Edmondson Lecture Series | Dr. Leslie M. Alexander

Wednesday, February 21, 2024
3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
Armstrong Browning Library | Foyer of Meditation
710 Speight Ave. Waco, TX 76706

The Department of History will be featuring a free and open to the public event for our 2024 Edmondson Lecture Series speaker, Dr. Leslie M. Alexander. Join us at 3:30pm on February 21st, 2024, in Armstrong Browning Library 710 Speight Ave. Waco, Texas 76706, in the Foyer of Meditation to hear Dr. Alexander's lecture How We Got Here: Slavery and the Making of the Modern Police State.

Since 2020, when George Floyd and Breonna Taylor were suffered brutal deaths at the hands of police, over 3,000 people have been killed by police officers in the United States. More than 1,200 people were killed in 2023 alone, more than any other year in the past decade, and Black people are still three times more likely to die from police violence than white people. So, how did we get here? Why, in the twenty-first century, does the United States have the largest prison population on the planet, and why are Black people so painfully overrepresented in incarceration and deaths at the hands of police? In this talk, Leslie Alexander will discuss how surveillance and policing of Black communities began in the earliest days of the colonial era, as white settlers sought to extract land from the indigenous population and enslave Africans to work the land. She will also illustrate how colonial authorities cultivated a system of surveillance designed to extract labor, loyalty, and submission from the enslaved, and the complex web of legal codes, patrols, and militias that emerged in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to track and govern Black people’s lives in sickening detail. Understanding this history reveals that we cannot fully understand the modern problems of policing and incarceration until we understand their origins under slavery.


Dr. Leslie Alexander is the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Professor of History at Rutgers University and is a Fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University. A specialist in early African American and African Diaspora history, she is the author of African or American?: Black Identity and Political Activism in New York City, 1784-1861, and Fear of a Black Republic: Haiti and the Birth of Black Internationalism in the United States. She is also the co-editor of three additional volumes, including Ideas in Unexpected Places: Reimagining the Boundaries of Black Intellectual History. Her current research, which appears in The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story, examines how surveillance of free and enslaved Black communities in the colonial and antebellum eras laid the foundation for modern-day policing. A three-time Ford Foundation fellowship recipient, Alexander is a past President of the Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora (ASWAD) and serves on the Advisory Councils for the National Council for Black Studies, the Journal of African American History, Black Perspectives, The Black Scholar, and the Montpelier Foundation Board.