Justice  /  Q&A

Marronage & Police Abolition

Marronage as a placemaking practice, pointing to histories that shape and inspire abolitionist struggles.

EL:  Your analysis of maroon geographies in Montgomery County ties historical practices of marronage and flight from enslavement to contemporary modes of resistance to anti-Black policing and alternative modes of social organization. You’re traversing the antebellum era, the postbellum era, Jim Crow, post-civil rights, neoliberal economic restructuring, and revanchism in the 1970s. How do you balance the historical resonances with the material particularities of a particular era?

CW: One of the interventions I’m making by giving name to maroon geographies is to highlight that marronage isn’t just a form of flight but is also deeply a practice of placemaking. Because of that, there are these kind of material legacies that continue to shape places that once were characterized by a Black flight from slavery, or other kinds of Black freedom projects that maybe weren’t even directly tied to flight from slavery, but are connected in the sense of fugitivity and the kind of freedom dreams that are inherent in those struggles. 

The way that I’m able to traverse so much time in my book is rooted in that understanding that marronage is making place and is not just taking place in an ephemeral sense. And I actually had a historian read a draft of my manuscript, who asked me a really important question that always makes me smile, because it is very much a historian’s question. And it was, how can you jump so much time in your work? Are you making these arguments about causality? What kind of historical continuity are you trying to point towards here?

And that’s really where the kind of rebellious methodology comes into my work. I’m able to jump from 1845 to 1972, and then go up into the 90s, and then go back in time because I am not arguing for this kind of causal relationship. But instead, I’m pointing us towards these material manifestations of Black people’s flight from slavery and other forms of racial violence as a way to draw connections across time. There end up being these really multi-generational infrastructures where residents in Montgomery County, Maryland (and other maroon geographies as well) are able to continuously disrupt power relations and structures, like those of policing.