Slavery and the Death Penalty: A Study in Abolition, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Slavery and the Death Penalty

A Study in Abolition, 1st Edition

By Bharat Malkani


232 pages

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It has long been acknowledged that the death penalty in the United States of America has been shaped by the country’s history of slavery and racial violence, but this book considers the lesser-explored relationship between the two practices’ respective abolitionist movements. The book explains how the historical and conceptual links between slavery and capital punishment have both helped and hindered efforts to end capital punishment. The comparative study also sheds light on the nature of such efforts, and offers lessons for how death penalty abolitionism should proceed in future. Using the history of slavery and abolition, it is argued that anti-death penalty efforts should be premised on the ideologies of the radical slavery abolitionists.


'Bharat Malkani, tying together similarities and differences between slavery and capital punishment, provides an important in-depth examination of the connections between the efforts to abolish those practices. Slavery and the Death Penalty is a timely book about America’s legacy of racial violence and how that legacy created the foundation of the modern U.S. death penalty. Malkani uses historical analysis and an appeal to human dignity to provide essential lessons for those interested in human rights and the future of America’s practice of executing prisoners.'

Jeffrey L. Kirchmeier, CUNY School of Law, USA

'By now, everybody paying attention knows about the role race plays in the criminal justice system as a whole, and the death penalty regime in particular. By punishing murderers of white victims more severely than murderers of victims of color, the death penalty system perpetuates racism. But not until now has anyone set out to thoroughly and systematically examine the relationship between 19th century abolitionists and contemporary death penalty opponents. Bharat Malkani's intriguing and comprehensive work not only identifies deep parallels between slavery opponents and contemporary abolitionists, but also contains wise and potentially valuable lessons for those seeking to end capital punishment in the US. This impressive volume is a must read for those interested in making the criminal justice system truly just.'

David R. Dow, Cullen Professor, University of Houston Law Center; and Rorschach Visiting Professor of History, Rice University, USA

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: The death penalty in the era of slavery

Chapter 2: Capital punishment and the legacy of slavery: 1865–1976

Chapter 3: The legacy of slavery in capital punishment since 1976

Chapter 4: Abolitionism defined

Chapter 5: Radical abolitionist constitutionalism

Chapter 6: The experiential abolitionist

Chapter 7: Abolitionism and "alternatives"

Chapter 8: Non-complicity and abolitionism: from fugitive slaves to lethal injections

Chapter 9: A peculiar abolition

About the Author

Dr Bharat Malkani researches and teaches in the field of capital punishment, and human rights and criminal justice more broadly. He is a member of the International Academic Network for the Abolition of Capital Punishment, and prior to joining academia he helped co-ordinate efforts to abolish the death penalty for persons under the age of 18 in America.

About the Series

Law, Justice and Power

Law, Justice and Power
To speak about law is always and necessarily to be engaged in a discourse about both justice and power. While law's relationship to justice is everywhere contingent and uncertain, law completely divorced from power is unthinkable. And, while law need not be virtuous to be law, if it had no effect in the world it could hardly be said to merit the name law. Recognizing these facts, the series on Law, Justice and Power takes a broad view of legal scholarship.It publishes books by social scientists, humanists and legal academics which connect an understanding of culture's normative ideals with examination of the complex ways that law works in the world, insist that justice is inseparable from social practices and analyze law as one form of power, one way of constituting, controlling and changing the social world. It focuses on state law as well as law in communities and cultural practices and on identities and their articulation in and through law, on law's power in the taken-for-granted world, on its role in the complex construction of nation and national power and on global developments which today destabilize and transform the meaning and significance of law. The series invites innovative scholarship that crosses disciplinary as well as geographic and temporal boundaries.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LAW / General
LAW / Criminal Law / General