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Prison Organizing against Cruel Women’s Conditions

by Stephanie Green

Great Speckled Bird page 1

1751560_19750710_0013 (1) page 2

Source: Great Speckled Bird, Vol 8, Issue 28, July 10, 1975

My primary source [1] describes a 1975 peaceful protest to eventual riot outside of North Carolina  Correctional Institute for Women. This prison is the only women’s prison in North Carolina and held primarily Black and Brown inmates. [2] This article is in The Great Speckled Bird, more commonly known as The Bird, which was a New Left, underground counterculture newspaper that ran from 1968 to 1976 out of Atlanta, GA by university political organizations at the university level. Given its underground nature, in addition to its younger demographic of curators, this newspaper’s audience is likely intended for those with similar backgrounds and ideologies. This article in particular was likely written to garner sympathy with those affected by the riot, hatred for the prison guards who inflicted violence on innocent protestors, and for the newspaper’s opportunity to take a strong stance against the prisons, the prison industrial complex, and more specifically, the conditions of the North Carolina Correctional Institute for Women. This source allows us to learn about the intersection between race and gender in gendered prisons, the lack of health care in prisons, prison organizing, and representation within prisons.

The first demand of the protestors was the abolition of the prison laundry due to the horrific conditions the women had to work in. the conditions are inhumane, being described by The Bird as including ““temperatures of over 120 degrees” where the inmates were pushing pounds weighing several pounds had to be “pushed across a dangerously wet and slippery floor.” These harsh yet gendered conditions present an interesting intersection with how race and gender inform conditions.  The gendered labor of laundry stems from historic ideologies that in order to create respectable women that could fit into patriarchal society, their most lucrative opportunity to regenerate them back into society was to teach them domestic labor practices. Angela Davis describes this process as “criminal women could be rehabilitated by assimilating correct women behaviors–that is, by becoming experts in domesticity–especially cooking, cleaning, and sewing.” Davis argues that this “produced skilled domestic servants among black and poor women.” [4] With the demands and conditions of prison laundry work in this facility, there are evidently racial undertones as well. The conditions of this domestic work, that may be considered too harsh for a docile white woman, further emphasize the topic of Black gendering and ungendering and how these strategies further capitalist production. Sarah Haley explains this double bind as being “forced to endure antiblack and gender-specific violence. They were caught in double binds, double burdens, and double jeopardy when it came to both labor and violence.” This demonstrates both the distinct and intersectional roles that race and gender play in prison laboring practices.

The neglect of inmates’ health care is reflected within protestors’ second demand, which asks for better healthcare facilities, with staff that have the inmates’ health in their best interest. This demand reflects an argument made by Foucault about the role the body has as an intermediary to the greater goal of penal punishment. As the body became less of a spectacle for punishment, Foucault describes how there was a shift in punishment “since it is no longer the body, it must be the soul.” [5]However, this didn’t lead to complete disregard of the body as a means of punishment. While quality, accessible, and affordable medical care can be argued as a human rights, Inadequate medical care can be used as one of the tactics to further this punishment of the body for those both out and inside of the carcel system. The second part of this demand, which asks for the removal of medical staff who are indifferent toward prisoner’s welfare, also plays into a Foucaudian argument related to the role that other institutions had within the carcel state. Foucault specifically calls out doctors as a body that’s “juxtaposing himself as the agent of welfare, as the alleviatior of pain, with the official whose task it is to end life. [6] Both the presence and lack of medical professionals within this facility demonstrate the role that medical providers can have in sustaining the use of the body as a means of punishment within the prison.

