Beyond Policing: Lessons from Maroon Geographies

Authors: Celeste Winston*, The Graduate Center, CUNY
Topics: Ethnicity and Race, Historical Geography
Keywords: Black geographies, marronage, abolition, community safety
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Napoleon D3, Sheraton 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper explores connections between marronage and contemporary anti-police organizing. During slavery, the practice of marronage allowed slaves to assert their freedom and—at times—to create communities physically removed from the slave economy. Since the end of U.S. slavery, many Black communities have continued to develop various levels of independence from the dominant political economy. Together, these more contemporary Black communities and their slavery-era antecedents form what I define as “maroon geographies.” In this paper, I focus on maroon geographies in Montgomery County, Maryland—located along the border of Washington, DC. I argue that legacies of marronage have shaped how successive generations of residents living in Montgomery County’s Black communities come to define and practice safety and security beyond policing. During slavery and in the decades following emancipation, over forty Black communities developed within the county. These communities served as havens for Black people – including free Blacks, and runaway and freed slaves – who sought to create worlds beyond the dominant racial capitalist society surrounding them. Some of these communities still exist (or up until recent decades have existed) as Black enclaves nestled within the wealthy, majority-white suburban neighborhoods that have replaced the county’s old farms and plantations. Today, many residents of Montgomery County’s Black enclaves still carry the definitions and practices of safety and security that supported local geographies of marronage during slavery. These communities provide grounded lessons for why we must, and how we can, shape our world beyond policing.

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