This essay establishes similarities between control over Black bodies’ movement under chattel slavery and social distancing measures employed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Its primary concern is how protecting public health necessitates undesired movement on the part of marginalized, historically disenfranchised populations to secure supply chains and ensure access to basic goods, foodstuffs, and medicines for those sheltering at home. Structuring its claims within the critical race theories of Saidiya V. Hartman, Achille Mbembe, and Elizabeth Maddock Dillon, it draws attention to how an enslaved condition in which one lacked the right to choose to move or hold still is now being extended to a class of workers deemed essential.

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