Protestor’s third demand related to the prison system as a whole, pointing specifically at delays in court processing and the expense of bail. This demand is particularly important because of the role that cash bail and long court processing can have on Black and Brown convicts. Guilty or not, bail is set so high that poorer families cannot afford, leaving people to risk financial hardship (and continue to face this hardship as they get lawyers, deal with court fees, etc.), pleading guilty to avoid financial burden, or waiting their processing timeout in prison. This can even have further implications, including losing your job or custody of your children. The implication of slow grievances makes it even more difficult to acclimate themselves back into society. However, this demand as it specifically relates specifically to the North Carolina Correctional Institute for Women deserves further exploration

Increasing representation and diversifying spaces is not always the answer to fix racist environments, however, protestors’ final grievance was requesting for appointment of a Black man to fill the seven-month vacancy as superintendent of the prison. Of all the demands, this one least matched the abolition type framework presented previously. While this request is likely intended to decrease the racism present within the prison system, this effort is only a band-aid solution to a much larger racialized issue. This effort to mask inherently racist spaces is often used by politicians and organizers who want to appear like they’re doing good work. For example, former Georgia governor and president Jimmy Carter marked his career by “the use of representation to shroud the nascent neoliberal carcel buildup” as he “only incorporated incarcerated women and men into the narrative fold of those deemed worthy of political concern. [7] This demand also relates to the argument of liberal humanism and how it can protect and perpetuate systems of violence by establishing a white standard through pockets of diversity training and initiatives that hit “checkmarks” on different demographics.

This source is significant in understanding conditions of prisons, prison organizing, and protests during the 1970s. The 1970s was a popular time for organizing around prison conditions. The authors work is important to shed light on these issues and further emphasize the work that has been done and how we can use that to inform activism moving forward.


[1]  The Great Speckled Bird, Vol 8, Issue 28, July 10, 1975

[2] Ruralorganizing. “Southern People’s History: In 1975 Women Revolted at a North Carolina Prison.” Rural Organizing And Resilience, 20 Dec. 2018, ruralorganizing.wordpress.com/2018/12/20/in-1975-women-revolted-at-a-north-carolina-prison/.

[3] “How Gender Structures the Prison System.” Are Prisons Obsolete?: an Open Media Book, by Angela Y. Davis, Seven Stories Press, 2010, pp. 60–83.

[4] Sarah Haley. No Mercy Here: Gender, Punishment, and the Making of Jim Crow Modernity. The University of North Carolina Press, 2016.

[5] “The Body of the Condemned.” DISCIPLINE AND PUNISH: the Birth of the Prison, by MICHEL FOUCAULT, PENGUIN BOOKS, 2020, pp. 3–32.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Sarah Haley (2018) Care Cage: Black Women, Political Symbolism, and the 1970s Prison Crisis, Souls, 20:1 58-85Great Speckled Bird 1751560_19750710_0013 (1)Great Speckled Bird

The Rise of Prisoners’ Unions in the 20th Century

by Chirag Bellani

Image: “Support Jackson Prisoners’ Self-Determination Union!!”[1]

            The 1970s was a period in which prisoners demanded better treatment and sought, through a series of strikes and movements across the country, access to their civil and judicial rights. As Dan Berger writes in his book Captive Nation: Black Prison Organizing in the Civil Rights “while prisoners were a central element of the civil rights and Black Power movements,” their movement and organization was not just to expand their rights, but also a “critique of rights-based frameworks.”[2] Such strikes and uprisings were the “product of larger circulations of radicalism” at a time when there was a “massive outpouring of books and articles from incarcerated people.”[3] This chosen primary source is an example of just one of these such articles.

