The paper focuses on the prison industrial complex in the early twenty-first century. The convict leasing system is one of the most difficult and harsh labour systems in the American history. The convict leasing system arose in the Southern states, which used it as to satisfy the human resource needs on plantations and factories. The paper argues that the convict leasing system was little different from the slavery as it relied on the labour of prisoners, who were not able to refuse from it or to choose the preferred type of occupation.
The project is going to concentrate on the labour conditions after the Civil War. The particular attention is devoted to the comparison and contrast between the convict leasing and the prison labour. The paper supports the claim that the abolishment of slavery has not resulted in the development of the free labour system as the growing and rebuilding economy greatly relied on the convict labour. The white companies used the convict leasing for their benefits, exploiting the labour and targeting the African Americans. The vagrancy laws and the high level of crime ensured the constant access to the free labour.
The abolishment of slavery could not guarantee the full freedom of actions for the former slaves. The Southern States introduced the laws, which diminished a great part of the essential rights of the African American citizens. Thus, for example, the vagrancy laws of 1866 forced anyone homeless or unemployed into employment, which further extended the limitations and restrictions imposed on the former slaves. The legal system as well as the high level of crime further strengthen the prison labour system, acting as an impediment to the free labour.
The investigation of the convict leasing system is vital for both understandings of the functioning of the American labour system in the first half of the twentieth century and for recollection of the personal experiences of the victims of it. The paper will focus on the investigation of the scope of freedom guaranteed to the former slaves after the abolishment of slavery with the particular attention to the women’s fates. The paper insists on the claim that the abolishment of slavery was merely formal as the remnants of it might be found in the prison labour as well as in the chain gang labour camps. Therefore, slavery continued to function even in the early beginning of the twentieth century.
The national justice system continued to be extremely discriminative even after the abolishment of slavery. As it has been previously argued, even though the formal slavery no longer existed, it was recreated and reestablished in the prison labour. The prison and its labour system were guided and based on the racial stereotypes. Highly discriminative by the very nature, the prison system particularly targeted the African Americans, whose status and rights have undergone the little changes after the abolishment of slavery. They were the subjects to convict leasing and were also forced to work under the anti-human conditions of the chain gang work. Therefore, the motivation behind the paper is the need to draw the attention to the remnants of the slavery in the prison system, its discriminative and anti-human practices, which continued after the formal abolishment of the slavery.
The paper also raises the problem of the prison labour as well as the racial targeting in prison, claiming that even after the abolishment of slavery, racial discrimination was still prevalent in prisons, where the African Americans were still treated as slaves. The problem of prison labour and stereotype-based targeting is still relevant for the contemporary society, which is one of the motivational factors for the research.
The influence of the convict leasing system and the prison labour is of particular importance not only to the sociologists and historians but also to the society in general as it provides the new perspective on the issue of slavery and discrimination and reflects the personalized history, mitigating the time gap between the past and the present. The paper helps to analyze and reassess the mistakes of the past not only from the point of the abstract categories but based on the stories of the real people, who came through it. Also, it is an opportunity to understand the history through hearing the voices of the victims of it. It also contributes to the gender studies as it reveals the voices of the African American women, and the pain and trauma they were forced to endure.
Yetman, Norman R. Voices from slavery: 100 authentic slave narratives. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 1984. Print.
Yetman (1984) discusses the nature of the slave narratives collected during the Federal Writer’s project. The author analyses the ex-slave interviews and their applicability, claiming that even though they represent the peculiar source of information, it is unclear how to use them due to their biased nature (Yetman 209). Yetman (210) argues that the ex-slave interviews have significantly contributed to the reconstruction of the slavery reality from the slave perspective.
Yetman’s claims are based on the critical analysis of the interviews themselves. Yetman compares the information provided by the former slaves with the objective historical data. He also refers to the scholarly literature in order to back up his claims. Thus, commenting on the Litwack’s use of the ex-slave narratives, Yetman (207) compares it to the data provided by Genovese. Yetman assesses the major aims, followed by Litwack, and then analyses the narratives on which they are based. For example, to convey the emotionally charged nature of experience Litwack used women’s stories.
The research, conducted by Yetman, relates to the research topic in a way it outlines the importance of the properly chosen narrative and the influence it might have on the interpretation of the events. The article defines the major factors, which influence the interpretation of the stories, which, in turns, might help to objectify the analysis.
