In 1868, the state of Georgia began to make its rapidly growing population of prisoners available for hire. The resulting convict leasing system ensnared not only men but also African American women, who were forced to labor in camps and factories to make profits for private investors. In this vivid work of history, Talitha L. LeFlouria draws from a rich array of primary sources to piece together the stories of these women, recounting what they endured in Georgia's prison system and what their labor accomplished. LeFlouria argues that African American women's presence within the convict lease and chain-gang systems of Georgia helped to modernize the South by creating a new and dynamic set of skills for black women. At the same time, female inmates struggled to resist physical and sexual exploitation and to preserve their human dignity within a hostile climate of terror. This revealing history redefines the social context of black women's lives and labor in the New South and allows their stories to be told for the first time.
About the Author
Talitha L. LeFlouria is associate professor of African American Studies in the Carter G. Woodson Institute, University of Virginia. Her research was featured in the documentary Slavery by Another Name, based on Douglas A. Blackmon's Pulitzer Prize-winning book.
What People are Saying About This
This bold, brilliant, beautifully written book--a significant contribution to the fields of prison history, southern history, African American history, and gender studies--shows why charting the struggles in convict women's lives matters for understanding the emergence of modernity in the New South. Talitha L. LeFlouria rejects a recent and popular thesis that convict labor was simply slavery that persisted, while also illuminating how beliefs about race and sex forged in slavery carried on to shape modernity and the prison system.
Chained in Silence is a pathbreaking addition to the growing body of historical research on black women and the U.S. justice system. Dr. LeFlouria's riveting work powerfully unearths the experiences of Georgia's exploited and often overlooked labor force, namely black female convicts. Through painstaking, exhaustive research, she maps black women as sentient beings (humans who had lives, loves, triumphs, and sorrows) and as prison laborers brutalized by the vicissitudes of convict leasing. Moreover, by historicizing the evolution of convict leasing and black women's plight therein, LeFlouria ultimately provides a much-needed raced and gendered context for the agro-industrial penal complex operating in parts of the South today.Kali Gross, University of Texas at Austin