This primary source, a newspaper article titled “Support Jackson Prisoners’ Self-Determination Union!!” written by Mike Minnich, a representative of the Rainbow People’s Party (RPP), was published in the July 7, 1972 – July 21, 1972 edition of the Ann Arbor Sun (The Sun).[4] The article is a call for public support for the formation and recognition of a prisoner’s union at the State Prison of Southern Michigan, which was located in Jackson, Michigan. It can be assumed that the prison was exclusively for males, as indicated by the male names listed under the information for “prisoner’s addresses” in the article.[5] Minnich, the author, served on The Sun’s editorial committee and therefore it can be assumed that he wrote frequently for the publication.[6] What is important to note and is crucial to understanding the nature of the publication is that The Sun was started by the Central Committee of the Rainbow People’s Party (RPP). Founded by John Sinclair in April 1967, The Sun was a biweekly underground, anti-establishment newspaper and was considered to be the mouthpiece of the White Panther Party in Michigan, a far-left anti-racist political collective founded by Pun Plamondon, Leni Sinclair, and John Sinclair.[7] The organization was founded in response to an interview where the co-founder of the Black Panther Party was asked what white people could do to support the Black Panthers. Later on, the White Panther Party was renamed to be the RPP. The organization claimed that they were dedicated to helping organize the Ann Arbor community as an infrastructure so that people could start to come together and combat imperialism, capitalism, racism, and sexism which make the social order unacceptable. Such an article is in line with the organization’s agenda to support the rights of prisoners and the establishment of a prisoner’s union. Minnich’s explicit call for action is typical of such an organization, specifically the suggestion to attend rallies or write letters of support to prisoners as detailed in the article.

It is clear that the intended audience of the article in question was first and foremost for followers of the RPP. As an underground publication, it did not necessarily gain major popularity during the years of its publication. In fact, the newspaper was for a succession of communities around John Sinclair.[8] However, it is worth mentioning that in 1972, when this article was published, the newspaper had become an independent publication spreading views on local issues, left-wing politics, music, and arts.[9] The FBI and the Nixon administration viewed the RPP and by association, The Sun, as a “band of subversives plotting the overthrow of the government.”[10] It had never been popular for convicts to be defended or held in high regard. Certainly, challenging prison labor systems and garnering support for a prisoner’s union was not something commonly done.

The purpose of the article was to call for “massive public support” that had been requested by the Jackson Prisoner’s Labor Union in their “struggle to gain recognition for the Union.”[11] There is a clear acknowledgment that at the time, organization and assembly were difficult in prisons and that support was needed for organized events to be held for the cause outside prison walls. The article voices the goal of the Union, which is to “present before the people of this state, and the body of men selected as our keepers,” a way to bring to an end the “illegal and unjust treatment” faced by prisoners.[12] During this period in the 1960s and 1970s, and according to Sarah M. Singleton of the Indiana University School of Law, there were “cries for sweeping reforms.”[13] It was clear that there was a need for rapid change in certain aspects of the penal system. She highlights that prison employment was one of the most critical problem areas that needed improvement. In the article, it is evident that the Prisoner’s Union argued the same. With regards to convict labor specifically, harms at the time included, but were not limited to, “enforced idleness, low wages, lack of normal employee benefits, little post-release marketability, and the imposition of meaningless tasks.”[14]

At the crux of the article is an outline of the Constitution of the Prisoner’s Labor Union. It is fitting that the publication appeals to its readers via general principals and purposes that they typically supported, such as the belief that “prisons are not the islands of exile, but an integral part of this society,” which sends a message that prisoners are people too and deserve to “retain their human rights and social responsibilities.”[15] Another clear argument of the prisoners is that prison labor is part of the general economy and that they ought to be given the same tasks and rights that were afforded to ordinary state-employed citizens.

Courts no longer saw prisoners as a “slave of the state.”[16] In fact, the judicial standard was that a prisoner has the right to organize if ordinary citizens have such a right and if the right has not expressly been taken away by the state.[17] As of 1973, organizing was occurring in at least six states. In California for example, over 3000 members joined the United Prisoners Union, and in New York over half of the inmates at Greenhaven Correctional Institute became members of the Prisoners’ Labor Union.[18]

Heather Ann Thomspon, a Pulitzer Prize and Bancroft Prize-winning author of Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy said in an interview that prisoners have been treated inhumanely throughout American history and that in every region of the country they have always resisted.[19] As a result of World War II, there was increased determination among prisoners and along with the Black freedom struggle nationwide. In the 1960s and 1970s, prisoners became particularly active in terms of this resistance.[20]

Prisoners’ demands were two-pronged. At one prong, the prisoners echoed the sentiment of activists – they voiced their opposition of racism, against violence directed at them by the state, for better living and working conditions, for better access to education, and for proper medical care. These are the same goals as listed under the Constitution of the Jackson Prisoner’s Labor Union. However oftentimes, the demands were centered more on fundamental human rights. To put it simply, prisoners demanded over and over again to be treated like people.

