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Worse than Slavery: Parchman Farm and the Ordeal of Jim Crow Justice
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Parchman Farm, a huge cotton plantation in the Mississippi delta, represented an improvement, in that Mississippi itself owned and operated the farm and tended to feed and house the convicts. The system, however, was far from just, in that prisoners were armed and chosen to guard their fellow inmates, profit was a main goal and justification of the system, and no effort was made to rehabilitate the inmates.Read more ›
The book's subtitle indicates that it's primary focus will be Parchman Farm, a Mississippi correctional facility that housed mostly black convicts. However, the first 100 pages don't even deal with Parchman; instead, the author discusses the convict leasing system that preceded the penal farm. Convict leasing reflected the consensus belief that African-Americans were fit for hard labor and little else. Leasing involved a corrupt and biased legal system, which placed unfair "court costs" on black males that would only be paid off by hard labor as a convict. According to Oshinky's research, the laborers would have to work long days in harsh conditions with little or no shelter. While a lot of the inmates would die from the extreme working situations, the people of Mississippi cared very little; the leasing system gave former plantation owners access to cheap labor and reinforced racial stereotypes.Read more ›
"By 1915, Parchman was already a self-sufficient operation. It contained a sawmill, a brick yard, a slaughterhouse, a vegetable canning plant, and two cotton gins. In design, it resembled an antebellum plantation with convicts in place of slaves. Both systems used captive labor to grow the same crops in identical ways. Both relied on a small staff of rural, lower-class whites to supervise the black labor gangs. And both staffs mixed physical punishment with paternalistic rewards in order to motivate their workers.'
In short, Parchman Farm was a farm with slaves." ("Worse than Slavery")
Parchman Farm was known throughout the south as a bad place to go. It was memorialized in song and fiction. ("The Midnight Special" was the train that the convicts' wives and girlfriends rode for conjugal visits; and Faulkner's short story "Old Man" is about two Parchman inmates sent out to help in the Flood of 1927)
It was predominantly black. Once you were inside, it was hard to get out(alive. at any rate )Most convicts served fixed terms and parole was a relatively new concept.
It used a system in which "trustees," usually men convicted of violent crimes and who were quick to fire their shotguns at escapees, supervised the rest.
It was expected to, and usually did, return a profit. In fact, it was a major contributor to Mississippi's economy. The system it replaced, known as "convict leasing," was, if possible, worse. And rehabilitation was not high on the Prison Superintendent's agenda. The superintendent was a farmer, not a social worker.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Mindblowing! And the worst part is this stuff isn't even taught in schools, we learn that slavery ended in 1865, but it actually continued for almost three quarters of a century.Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
Worse Than Slavery by David Oshinsky, a hardcover library book I began reading the first week of September for Corrections & Punishment class. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Kristine Fisher
Had to read this book for a class. Expected it to be scholarly and dry, but I found it to be very engaging. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Michelle C.
This book made me cry in places and angry in others. The idea that man could be so inhuman to one another is actually nothing new under the sun, but this... Read more
As titled the life of a person imprisioned at Parchman Mississippi was 'worse than slavery'. Where there is a sliver of hope there is a possibility of change. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Trish