Chapter

“Slaves of the State” Revolt: Southern Prison Labor and a Prison-Made Civil Rights Movement, 1945–1980

Robert T. Chase

in Life and Labor in the New New South

Published by University Press of Florida

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780813037950
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780813043111 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5744/florida/9780813037950.003.0007
“Slaves of the State” Revolt: Southern Prison Labor and a Prison-Made Civil Rights Movement, 1945–1980

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This chapter offers a two-part story of Texas prison labor, revealing the success of the prison labor regime on the one hand and mounting prisoner resistance on the other. It considers how the Texas prison system managed to maintain its high external reputation for so long in the face of the internal reality and how that reputation collapsed when inmates, inspired by the civil rights movement, revolted. Drawing upon oral histories of inmates, newly released affidavits and depositions, and inmate correspondence, this chapter demonstrates how inmates housed in a racially segregated and antagonistic labor regime joined together to create an inter-racial alliance that fomented a labor protest movement and a legal challenge. In Texas, inmates waged a prison-made civil rights movement to challenge the model of southern prison order, efficiency, and cost effectiveness by offering instead a counter narrative of southern prison labor and life as the living legacy of antebellum slavery and racial violence.

Keywords: Texas; prison labor; civil rights; black power; brown power; prisoners's rights; Chicanos/Chicanas; African Americans

Chapter.  17879 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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