The significance of the rise of prisoners’ unions can be established by the sheer number of labor strikes and uprisings that took place in the 1960s to 1970s time period. They achieved a lot in terms of focusing attention on the abusive and inhumane conditions of prisons. However, these movements were only possible with the support of steady organizing initiatives, just like this one supported by the Rainbow People’s Party. It is also prudent to consider the “crowded field of political activity at the time.”[21] Various parties, including prisoners, prison guard, and police unions, prosecutors, and politicians were all leading competing approaches to criminal justice issues.


[1] Minnich, Mike. “Support Jackson Prisoners’ Self-Determination Union!!” Ann Arbor Sun, July 7, 1972, 35 edition. https://voices-revealdigital-org.proxy.lib.duke.edu/?a=d&d=BGEAIGG19720707&e=——-en-20–1–txt-txIN-support+jackson————–1.

[2] Berger, Dan. Captive Nation: Black Prison Organizing in the Civil Rights Era (Justice, Power, and Politics)Hein Online. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2014. https://heinonline-org.proxy.lib.duke.edu/HOL/Page?collection=agopinions&handle=hein.slavery/uncaaao0001&id=21&men_tab=srchresults.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Minnich, “Support Jackson Prisoners’”

[5] Ibid.

[6] Collins, John. “Ann Arbor Sun Rainbow Community News Service Editorial” Ann Arbor Sun, December 1, 1972. https://aadl.org/node/195380

[7] Ann Arbor District Library. “Ann Arbor Sun Editorial.” Ann Arbor Sun | Ann Arbor District Library. Ann Arbor District Library. Accessed August 6, 2020. https://aadl.org/papers/aa_sun.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ann Arbor News. Members of the Rainbow People’s PartyRainbow People’s Party. Ann Arbor District Library, November 6, 1983. https://aadl.org/node/383464.

[11] Minnich, “Support Jackson Prisoners’”

[12] Ibid.

[13] Singelton, Sarah M. “Unionizing America’s Prisons – Arbitration and State-Use.” Indiana Law Journal 48, no. 3 (1973): 493–502. https://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2847&context=ilj.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Minnich, “Support Jackson Prisoners’”

[16] Singelton, “Unionizing America’s Prisons”

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Blog, OAH. “Organizing the Prisons in the 1960s and 1970s: Part One, Building Movements.” Process, October 30, 2016. http://www.processhistory.org/prisoners-rights-1/.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

Prisoner Activism and Organization

by Jonathan Schachter

Source: “I Make American Flags for Thirty-five Cents a Day”[1]

This article, from a December 16, 1972 – January 5, 1973 issue, was published by a newspaper entitled Fifth Estate. The piece “I Make American Flags for Thirty-five Cents a Day,” details the sentiments and experiences of a convict laborer at Green Haven Prison in New York. He writes of his life before prison – a life that was stripped away from him once he was labeled with the title “convict.”[2] After some research, I crucially discovered that the Fifth Estate newspaper is a mainly anarchist, anti-authoritarian outlet with an approach to change that is very much action-oriented, as an alternative to the traditional fourth estate of media.[3] It certainly would be in line with this organization’s overt agenda to support the establishment of labor unions, especially if these unions are used to champion the rights of convict laborers, like the Prison Labor Union that the author speaks of. It is similarly unsurprising that this newspaper decides to uplift the voice of a historically disparaged and silenced group, being convicts, with the first-person narrative that the author provides. It is important to note the membership and donation applications presented after the article, as this article hopes to increase both union members and donors.

