The Modern Infrastructure Landscape and the Legacy of Slavery

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Abstract

I argue that a broad reading of the infrastructure landscape of the contemporary United States opens space to see how slavery affects our current geographies. By focusing on infrastructure—the roads, ports, rail lines, and buildings, among other examples—built by enslaved people, we can locate slavery in contemporary landscapes. By focusing on the built environment, we can also understand the centrality of slavery in making the U.S. nation-state. Perhaps most geographically significant, the modern infrastructure landscape built through enslaved labor generates existing wealth for individuals and corporations. If, for instance, the infrastructure built through slavery is still generating income, are there ways to capture that income and redistribute it to individuals or communities through reparative justice frameworks? This approach to addressing inequities within the U.S. economy can serve as a form of reparations and might help address fundamental economic inequities within the United States.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)44-51
Number of pages8
JournalProfessional Geographer
Volume75
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes

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