A New South Rebellion: The Battle against Convict Labor in the Tennessee Coalfields, 1871-1896

A New South Rebellion: The Battle against Convict Labor in the Tennessee Coalfields, 1871-1896

by Karin A. Shapiro

NOOK Book(eBook)

$26.49 $29.99 Save 12% Current price is $26.49, Original price is $29.99. You Save 12%.
View All Available Formats & Editions

Available on Compatible NOOK Devices and the free NOOK Apps.
WANT A NOOK?  Explore Now


In 1891, thousands of Tennessee miners rose up against the use of convict labor by the state's coal companies, eventually engulfing five mountain communities in a rebellion against government authority. Propelled by the insurgent sensibilities of Populism and Gilded Age unionism, the miners initially sought to abolish the convict lease system through legal challenges and legislative lobbying. When nonviolent tactics failed to achieve reform, the predominantly white miners repeatedly seized control of the stockades and expelled the mostly black convicts from the mining districts. Insurrection hastened the demise of convict leasing in Tennessee, though at the cost of greatly weakening organized labor in the state's coal regions.
Exhaustively researched and vividly written, A New South Rebellion brings to life the hopes that rural southerners invested in industrialization and the political tensions that could result when their aspirations were not met. Karin Shapiro skillfully analyzes the place of convict labor in southern economic development, the contested meanings of citizenship in late-nineteenth-century America, the weaknesses of Populist-era reform politics, and the fluidity of race relations during the early years of Jim Crow.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780807867051
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date: 11/01/2017
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 352
File size: 7 MB

About the Author

Karin A. Shapiro received her doctorate from Yale University and served from 1992 to 1997 as a research fellow at Johannesburg's University of the Witwatersrand. She now lives in Durham, North Carolina.

Table of Contents


1. The Convict Wars and the New South
2. Schemes and Dreams in the Coalfields
3. Measures of Southern Justice
4. Kindling Insurrection
5. An Uneasy Armistice
6. Dilemmas of Militance
7. The Spread of Rebellion
8. Aftermath
9. The Boundaries of Dissent
Appendix 1. Genealogy of the Tennessee Coal, Iron, and Railroad Company
Appendix 2. Race of Male Tennessee Convicts, 1865-1892
Appendix 3. Crimes of Tennessee Convicts, 1866-1892
Appendix 4. Numbers of Prisoners Leaving
Tennessee Penitentiary, 1863-1892, by Means of Exit
Appendix 5. "Lone Rock Song"
Appendix 6. "Coal Creek Troubles"

I llustrations
A. M. Shook, James Bowron, and Nathaniel Baxter
B. A. Jenkins and E. J. Sanford
Coal Creek miners
James A. Shook School, Tracy City
Convicts at Tracy City, 1880s
Convicts tending coke ovens in Grundy County, 1880s
Escaped convict captured by Tracy City guards, 1880s
The Briceville stockade
Eugene Merrell
Governor John Buchanan
William Webb
Public meeting of miners and residents of Coal Creek Valley
Poster advertising a grand mass meeting
Commissioner of Labor George Ford
Advertisement based on the reward for capturing convicts
Fort Anderson on Militia Hill, Coal Creek
Poster for celebratory picnic in Briceville, 1892
Coal Creek woman
Poster advertising the Briceville Cooperative Mine, 1892
Thomas F. Carrick, early 1930s
The stockade at Inman
Miners in the hills surrounding Coal Creek, August 18, 1892
General Samuel T. Carnes
1892 Republican campaign poster
Militia Company C at Coal Creek, August 1892

2.1. The Tennessee Coalfields
2.2. The Coal Creek District
2.3. The Tracy City District
4.1. The Mines in and around Coal Creek, 1890s
4.2. Anderson County Coal Towns and Their Surroundings
5.1. Tennessee's Political Divisions
7.1. Mid-Tennessee Coal Towns and Their Surroundings

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Shapiro's careful analyses, clear argument, and excellent writing elevate the convict wars to one of the South's major struggles between capital and labor.—Law and History Review

Karin Shapiro has written a compelling story that is also a brilliant analysis of convict labor, industrial life, and political economy in the New South.—Edward L. Ayers, University of Virginia

Karin Shapiro's deeply researched study of New South labor militancy. . . . joins a short list of fine recent books that have raised our understanding of the travails of the South's working people to a new level of nuance and sophistication. It should be read by anyone who cares about democratic struggles, . . . then and now.—Jacquelyn Dowd Hall, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Shapiro's book eschews facile romantic views of southern labor as a brotherhood of class-conscious workers striving to overthrow the system. Instead, she gives us an analysis of the forces—-social, economic, and political—-that shaped labor militancy, and consequently she has created a much more balanced, complex, and compelling portrait of labor in the New South.—American Historical Review

Simply by bringing this fascinating chronicle fully to light, Shapiro adds significantly to the literature in the field, but her contribution extends much further, ultimately helping us to understand much about the character of industrial and community relations in the small coal towns of the postbellum South.—Reviews in American History

Shapiro has produced the book-length version that this dramatic episode has long needed. It not only supersedes previous accounts—it overwhelms. Shapiro's exhaustive research in scores of newspapers, manuscript collections, government documents, company reports, court cases, and all the pertinent secondary literature results in vivid portrayals of the miners, their communities, the businessmen they confronted, and the hapless state government—all analyzed with care, coolness, and discriminating judgment.—Journal of Southern History

A sophisticated and multilayered analysis. . . . Shapiro aptly draws on the tension between old and new to highlight multiple themes including region, colonialism, urbanization, class consciousness, agency, and militancy.—Labour

A masterpiece of narrative and interpretive insight. . . . A sympathetic outside perspective that allows us to understand the region and its people with greater clarity and discernment.—Appalachian Journal

Insightful. . . . An engaging story about the interaction of the state government, miners, and mine managers in late-nineteenth-century Tennessee. . . The book will stand as a valuable contribution to the history of labor union activity in the South.—Journal of Economic History

Customer Reviews