Douglas Flowe

Associate Professor of History​
Georgie W. Lewis Career Development Professor (2021-2024)
PhD, University of Rochester
BA, Geneseo College, SUNY
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    • St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
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    Douglas Flowe’s research focuses on criminality, illicit leisure, and masculinity, and how they converge with issues of race, class, and space in American cities and in the carceral state.

    He is the author of the award-winning book, Uncontrollable Blackness: African American Men and Criminality in Jim Crow New York, which received the Littleton-Griswold Prize from the American Historical Association in 2021.  His work has been published in the Journal of Urban History, the Journal of African American History, and others, and he has appeared in a variety of media formats to address black history, policing, and mass incarceration, including The Tammi Mac Show (Fox), American Experience (PBS), Prison Chronicles (The History Channel), and CNN Tonight with Don Lemon.  Currently, he is a regular correspondent on KBLA’s news and commentary show, Areva Martin in Real Time, and a co-host of the National Geographic documentary series, Ancient China from Above, Season 2.  He is also an Editorial Board Member for the Annuals of the Next Generation journal and for the Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, and most recently received the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Residential Fellowship from the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, for 2021-2022.

    He is currently working on a second book, tentatively entitled “Jim Crow Prison: Black Men in America’s Heart of Darkness,” which will interrogate the meaning of the experiences of black men in northern prisons and reformatories in the first half of the twentieth century, and map them onto an urban landscape and penal system that worked in conjunction to colonize them body, mind, and spirit. When black men went to prison, they experienced a series of hardships uniquely tailored for them by prevailing perceptions of race and crime, eugenic systems of classification that sometimes pegged them as “defective,” and race-based treatment that hindered their chances for success before and after release. As such, the book will focus on how these men survived and died within prison walls. This project additionally examines how New York’s criminal justice system formed “carceral archipelagos,” spaces inside and outside of prison that took on the characteristics of the carceral state.  By looking at a number of New York’s urban centers with significant black populations as pre-carceral spaces designed and policed in discriminatory ways, “Jim Crow Prison” will recast them as kindred to the confinement of legal custody, and as pipelines to the carceral state. 

    Flowe is a graduate of the History program at the University of Rochester where he also served as the Graduate Recruitment and Retention Specialist for the David T. Kearns Center for Leadership and Diversity. In this role, Flowe also acted as a Ronald E. McNair Scholar Advisor, a National GEM Consortium Representative, and the chair of the Executive Committee for the New York Graduate Admissions Professionals (NYGAP). Before joining Washington University’s History Department he was the Postdoctoral Fellow of Inequality and Identity in the American Culture Studies program from 2014-2016.




    Uncontrollable Blackness: African American Men and Criminality in Jim Crow New York (University of North Carolina Press, 2020), awarded the Littleton-Griswold Book Prize from the American Historical Association (AHA) and the Association for the Study of Legal History (ASLH).
              Recent Reviews:
              Amy Louise Wood. American Historical Review (September 2023 -
              Brian Purnell. The English Historical Review (February 2023 -
              Lauren Henley. The Journal of African American History (Summer 2022 -
              Simon Balto. The American Journal of Legal History (March 2022 -
              Tommy Aiello. The Journal of American History (September 2021 -
              Jennifer Fronc. Criminal Law and Criminal Justice Books (November 2020 -                         

    Works in Progress  

    “Jim Crow Prison: Black Men in America’s Heart of Darkness”

    Peer-Reviewed Articles

    “Into the Heart of Carceral Darkness: Black Men Sentenced to Life in Prison Under New York’s Habitual Criminal Law and the Social Death of Going Away Forever, 1926-1934,” Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era (under review)

    “Come Home to Us Once More Again”: 'Defective' Status and the Imprisonment of Young African American Men in Early Twentieth Century New York," The Journal of African American History, 107, no. 1 (Winter 2022) (

    “The ‘Love Bank’ Basketball Court and Gentrification on Cherokee Street in Saint Louis,” Material World of Modern Segregation Project, Special Issue in The Common Reader Journal, (Spring 2022) (

    “Drug-Mad Negroes: Cocaine and Black Migration in the Making of Drug Prohibition in Progressive Era New York City, 1880-1920", Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, 20, no. 4, (Oct. 2021) (

    “Fighting and cutting and shooting, and carrying on:’ Saloons, Dives and the Black ‘Tough’ in Manhattan’s Tenderloin,” Journal of Urban History, 45, no. 5, pp. 925-940 (September 2019) (first published June 2018)

    “Folklore, Urban Insurrection, and the Killing of the Black Hero in the Turn of the Century South,” The Mississippi Quarterly Journal, 67 (2016): 581-604 (awarded Louis D. Rubin, Jr. Article Prize) (

    Essays, Blogs & Digital Media

    “Witness: Racial Violence Digital History Project,” Digital Humanities Workshop (DHW), Washington University in St. Louis

    Our Post-Fact Reality,” The Source, November 2020

    Between Optimism & Diligence,” Washington Magazine, 91, no. 2 (November 2020) (also published online in The Common Reader)

