From Scientific American
Oshinsky's beautifully constructed narrative brings to vivid life one of the most shameful chapters in American history.
Historian Oshinsky uses Mississippi as a paradigm for the shameful history of black injustice in the South between the post^-Civil War demise of slavery and the post^-World 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. Brad Hooper
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