Books and Movies Reviews

Worse Than Slavery

In "Worse than Slavery", David Oshinsky tells a graphic story of the system adopted after the civil war in the south. He explains in detail how conflict labor was used as a form of replacement slavery against the blacks in Mississippi and throughout the south. Convict leasing and the system inside the Parchman farm were both ways in which white southerners used the criminal justice system to maintain power over newly free blacks.Blacks were easily convicted of crimes and sentenced to long terms with harsh punishments.
White southerners relied on the criminal justice system in order to preserve the patterns of race relations and to create new patterns. One way in which they did this was to create black codes. The goal of these codes was to control the labor supply and to keep the higher position of whites in southern society. The codes listed certain crimes for the freed blacks only, such as mischief and cruel treatment of animals. The penalty for intermarriage was life imprisonment. Oshinsky explains to us that for blacks accused of any crime it was basically impossible to be acquitted of their charges. They could not afford lawyers and white word always prevailed over blacks.
After the end of the Civil War, southerners were very disrupted by the newly freed slaves. White southerners did not want to accept these people as citizens in their towns and "had long viewed criminal behavior as natural to the Negro" (pg. 32).Stealing was the most common offense and it was moving past the plantations the slaves once inhabited. Blacks could not afford lawyers and had virtually no chance of winning their case inside a court. They were sentenced to long prison terms with heavy fines they were unable to pay. According to Oshinsky, many jails and penitentiaries in the South had been destroyed by the war and emancipation had placed strains on the prisons. "There was no money to replace them or to house the flood of…

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