This opinion-piece in the direct words of a convict laborer certainly is meant to target more liberal-thinking and acting individuals who subscribe to this newspaper (which is presumably almost the entirety of their subscribed demographic). It is clear that they want their readers to support the formation and strengthening of the Prison Labor Union as well as find incarcerated individuals who are interested in joining the union. As convicts are put in a group that is typically not included in discussions of rights and liberties (as these two principles are stripped from them by the state), this is not a mainstream issue and something that Fifth Estate wants to shine light on for their readers. Presumably, they are hoping to grow the membership and support of the Prison Labor Union.

Based on the accompanying image, it can be assumed that the writer of the newspaper article is a black inmate (and statistically speaking it is probable), and there are many more just like him in carceral institutions across the nation.[4] The newspaper’s choice to let him guide the dialogue of the article perfectly elucidates how black inmates and activists alike were able to draw the public’s attention toward the prison, demonstrate the prison as a site of racial oppression, and establish the confinement that carceral institutions promote as a common thread in the lives of black Americans – whether inside these institutions or not – through the specific voices of inmates in this period of history.[5] By the newspaper elevating the personal experiences and sentiments of the inmate writer, he demonstrates that he is not just a convict, but he is a human seeking basic justice (and, overall, nothing too overzealous).[6] Activists like those at Fifth Estate furthered the reach of the ongoing Civil Rights Era and extended it to the voices of those incarcerated. This was a strong and necessary move, as the same injustices that were being exposed outside the prison during this period were major factors in the incarceration of many individuals within the growing prison industrial complex, a majority of which were black. The best way of grappling this intersectionality is through the elevation of black inmate voices in this period, as argued by Dan Berger, a scholar in race studies and prison organization.[7] It cannot be understated that prisons and black politics in a post-emancipation America share a simultaneous history.[8] The writer of this newspaper is not alone, as a black individual locked up while his family is struggling financially and domestically without him. He, along with an entire population of incarcerated black men and women, is stuck in a system that is devised to keep him down while others prosper off the fruits of his labor, and readers are able to establish similarities in their personal experiences.

The same form of legislative action that freed enslaved populations set up barriers to their social and economic mobility.[9] By keeping people just like the author of this piece in prison, the economic systems and social structures that originated before emancipation were allowed to persist, extending the modernity of neoslavery.[10] The Thirteenth Amendment, while emancipating these former slaves, simultaneously provided the foundation for the legal rationale which established the carceral site as the central institution to the sustenance of racial oppression and capitalism.[11] The author of “I Make American Flags for Thirty-five Cents a Day” was a victim of an amendment that outlawed slavery, but not when used as a punishment for a crime.[12] This gave root to the formation of American carceral sites as a place of confinement, suppression, and labor rather than reformation and correction. The author of the newspaper article wants to be able to be a contributing member of American society and stimulate an economic system outside of the walls of his prison.[13] However, he is relegated to a position null of power, where his entire livelihood can be dictated by members of the carceral state (along with any person of great influence, namely white elites), a system that is eerily similar to that of slavery.

Just five years after the printing of this article, all hopes of the burgeoning Prison Labor Union movement diminished. With the Supreme Court decision of Jones v. North Carolina Prisoners’ Union, the court ruled that the provisions of the First Amendment that protect labor union membership did not apply to prisoners.[14] With this precedent, the joining of prison labor unions was prohibited, meetings of the unions were barred, and all correspondence about unions to prisoners ceased.[15] With one sweeping movement, the court dismantled decades of work and optimism. The detailed and difficult history of prison organization demonstrates how even though resistance within carceral sites may be routine, organized movements – such as the Prison Labor Union this article promotes – are much harder to come by. Set by judicial precedent, legal proceedings, social establishments, and economic foundations, the prison has become a place where incarcerated individuals are stripped of their rights. Prisoners like the writer of “I Make American Flags for Thirty-five Cents a Day” are forced to bolster and support an economic system that never has – and seemingly never will – support them, with little to no say in the matter.



