Until There Is Victory

T. Dionne Bailey and Garrett Felber

“Abolition is not new. It is centuries old and it is rooted in the US South.”

This special issue, the Abolitionist South, coalesced during the Black Spring protests and the global COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. Following the police murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and others, precincts and cop cars burned, and calls to defund and abolish the police reverberated through the streets. In response to overcrowded prisons and disproportionate deaths inside, with incarcerated firefighters battling raging wildfires on the West Coast for just a few dollars a day, organizers demanded: #FreeThemAll.

The notion of PIC (prison industrial complex) abolition struck some as new, farfetched, and impractical. But, as abolitionists insist, it is spending billions of dollars a year for police to kill thousands and incarcerate millions that is unsustainable. Moreover, abolition is not new. It is centuries old and it is rooted in the US South.1

In a region that incarcerates more people per capita than any other, in a country that incarcerates more than a quarter of the world’s imprisoned population, it would be easy—and we would certainly not be the first—to make an argument for the significance of this issue based on exceptional violence and scale. But by describing our nation’s ongoing captivity crisis narrowly, through the proverbial here and now, we miss the longer historical continuities and foundational questions that abolition, particularly in the context of the US South, points us to. As scholar and activist Dylan Rodriguez reminds us, the current system is “structured by a long, overlapping history of complex interactions between gendered racist chattel and colonial power.”2

The history of abolition is grounded in the crusade to end chattel slavery, and, as historian Sarah Haley notes, it “raises a complex set of questions about when, and whether, slavery actually ended.” As the various forms of abolitionist practice in the US South documented in this issue demonstrate, abolition is not simply a destination, nor can it be defined by the absence of prisons and police. Instead, it is both a process and presence. Geographer and activist Ruth Wilson Gilmore emphasizes, “It’s about building life-affirming institutions.” And as abolitionists constantly affirm, it is simultaneously “a lodestar and a practical necessity.” Prisons do not keep people safe; they compound and perpetuate harm. Reform is not a realistic step on the path to a world without punishment; it is an expansion and reentrenchment of the system we seek to abolish. And while abolitionists do not claim to have all the answers, we insist on asking questions that get us free.3

Capitalism is organized to produce crises, and the state often responds to these with force and punishment. While crises bring great peril, they also open new possibilities. As the essays in this issue show, in places like New Orleans, the hiv/aids epidemic and Hurricane Katrina produced new formations and abolitionist horizons in the face of criminalized survival. In Charlottesville, the violent white supremacist rallies to preserve Confederate statues and gentrification led to the coalescence of a broad-based mutual aid project and community resource fund. Even food trays and mess halls in prisons offered opportunities for solidarity and transformative organizing.

Abolition demands that our analysis and praxis be vast and deep enough to match the interconnected systems of surveillance, enclosure, dispossession, incarceration, criminalization, borders, and premature death that we oppose. Wilson Gilmore concludes, “Abolition asks that we change one thing: everything.”4

This special issue carries with it implicit and interrelated questions: Why abolition, and why the South? Why us? Since we are both invested in abolition in the South—for reasons personal, political, and some combination of the two—we each seek to foreground the context and content of our commitments below.

You Can Begin Wherever You Are

Garrett Felber

I moved to Mississippi in 2018, having taken a job at a university colloquially (and, for many, even affectionately) nicknamed after a woman enslaver: Ole Miss. When I accepted the job, I vowed to use my energies as a historian and organizer, however small my contributions might be, to close Mississippi State Penitentiary, better known as Parchman Farm.

Parchman is one of the most notorious plantation prisons in the US South. Its origin story is one of reform. Governor James Vardaman, who successfully ran on the platform “a vote for Vardaman is a vote for white supremacy,” established Parchman at the turn of the nineteenth century. As a populist, Vardaman critiqued the system of private convict leasing that had proliferated after Reconstruction as one that lined the pockets of the plantation class. Instead, he envisioned a prison farm that would produce massive profits for the state on the backs and blood of Black laborers. In 1900, the state legislature appropriated $80,000 to purchase the four thousand–acre Parchman Plantation in Sunflower County, not far from where freedom fighter Fannie Lou Hamer would later grow up. The prison grounds eventually spanned nearly twenty thousand acres and remain as vast to this day. Vardaman used those same grounds to mock hunt incarcerated people with bloodhounds for sport, picnicking at a separate table next to them afterward.5

