Overview

The brutal conditions and inhuman treatment of African-Americans in Southern prisons has been immortalized in blues songs and in such movies as Cool Hand Luke. Now, drawing on police and prison records and oral histories, David M. Oshinsky presents an account of Mississippi’s notorious Parchman Farm; what it tells us about our past is well worth remembering in a nation deeply divided by race.

The brutal conditions and inhuman treatment of African-Americans in ...

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Worse Than Slavery

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Overview

The brutal conditions and inhuman treatment of African-Americans in Southern prisons has been immortalized in blues songs and in such movies as Cool Hand Luke. Now, drawing on police and prison records and oral histories, David M. Oshinsky presents an account of Mississippi’s notorious Parchman Farm; what it tells us about our past is well worth remembering in a nation deeply divided by race.

The brutal conditions and inhuman treatment of African-Americans in Southern prisons has been immortalized in blues songs and in such movies as Cool Hand Luke. Now, drawing on police and prison records and oral histories, David M. Oshinsky presents an account of Mississippi's notorious Parchman Farm; what it tells us about our past is well worth remembering in a nation deeply divided by race. Two 8-page photo inserts. 320 pp.

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Editorial Reviews

Brad Hooper
Historian Oshinsky uses Mississippi as a paradigm for the shameful history of black injustice in the South between the postCivil War demise of slavery and the postWorld War II rise of the civil rights movement. Since its admission to the Union, Mississippi had been a violent place, as the author relates; and brutality to blacks was simply a part of Mississippian culture. After the abolition of slavery, in most white Mississippians' minds, something else had to be arrived at for "keeping the ex-slaves in line." Thus laws were passed designed to maintain white supremacy, particularly when it came to controlling black labor. After a discussion of the deplorable practice of convict leasing, a system whereby people could "hire" prisoners for physical labor outside the walls of prison, the author turns his attention to Parchman Farm, the state penitentiary, "a sprawling 20,000-acre plantation in the rich cotton land of the Yazoo Delta." What transpired behind the fences of Parchman Farm since its founding in the early part of this century is a horror story told here through a rigorous study that should be accorded an important place on the U.S. history shelf.
Kirkus Reviews
An absorbing tale of a Southern prison whose name is synonymous with brutality.

Historian Oshinsky (A Conspiracy So Immense, 1983) draws on materials ranging from court records and blues lyrics of black women prisoners to the novels of William Faulkner for this thoroughgoing history of Parchman Farm, Miss., a 20,000-acre plantation notorious even among the most hardened criminals for its inhumane conditions. Oshinsky traces Parchman Farm's evolution during Mississippi's frontier days, when lawlessness and violence made the later Wild West seem tame by comparison, and after the Civil War, when civic society broke down and a fifth of the state budget went to the purchase of artificial limbs for broken—and desperate—veterans who too often wound up behind bars. A disproportionate number of Parchman's residents, however, were black, and Oshinsky is particularly good at tracing the decline of African-American fortunes in the late 19th century, when, as a contemporary observer noted, "however these [white Mississippians] may have regarded the negro slave, they hated the negro freeman." White Mississippians reasserted their power through the courts, fostering a system of work farming whereby Parchman inmates (often mere children who had committed such crimes as stealing change from the counter of a dry-goods store) were rented out as near-slave labor for neighboring cotton plantations—a system that ended only in the mid-20th century. Oshinsky examines the culture of what he calls this "American Siberia," drawing heavily on oral histories collected by federal workers in the New Deal era, to show how thoroughly that culture influenced the larger society of the Deep South. In a charged epilogue, Oshinsky notes that Parchman, now a "scientifically run" prison, is resisting pressures to institute chain-gang labor, setting something of a standard of humane treatment for the region.

A well-paced, revealing history of hard times.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781439107744
  • Publisher: Free Press
  • Publication date: 4/22/1997
  • Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 360,737
  • File size: 5 MB

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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 29, 2012

    This book details why the judicial system is so unjust against A

    This book details why the judicial system is so unjust against African American. I begin to read this book due to the Trayvon Martin case and I see why the African American life is not cherished. This book explains why African Americans are sterotyped by our skin color and not our character. This book explains why America fight senseless wars in the name of Justice but fail to provide Justice in the states. However, the bible is clear on reaping and sowing so until this nation begin to treat every one Just then it will remain in the state its in, Must Read!!!!

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 14, 2012

    Pure Evil is right. Americans have been duped. The ending of the

    Pure Evil is right. Americans have been duped. The ending of the War for Southern Independence marked the end of America as founded. Government sanctioned historians have been attacking Capitalism and smearing the South since that time. They have used slavery as a smokescreen to cover their crimes so they could get their National Bank and rule with their corrupt Mercantilism.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2013

    Worth it. Is it worth it or not?

    Rating it cuz i dont know...... is it worth all the money???

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2004

    Evil.Pure Evil

    Evil is all that comes to mind while reading this book.Pure evil.Why did whites feel they had to invoke this cruelty to blacks.Evil.Pure Evil

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 25, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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