from their founding to the World War II era…Bickford joins a broader conversation about Enlightenment-based liberal humanism as fundamentally underwritten by systemic racism and sexism."