Worse Than Slavery

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Free Press, Apr 22, 1997 - Social Science - 320 pages
21 Reviews
"Worse Than Slavery" is an epic history of race and punishment in the deepest South from emancipation to the civil rights era - and beyond. Southern prisons have been immortalized in convict work songs, in the blues, and in movies such as Cool Hand Luke and The Defiant Ones. Mississippi's Parchman Penitentiary was the grandfather of them all, an immense, isolated plantation with shotguns, whips, and bloodhounds, where inmates worked the cotton fields in striped clothing from dawn to dusk. William Faulkner described Parchman as "destination doom." Its convicts included bluesmen like "Son" House and "Bukka" White, who featured the prison in the legendary "Midnight Special" and "Parchman Farm Blues." Noted historian David M. Oshinsky draws on prison records, pardon files, folklore, oral history, and the blues to offer an unforgettable portrait of Parchman and Jim Crow justice - from the horrors of convict leasing in the late nineteenth century to the struggle for black equality in the 1960s, when Parchman was used to break the spirit of civil rights workers who journeyed south on the Freedom Rides. In Mississippi, the criminal justice system often proved that there could be something worse than slavery. The "old" Parchman is gone, a casualty of federal court orders in the 1970s. What it tells us about our past is well worth remembering in a nation deeply divided by race.

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Review: Worse Than Slavery

User Review  - Kim - Goodreads

This book was phenomenal in that what is hidden from the public - and justified as the people therein not being worthy of consideration- is very telling, given American history. How you treat those ... Read full review

Review: Worse Than Slavery

User Review  - W Keith - Goodreads

Eye-opening and gut-wrenching history of my home state's penal system after the end of the Civil War. Excellent research and narrative, although a bit like reading Faulkner in my opinion: it will have ... Read full review


After Slavery Before Parchman

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The Children
David Halberstam
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About the author (1997)

He is also an associate editor of the American National Biography. Oshinsky writes about the brutality of penitentiary life in his book, Worse Than Slavery: Parchman Farm and the Ordeal of Jim Crow Justice. He earned a Senior Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities and an appointment as Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Texas, Austin for his work on the penitentiary project. Oshinsky also received the 17th Annual Robert F. Kennedy Book Award for his novel.

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