Free Admission Exhibition Explores the Historical Links Between Slavery and Mass Incarceration

“Captive State” will open to visitors July 19

 NEW ORLEANS (July 10, 2024) —After more than six years of research and preparation, the Historic New Orleans Collection (HNOC) will debut a limited-time exhibition titled “Captive State: Louisiana and the Making of Mass Incarceration” that examines the roots of the state’s current distinction as the incarceration capital of the world. The free exhibition will open to the public Friday, July 19, at 520 Royal St. in the French Quarter.

Throughout Louisiana’s history, people in power have used systems of enslavement and incarceration to hold others captive for punishment, control and exploitation.  Through historical objects, textual interpretation, multimedia and data visualization, “Captive State” explores the threads connecting slavery and mass incarceration.

 “Since Louisiana’s colonial era, those in power have used the law to control, punish, and exploit others,” said Eric Seiferth, the exhibition’s curator. “Captive State documents how slavery and incarceration were mutually reinforcing in ways that have had long-term impacts on people in this state, particularly Black Louisianians.”

 The exhibition first examines how Louisiana’s colonial and early American governments created race-based systems of oppression through legislation, policing, imprisonment, enslavement and violence that matured as New Orleans became the hub of the domestic slave trade. Visitors can then trace how the Louisiana Constitution of 1898, written to maintain white supremacy, enabled an era of mass incarceration in the 20th and 21st centuries.

 “‘Captive State’ grapples with mass incarceration—a particularly salient discussion in Louisiana, where one in every hundred people is currently incarcerated,” said HNOC President and CEO Daniel Hammer. “In recognition of the varied personal experiences our visitors will bring to this exhibition, we explored new ways of engaging with guests around these important, sensitive topics and developed a tour that will invite them to contribute their own perspectives to the narrative.”

 During the 90-minute “Piecing It Together: A Captive State Tour and Conversation,” visitors can examine the intricate relationship between slavery and modern-day mass incarceration in Louisiana. Along the way, participants are invited into a conversation about how incarceration impacts our communities today. The guided conversations will take place Thursday–Sunday from 10-11:30 a.m. for a $5 suggested fee.

 “Captive State” opens to the public July 19 and runs through Jan. 19. Tours will be available starting in August. Admission is free. Support for “Captive State” comes from WWL-TV. To learn more, visit

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