Simone Browne discusses this history in her article "Black Luminosity and Surveillance" which explores slave insurrections, migrations, and revolt, and how such common objects as the lantern were used by whites to suppress and limit the opportunities for black folks to gather and to (potentially) engage in resistant behavior:
The Book of Negroes lists passengers on board 219 ships that set sail from New York between 23 April 1783 and 30 November 1783. Ships, as Paul Gilroy tells us, ‘were the livings means by which the points within the Atlantic ‘were the livings means by which the points within the Atlantic world were joined’ (1993, p. 16).
Following this, The Book of Negroes is not only a record of escape on board 219 ships, but it can also be thought of as a record of how the surveillance of black Atlantic mobilities was integral to the formation of the Canada US border. If we are to take transatlantic slavery as the antecedent of contemporary surveillance technologies and practices as they concern inventories of ships’ cargo and the making of ‘scaled inequalities’ in the Brookes slave ship schematic (Spillers 1987, p. 72), biometric identification by branding the body with hot irons (Browne 2010), slave markets and auction blocks as exercises of synoptic power where the many watched the few, slave passes and patrols, black codes and fugitive slave notices, it is to the archives, slave narratives and often to black expressive practices and creative texts that we can look to for moments of refusal and critique.
We can think of the lantern as a prosthesis made mandatory after dark, a technology that made it possible for the black body to be constantly illuminated from dusk to dawn, made knowable, locatable and contained within the city. The black body, technologically enhanced by way of a simple device made for a visual surplus where technology met surveillance, made the business of tea a white enterprise and encoded white supremacy, as well as black luminosity, in law. Of course, unsupervised leisure, labour, travel, assembly and other forms of social networking past sunset by free and enslaved black New Yorkers continued regardless of the enforcement of codes meant to curtail such things.This arrangement was not created in post 9-11 America. As demonstrated above, its roots are much, much deeper.
During the American Slaveocracy, Black Americans were victims of racial terrorism and tyranny. And throughout the United States blacks were subjected to surveillance and harassment by White Society.
Moreover, the Southern Slaveocracy put into effect elaborate systems of slave passes, patrols, spying, black codes, and other means of spying on and monitoring African-Americans in order to maintain their dominance over a whole community.
So afraid whites were of slave uprisings and resistance, that many areas of the South had standing militias with orders that all white men be prepared to fight a black insurrection--even on Sunday and at church. Despite these elaborate means of surveillance and control, black Americans fought, resisted, triumphed, and battled against a tyrannical Racial State--until it was brought down (however momentarily until Jim and Jane Crow)--in no small part because of their efforts during The Civil War.
Given black Americans' legacy of resisting tyranny and surveillance by the State, this finding by Pew Research, that they support domestic spying and the National Security Administration's violations of civil liberties, is vexing. It stands against centuries of history and shared struggle:
A recent Pew Research poll shows that blacks are more willing to accept curbs to privacy than others polled.
According to the poll, 45 percent of Americans say the government should be able to “go further than it is” to increases security, while 55 percent of blacks are accepting of additional curbs to privacy. In all, 52 percent of those polled said broad based monitoring of Americans should not occur. Among blacks, only 44 percent of those polled found the extra measures unacceptable.
Among all adults, 62 percent said investigating possible threats was more important. The figure was 60 percent among whites, 67 percent among nonwhites and 75 percent among African Americans.I would suggest that this support of the Surveillance Society is a reflection of 1) a desire to be nationalistic, patriotic, and to continuously assert the "Americanness" of black folks in an era of resurgent racism, Birtherism, and other fictions that doubt their full membership in the polity, as well as 2) a trust in Barack Obama, and an incumbent belief in the symbolism of the man and his triumph, as opposed to the day-to-day and practical relationship between his election and the well-being of black communities.
Black Americans are among those most likely to be subjected to the technologies which limit the privacy rights guaranteed by the Constitution. Yet, Black Americans are not resisting the all-seeing eye and panopticon. It would appear that the Surveillance Society has been able to create a type of Stockholm syndrome through over-identification with the United States' first black president.
Ultimately, the radical nature of the Black Freedom Struggle has been defeated by a magical glamour of partisan identification and dreaming through the vessel who is Barack Obama.