[1] “I Make American Flags for Thirty-five Cents a Day,” Fifth Estate (Detroit, MI) 7, no. 19 (1972-1973): 16, accessed July 27, 2020, https://voices-revealdigital-org.proxy.lib.duke.edu/?a=d&d=BFGJBGD19721216.1.16&e=——-en-20–1–txt-txIN-women+convict+labor————–1.

[2] Ibid.

[3] “About Fifth Estate,” Fifth Estate, accessed July 30, 2020, https://www.fifthestate.org/about/.

[4] “I Make American Flags for Thirty-Five Cents a Day,” Fifth Estate.

[5] Dan Berger, Captive Nation: Black Prison Organizing in the Civil Rights Era (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2014), 4, https://heinonline-org.proxy.lib.duke.edu/HOL/Page?collection=agopinions&handle=hein.slavery/uncaaao0001&id=25&men_tab=srchresults#.

[6] I Make American Flags for Thirty-Five Cents a Day,” Fifth Estate.

[7] Berger, Captive Nation, 5.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Sarah Haley, “No Mercy Here: Gender, Punishment, and the Making of Jim Crow Modernity (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2016), 7, Sakai.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Berger, Captive Nation, 5.

[12] Ibid.

[13] “I Make American Flags for Thirty-Five Cents a Day,” Fifth Estate.

[14] Jones v. North Carolina Prisoners’ Union, 433 U.S. 119 (1977).

[15] Ibid.

Convict Leasing in 1920s Georgia

by Audrey Vila

Source: “Papers of the NAACP: Prisoner leasing to states and federal prisoner treatment legislation” [0]

Published as an NAACP subject file, the source is a collection of newspaper articles about an alleged instance of convict leasing in Georgia in 1929. Almost 100 Black prisoners were leased from the Atlanta Federal Prison to a county prison outside Savannah, GA, and forced to work on roads. The articles express public outrage at the use of a practice that was abolished 20 years earlier by the General Assembly of the State of Georgia.[1] It seems the intention is to both reflect and provoke the public response to the practice with one journalist stating, “the lease system has been outlawed in the South as the most crude and inhuman method of handling prisoners.” [2] After immense pressure from the public and the US Senate, the lease is ultimately revoked. As a result, however, millions of dollars are given to the federal prison system to expand.

With a wide range of articles, a reader of this collection can gather a full picture of the situation. The newspapers all express outrage at the use of convict leasing. However, the Attorney General of Georgia states the lease as a necessary decision to address the overcrowding and deplorable conditions of the federal prisons, and that the convict labor was not planned, but merely another result of the transfer. The Attorney General then used this spectacle to advocate for $7 million in funding for three new prison facilities. In examining history, these diversion tactics aren’t new. The rise of convict labor was justified on claims that the post-war south did not have places to house the high number of prisoners.[3] The inability to deprive someone of their rights in one way does not garner justification for denying rights in another. As another argument, New York Republican Representative, Fiorello La Guardia, known for his progressive stances, asked: “if it would not be better to repeal some of the laws instead of building more prisons.” The question was only shown in one article of the collection and was quickly dismissed as irrelevant by the attorney general. Naomi Murakawa describes a similar trend a few decades later in the mid-1900s that advocated for the expansion of the law and order systems. During times of unrest and a rising civil rights movement, race liberals supported expanding prisons, which were seen as an effective rehabilitation and safety for society.[4] These sentiments were present long before and long after these articles. Prison expansion is often an argument for progress despite the widely recognized, detrimental effects on individuals and communities. The above image shows that ultimately the federal system was given millions of dollars to enlarge the prison system due to the convict leasing exposure. At this time, for many, it seemed like the right decision. Many prisoners wanted to stay in the new county prison instead of returning to the overcrowded Atlanta federal prison. However, the reasons for prison expansion throughout history are very relevant as we assess mass incarceration today. In this time, prisons were expanding with prohibition laws, but as stated by La Guardia, taking a look at these laws would have been a smart idea to address the overcrowding and may have impacted the makeup of our prison system today.