    The Conundrum of Writing About Race and Crime,” UNC Press Blog, November 2020

    The Crucible of Black Criminality,” Australian and New Zealand American Studies Association (ANZASA) Online blog, August 2020

    Uncontrollable Blackness’ in Context,” UNC Press Blog, June 2020

    Vigilante Justice and Police Violence in Popular Imagination,” Medium, June 2020

    Is This a Watershed Moment in Police Brutality Protest? Why I am Hopeful, and What History Tells Us,” Medium, June 2020

    “Myths About Black Responses to Racial Violence in the Jim Crow Era,” Vox, February 2020

    “Tupac Shakur,” for the Encyclopedia of African American Culture: From Dashikis to Yoruba, ABC-CLIO/Greenwood Press (Forthcoming)

    “‘A Time to Lift One’s Voice’: The East St. Louis Riot in a Migration Perspective,” Human Ties: Stories in the Humanities Blog, Center for Humanities at Washington University in St. Louis, 2017

    “[T]hey’re knocking down negroes ‘round here,” Public Racial Violence and Black Self-Defense in Early 20th Century New York City, The Gotham Center Blog, 2016

    “The Lyceum Theatre,” Retrofitting Rochester Digital History Series, Democrat & Chronicle, 2014

    Book Reviews

    Review of Matthew Vaz, Running the Numbers: Race, Police, and the History of Urban Gambling, for The Journal of American History, 108, no. 3 (December 2011):  645-646.

    Review of Lane Windham, Knocking on Labor’s Door: Union Organizing in the 1970s and the Roots of a New Economic Divide, for Enterprise and Society Journal, 21, no. 1, (Spring 2020):  313-316

    Review of Michael Flamm, In the Heat of the Summer: The New York Riots of 1964 and the War on Crime, for The Journal of African American History, 105, no. 2, (Spring 2020):  335-337

    Review of Nancy Isenberg, White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America, for The Common Reader, 46, (Spring 2018)

    Review of Keith Michael Green, Bound to Respect: Antebellum Narratives of Black Imprisonment, Servitude, and Bondage, 1816-1861, for Callaloo, 39, no. 4., (Fall 2016): 949-951

    Review essay Talitha LeFlouria, Chained in Silence: Black Women and Convict Labor in the New South, Dennis Childs, Slaves of the State: Black Incarceration from the Chain Gang to the Penitentiary, and Dan Berger, Captive Nation: Black Prison Organizing in the Civil Rights Era, for Reviews in American History, 44 (2016): 327-334

    Review of Cara Caddoo, Envisioning Freedom: Cinema and the Building of Modern Black Life, for The Journal of the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era 14 (2015): 266-267

    Review of Catherine M. Paden, Civil Rights Advocacy on Behalf of the Poor, for The Journal of African American History 98 (Winter 2013): 166-168   


    TV Co-Host, Ancient China from Above, Season 2, National Geographic.

    TV Interview, Regular Correspondent, Areva Martin in Real Time, KBLA,
                   -  September 27, 2023 (
                   - August 30, 2023 (
                   - July 13, 2023 (
                   - April 20, 2023 (
                   - April 3, 2023 (
                   - February 6, 2023 (

    Feature Length Documentary, Urban Renewal and Lincoln Center, Firelight Media

    TV Docuseries, “Prison Chronicles” (3 episodes), for The History Channel, July 2022

    TV Documentary, “Lie Detector,” for American Experience - PBS, July 2022

    TV Interview, “Does Black Privilege Exist,” for The Tammi Mac Late Show, July 12,2022

    TV Interview, "Black Lives Matter Under Scrutiny," for The Tammi Mac Late Show, June 2, 2022

    TV Interview, “George Floyd Anniversary: 2 Years On,” for TRT Worldwide TV News Roundtable, United Kingdom, May 23, 2022

    TV interview on "Movement Rises to Project and Preserve Black Churches and History Around the Country," E.W. Scripps Media and Fox Affiliates, December 2021

    Video Interview, Institute for Advanced Study, Scholar Spotlight, 2021

    Podcast Interview, Goat Rodeo, American Public Media, July 2021

    Radio Interview, KPFK Los Angeles, “Freedom Now” with Gerald Horne, June 2021

    TV Interview on Reparations for African Americans, E.W. Scripps Media and Fox Affiliates, by Diane Duenez, April 19, 2021

    TV Interview on “What Makes Us, Us, Part 2” The Tammi Mac Late Show, Fox Soul Channel, March 24, 2021

    TV Interview on “What Makes Us, Us, Part 1” The Tammi Mac Late Show, Fox Soul Channel, March 4, 2021

    Interview for “Rewriting Black and Brown History, With a Little Help from Augmented Reality,” Pallabi Munsi, OZY Media, November 2020

    Interview for The Gotham Center Blog for New York City History, November 2020

    Podcast Interview, “Fargo Season 4,” Killer Casting podcast, November 2020

    Interview for the Ninteenth-Century Studies Association, 19 Cents Blog, October 2020

    Interview for The Joe Madison Show Sirius XM on Uncontrollable Blackness, September 2020 