In 1905, the first year of the prison’s operation, captive Black workers produced a profit of $185,000 for the state—$5.5 million in today’s dollars. Historian David M. Oshinsky has described it as “the quintessential penal farm, the closest thing to slavery that survived the Civil War.” Parchman would continue to be known throughout the twentieth century as a locus of Black suffering and struggle: in the work songs musicologists John and Alan Lomax recorded; during the Civil Rights Movement, when three hundred Freedom Riders were jailed there in 1961; and in the long history of prison reform in the landmark decision of Gates v. Collier, which ended legal racial segregation and the trusty system there in 1974.6

Although only separated by seventy miles, the University of Mississippi and Parchman felt worlds apart. My first time visiting Parchman, I attended a graduation ceremony at the invitation of literary scholar and African American studies professor Patrick Alexander, cofounder of the Prison-to-College Pipeline Program. The program offers humanities-based college-level courses there and at the state-designated women’s prison, Central Mississippi Correctional Facility. But there were other connections between the prison and the university as well.

Before the Confederate monument at the front of our campus was moved and reenshrined last summer (to my knowledge this was the only place to upgrade its Confederate monument during the rebellions of 2020), you could walk less than a half mile from its base to reach Vardaman Hall. Originally built in 1929 as a dormitory for the campus’s all-white student body, the building has housed administrative offices since 1988. In addition to hunting incarcerated people and promoting white supremacy, Vardaman was also a vocal proponent of lynching. In Poplarville, Mississippi, in 1907, he told a crowd that if “it is necessary every Negro in the state will be lynched; it will be done to maintain white supremacy.” Despite a university advisory committee recommending a renaming in 2017, Vardaman’s name remains on the building.7

I had been on campus three months when students shot the Emmett Till memorial near the Tallahatchie River. Three white men posted a photo of themselves on social media, armed with assault rifles in front of a bullet-ridden memorial to the fourteen-year-old lynching victim whose murder catalyzed the modern Civil Rights Movement. That summer, while we waited in vain for any form of official rebuke or accountability for the students, I developed and directed the Parchman Oral History Project, a documentary storytelling initiative about incarceration in Mississippi. We recorded the experiences of those formerly criminalized and imprisoned, hoping to catalog the long history of gendered racial terror that Parchman in particular, and prisons more broadly, enacted and embodied. Bearing witness, after all, is a necessary component of liberation. Our focus that summer was a series of mass arrests of students in Mississippi fifty years earlier. One was on our campus.

If you took the walk from the former site of the Confederate statue to Vardaman Hall, you would pass by Fulton Chapel. There and across campus, in 1970, nearly half of the Black students at the university (eighty-nine) were arrested and taken to Parchman after interrupting a concert with the Black Power salute and insisting that their list of twenty-seven demands be taken seriously by the university administration. Some demands were as basic as a minimum wage for workers and hiring Black staff at the student newspaper. Others included the formation of a Black studies program. The FBI had kept them under surveillance since they formed the Black Student Union the previous year. Eight students were ultimately made an example of through expulsion. The rest were placed on ten years of probation to deter further activism.8

During that summer of 2019, as we documented stories of former college and high school students—some as young as thirteen—who had been bussed to Parchman fifty years earlier, 680 Latinx and Indigenous poultry workers were arrested in a series of small rural towns between Jackson and Meridian, Mississippi. It was the biggest single-state ICE raid in US history. In places like Morton, the poultry plants are the largest employer. In places like Tutwiler and Natchez, two to three hours northwest and southwest of Morton, respectively, private prisons are big business. And private prisons stood to gain from the arrests that summer. Less than a month after the raids, Adams County Correctional Center—the private prison in Natchez where many of the imprisoned workers were being held—inked a new five-year contract with ICE. The prison, operated by CoreCivic (formerly CCA), proudly announced that the contract would yield fifty new jobs and boost county revenue by $400,000 a year.9

