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Captive State: Louisiana and the Making of Mass Incarceration

August 2 @ 9:00 am - 5:00 pm


Louisiana’s present-day distinction as the world’s incarceration capital is rooted in three centuries of history. Throughout this history, people in power have used systems of enslavement and incarceration to hold others captive for punishment, control, and exploitation. Black Louisianians have suffered disproportionately under these systems. Through historical objects, textual interpretation, multimedia, and data visualization, the Historic New Orleans Collection’s newest exhibit, Captive State: Louisiana and the Making of Mass Incarceration, investigates these throughlines and arrives at an irrefutable truth: that the institutions of slavery and mass incarceration are historically linked.

Captive State tells this story in two parts. The first part outlines how Louisiana’s colonial and early American governments created race-based systems of oppression through legislation, policing, imprisonment, and violence that matured as New Orleans became the hub of the domestic slave trade. The second part traces how the Louisiana Constitution of 1898 enabled an era of mass incarceration in the 20th and 21st centuries.

The exhibition concludes with a reflection question, reading recommendations, and information on ways to get involved on issues related to mass incarceration.

Captive State is on view July 19-January 19, 2025.

Tuesday–Saturday, 9:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m.; Sunday, 10:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m.


August 2
9:00 am - 5:00 pm


Historic New Orleans Collection
520 Royal Street
New Orleans, Maryland 70130 US
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