Miller, V. M..Hard Labor and Hard Time: Florida’s “Sunshine Prison” and Chain Gangs. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2012. Project MUSE,
Miller (2012) investigates the influence of the good roads movement on the fate and working conditions of the African American prisoners. The good roads movement was beneficial for the every side involved as it helped to build the good roads infrastructure as well as reduce the costs for the maintenance of the prisoners. However, the working conditions of the convict laborers in the state road construction were rather low. The paper investigates the issue of the chain gang labour in the 1910-1920s.
Miller’s research is not based on the analysis of the Federal Writers’ Project. The paper thoroughly and critically analyses the autobiographical narratives. It is also based on the records from the Florida’s prisons, which serve to disclose the terrible working and living conditions, in which both male and female African American prisoners had to live.
The topic of the article is related to the research paper as the article is devoted to the description of the labor conditions of the African American prisoners. It contributes to the investigation of the nature of work African Americans had to do. The paper helps to better understand the narratives from the early twentieth century.
Burns, R. E..I Am a Fugitive from a Georgia Chain Gang! Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1997. Project MUSE,
The movie I Am a Fugitive from A Chain Gang is a primary source, devoted to the depiction of the terrible labour conditions of the early twentieth century. James Allen, wrongly convicted for the intention of his friend to still the dinner, was sent to the chain gang labour camp. The book is relevant to the topic as it describes the specifics of the labour conditions in the chain gang camps, its unbearable difficulty.
The narrative of the document is the typical movie narrative. The main message about the punishment being unfair for the level of crime is being disclosed throughout the plot. The movie justifies the main hero, who escaped from the prison, being unable to endure the conditions of the chain gang. At the same time, it hints that nobody can really escape it.
The book extends the information provided by Miller. It helps to understand the nature of the chain gang labour, which was little different from the slavery. It visualizes the information and records found in Miller’s research and shows the unfair nature of the American justice, which might convict an innocent man to the tortures of slavery.
LeFlouria, Talitha L. Chained in Silence: Black Women and Convict Labor in the New South. University of North Carolina Press, 2015, www.jstor.org/stable/10.5149/9781469622484_leflouria.
LeFlouria (2015) researches the role of the slave labour in the industrialization. She claims that the industrialisation and modernisation apparatus was organized the way it should benefit the racial hegemony and to deprive the African American men and women from their newly acquired freedoms and liberties. It discusses the mechanisms that were used to move the black women prisoners to the traditional customs of labour.
LeFlouria (2015) supports his claims through the analysis of the narratives as well as providing the historical and statistical data. Having chosen this strategy of argumentation, the author manages to increase the credibility of the narratives, which were often criticized for being biased. LeFlouria strives to critically assess the narratives, questioning their credibility and relevance to the research.
The book is relevant to the research as it provides the full and comprehensive analysis of the working conditions of the black women in the Southern States. The book investigates the topics of racial and ethnic discrimination and the societal perceptions and constraints African American women had to face. Moreover, the book focuses on the description of life after the abolishment of slavery, which did not mean the start of the absolute freedom, which complies with and contributes to the research topic.
Fisher-Giorlando, Marianne. “Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association.” Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association, vol. 38, no. 3, 1997, pp. 379–381., www.jstor.org/stable/4233438.
Matthew Manchini (1996) investigates the role of the convict leasing in the American labour system. Mancini assumes that the convict leasing is one of the harshest and most-exploitative labour systems in the American history. Mancini (1) claims that the Southern states, seeking to rebuild their economy after the Civil War, used the criminal justice system in their own interests namely the prisons did not serve as the incarceration facilities for the criminals, but were used by the southerners to find the labour to work at the plantations.
Mancini supports his claims with the abundance of references to the historical data as well as to the legal acts, which enabled the anti-humanistic system of convict leasing. Mancini describes and involves the leasing acts, stating the names of the beneficiaries as well as providing the statistical data about the number of convicts, given for leasing. The chosen method increases the credibility of Mancini’s findings.
The book is relevant to the research topic as it is devoted to the aspect of the convict leasing and reviews it as the whole labour system. The author of the book also supports the major assumption of the paper about the non-existant free labor system, highlighting the slavery-like nature of the convict leasing. Also, the book provides sufficient historical and statistical data, which can be used in the research as well.
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