Next, throughout the articles, journalists point out the discrepancies of race. The 100 Black prisoners were not the only ones transferred, but the groups were divided and moved based on race. White prisoners were moved to a similar facility as the Atlanta Federal prison while the Black prisoners were moved to a county that put them in cages and forced them to work. These distinctions make it seem directly an extension of slavery. If not based on racist ideas, why were the majority of prisoners who are white kept from laboring? Secondly, in almost every article, the word “idleness” describes the state of Black prisoners in the Atlanta prison to justify their transfer. Racist sentiments include the idea that working-class Black people were lazy or “idle” and needed to be put to work. [5] Therefore, convict labor seemed a rational reform for the Black prisoner in the minds of many. At another point, an article mentions that the prisons’ superintendent believed that “the average negro is suited only today labor.” This is in contrast to the white prisoners who have not been contracted or assigned labor because it must be suited to them. Even as legislators and media pointed out unequal treatment, they continued to perpetuate racist ideas.

These racist sentiments become apparent when the media in these newspapers actively condemned the practice of convict leasing without addressing the continued existence of chain gangs and the assumption of labor as punishment. Chain gangs existed in Georgia for another 20 years after this incident and were only distinguished from convict leasing by the labor’s benefactor. Convict leasing could be used by anyone, while chain gains were constrained to only state entities, usually involving public infrastructure. So, it begs the question of how the media and the general public distinguish between the two practices? Both practices of convict labor uphold the notion, through the 13th amendment, that those who commit crime deserve to be punished through unpaid labor.[6] One distinction referenced in the articles is the benefit convicts can have for society. If they are sitting in prison, they do not contribute, but the labor allows them to function. Another distinction, articulated by Whitehouse, is that as subjects of the state, they can benefit the nation.[7]

When looking at newspaper articles, different from textbooks or theory, the general public’s sentiments and narratives can be understood. At this time, significantly more than even 40 years before, people opposed the practice, and the words mark that change. Therefore in 20 more years, with the end of chain gangs, media would show a similar shift, and history would continue.


[0] Papers of the NAACP, Part 11: Special Subject Files, 1912-1939, Series A: Africa through Garvey, Marcus. “Prisoner leasing to states and federal prisoner treatment legislation“. Library of Congress. Accessed July 27, 2020.

[1] Taylor, A. Elizabeth. “THE ABOLITION OF THE CONVICT LEASE SYSTEM IN GEORGIA.” The Georgia Historical Quarterly 26, no. 3/4 (1942): 273-87. Accessed July 30, 2020. www.jstor.org/stable/40576850.

[2] Papers of the NAACP, Part 11: Special Subject Files, 1912-1939, Series A: Africa through Garvey, Marcus. “Prisoner leasing to states and federal prisoner treatment legislation“. Library of Congress. Accessed July 27, 2020., 5

[3] Whitehouse, Mary Rose. “MODERN PRISON LABOR: A REEMERGENCE OF CONVICT LEASING UNDER THE GUISE OF REHABILITATION AND PRIVATE ENTERPRISES.” Loyola Journal of Public Interest Law 18, no. 1 (2017): 89+. Gale Academic OneFile (accessed July 30, 2020). https://link-gale-com.proxy.lib.duke.edu/apps/doc/A565297327/AONE?u=duke_perkins&sid=AONE&xid=e8a15b62.

[4] Murakawa, Naomi. The First Civil Right: How Liberals Built Prison America. New York;Oxford;: Oxford University Press, 2014., 56.

[5] Kelley, Robin D. G. “”we are Not what we seem”: Rethinking Black Working-Class Opposition in the Jim Crow South.” The Journal of American History 80, no. 1 (06, 1993): 75. https://login.proxy.lib.duke.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.proxy.lib.duke.edu/docview/224917635?accountid=10598.


[7] Ibid.