Twice the Work of Free Labor: The Political Economy of Convict Labor in the New South by Alex Lichtenstein and One Dies, Get Another: Convict Leasing in the American South, 1866-1928 by Matthew J. Mancini (review)

Twice the Work of Free Labor: The Political Economy of Convict Labor in the New South by Alex Lichtenstein (Verso, 1996)

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Twice the Work of Free Labor: The Political Economy of Convict Labor in the New South by Alex Lichtenstein and One Dies, Get Another: Convict Leasing in the American South, 1866-1928 by Matthew J. Mancini (review)

by Henry McKiven
Southern Cultures, Vol. 4, No. 4: The South in the World

Verso, 1996; University of South Carolina Press, 1996

One of the most enduring images of the post-Civil War South is the African American prisoner, bound in chains, working on the roads or at some other equally oppressive task. Through the print media, bad Hollywood films, and, more recently, the actions of the state of Alabama, southerners’ treatment of criminals has become a defining characteristic of the region. Ask a non-southerner to give you a list of distinctly southern traits and the chain gang is likely to show up, though few people ever get beyond popular images of an “American Siberia.”