    Interview for Washington University’s The Record on Uncontrollable Blackness, by Liam Otten, August 2020

    Interview, for “Injustice Collector,” Audible Originals, by Peter McDonnell, July 29, 2020

    Interview for Faculty Spotlight, for Arts & Sciences, Washington University, by Kelsey Arends, July 2020

    Audio Interview, Black Agenda Report Radio, by Glen Ford, July 9, 2020

    Video Interview, “Juneteenth and Collective Progress,” for The Source, June 19, 2020

    Interview, “The Need for Black History on the Syllabus,” for OZY Media, June 9, 2020

    Written Interview, Uncontrollable Blackness, “Book Forum Interview,” for Black Agenda Report, June 2020

    Interview, “The History of Police Brutality Against Black People in America,” for ITV News, June 9, 2020

    TV Interview, “Black Lives Matter: Beginning of the End for White Privilege?,” for TRT Worldwide TV News, June 10, 2020

    Podcast Interview, “Examining Race and Police Conflict with Douglas Flowe,” for Real Crime Profile, (3 episodes), June 7, 2020

    TV interview, CNN Tonight with Don Lemon, June 4, 2020

    Podcast Interview for The Economist, Checks & Balances podcast, interview by John Shields

    Interview for L’Opinion, “Les Violences Policieres et la crise du Covid-19 sont une metaphore de la condition des Noirs aux Etats-Unis,” interview by Gilles Senges, June 3, 2020

    Interview for Politico, “Many Crises, or Just One?” interview by Renuka Rayasam, June 2, 2020

    "Omitted History" for the Center for Humanities (WashU)


    Littleton-Griswold Book Prize, American Historical Association (AHA) and the American Society for Legal History (ASLH), 2021

    Georgie W. Lewis Career Development Professorship, History Department, Washington University in Saint Louis (2021-2024)

    Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellowship, The Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey (IAS), School of Historical Studies, 2021-2022

    Circle of Excellence Silver Award for Writing Feature (multi-author collaboration in Washington Magazine), Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) (2021)

    Faculty Fellowship, Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity & Equity (CRE2), Washington University in Saint Louis, Spring 2022

    Divided Cities Course Design Grant, 2020
    Center for the Humanities, Washington University in Saint Louis

    Excellence in Teaching Award, 2018
    Council of Arts & Sciences, Washington University in Saint Louis

    Trailblazer Faculty Award, 2018
    Center for Diversity & Inclusion, Washington University in Saint Louis

    Center for the Humanities Faculty Fellowship, Fall 2018
    Washington University in Saint Louis

    Louis D. Rubin, Jr. Article Prize (for best article on Southern Literature), 2017
    Society for the Study of Southern Literature

    Postdoctoral Fellowship in Inequality and Identity, 2014
    Washington University in Saint Louis

    Frederick Douglass Institute Research Award, 2012
    Frederick Douglass Institute for African and African American Studies

    Donald Marks "Dexter Perkins Prize" in History, 2012
    University of Rochester - History Department

    Provost’s Fellowship, 2007
    University of Rochester

    Recent Service to the Profession

    Editorial Board Member, Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, (JGAPE)

    Board of Directors for the Urban History Association, 2018-2021

    Phi Alpha Theta Academic Essay Judge, 2016

    Editorial Board Member and Manuscript reviewer for the Annuals of the Next Generation Journal, 2014-present

    Courses at Washington University in St. Louis

    HIS 5263: Graduate Seminar: Race, Crime, and American Prisons

    L61 2201: Urban Crisis and Renewal

    HIST 487: Race and Drugs in American History

    AMCS 330C: The Politics of Black Criminality and Popular Protest

    HIST 301U: Historical Methods – American Masculinity

    HIST 2561: Urban America

    AMCS 206: Reading Culture: Engaging the City

    AMCS 230: Exploring Urban Change

    Uncontrollable Blackness:  African American Men and Criminality in Jim Crow New York

    Uncontrollable Blackness: African American Men and Criminality in Jim Crow New York

    Early twentieth-century African American men in northern urban centers like New York faced economic isolation, segregation, a biased criminal justice system, and overt racial attacks by police and citizens. In this book, Douglas J. Flowe interrogates the meaning of crime and violence in the lives of these men, whose lawful conduct itself was often surveilled and criminalized, by focusing on what their actions and behaviors represented to them. He narrates the stories of men who sought profits in underground markets, protected themselves when law enforcement failed to do so, and exerted control over public, commercial, and domestic spaces through force in a city that denied their claims to citizenship and manhood. Flowe furthermore traces how the features of urban Jim Crow and the efforts of civic and progressive leaders to restrict their autonomy ultimately produced the circumstances under which illegality became a form of resistance.

    Drawing from voluminous prison and arrest records, trial transcripts, personal letters and documents, and investigative reports, Flowe opens up new ways of understanding the black struggle for freedom in the twentieth century. By uncovering the relationship between the fight for civil rights, black constructions of masculinity, and lawlessness, he offers a stirring account of how working-class black men employed extra-legal methods to address racial injustice.