Back on campus, I was preparing to host an abolitionist conference called Making and UnmakingMass Incarceration (MUMI) at the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics in a few months. I received a tip that its namesake, Charles Overby, had been a longtime board member of CoreCivic. Since its establishment in 2001, the same year Overby joined the board, the center has been supported by millions of dollars from the nonprofit dedicated to the First Amendment, the Freedom Forum—where Overby acted as chair and chief executive officer. Meanwhile, he directed the center while acting as a board member of CoreCivic, earning a quarter of a million dollars in salary and stocks annually for his role in the private prison industry.10

Just weeks after the MUMI conference (which was ultimately held off campus), as the new year began, six incarcerated people in Mississippi prisons were killed in a little over a week. By mid-February, eighteen imprisoned people, including a former student of mine, Nora Duckworth, had died. I partnered with Pauline Rogers of the Reaching and Educating for Community Hope (RECH) Foundation in an effort to write to every incarcerated person in the state a letter of love and support. We called it the Mississippi Freedom Letters project. With the help of letter-writing groups across the country, we mailed approximately eight thousand letters before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which only deepened the ongoing crisis inside.11

During the summer of 2020, I worked with other scholars, organizers, and students to launch Study and Struggle, which fights criminalization and incarceration alongside imprisoned Mississippians through political education, mutual aid, and community building. In October 2020, the University rejected a $42,000 grant we received for the project, claiming it “constitutes mostly contemporary, political activism rather than public history work.” More recently, as I wrote this introduction, the university accepted a $1 million grant to create a “Center for Evidence-Based Policing and Reform,” which would “build relationships and share data with policing agencies.” Chancellor Glenn Boyce made the university’s mission clear: “Our flagship university wants to strengthen the work of police forces in our state and beyond.”12

The university and prison are often narrated as disconnected. If they are brought into conversation with one another, the university is positioned as an antidote to the prison. Statistics that demonstrate how incarceration is a manifestation of low levels of formal education are often used to support reproducing the university in prison rather than the abolition of prisons. But these interlocking stories belie the notion that the University of Mississippi and Parchman prison are worlds—or even seventy miles—apart. They share interconnected roles in maintaining white supremacist and genocidal structures of captivity and exploitation.13

As W. E. B. Du Bois deftly laid out in his 1935 classic Black Reconstruction, “Black labor became the foundation stone not only of the Southern social structure, but of Northern manufacture and commerce, of the English factory system, of European commerce, of buying and selling on a world-wide scale.” Historian Walter Johnson points out that Du Bois’s book “treats the plantations of Mississippi, the counting houses of Manhattan, and the mills of Manchester as differentiated but concomitant components of a single system.” PIC abolition—which takes the unfinished business of Reconstruction as its namesake and reference point—offers us an analysis broad and deep enough to make the necessary points of connection between sites such as the prison and the university. Ruth Wilson Gilmore emphasizes in her essential work, Golden Gulag, that the “apparent marginality [of prisons] is a trick of perspective, because, as every geographer knows, edges are also interfaces.” This means that the system is bigger and more interconnected than is often understood, which can be daunting. But what this means for abolitionist organizing is that you can begin wherever you are, now.14

A Life-Saving Practice

T. Dionne Bailey

The severe, punitive, exploitative, and cruel nature of mass incarceration runs deep in my southern family and community. I was born and raised in Rome, Georgia, a midsized southern “city” approximately seventy miles north of Atlanta. Growing up in Rome, I can distinctly remember seeing police officers riding up and down the streets daily, parking at the end of the road and surveilling the young kids as we played at our neighborhood playground, and often stopping to ask where we lived, who our parents were, and basically any other question they deemed their right to ask. I understood, even as a child, that my very existence was surveilled. My grandparents and parents taught me that there were certain ways that I must interact with the police. Many people in my family wholeheartedly believed that individuals armed by the state had the power to implement any form of justice that they saw fit. This meant that if there was ever any reason for the police to come into our neighborhood or community, there was a grave fear of how these interactions might turn out.

Amid the reality of overpolicing in my early life, I also experienced personally the serious effects of mass incarceration. Growing up, I remember visiting several close family members at either state or local jails. What I did not grasp as a preteen nor fully understand until I was an adult and in college is that my mother also served several stints inside during the late 1970s and then again in the mid-to-late 1980s, which was when the crack epidemic began ravaging Black and Brown communities. In college and still unaware of the exact circumstances surrounding her incarceration, I learned that she served close to six months inside prior to giving birth to me. This was a total shock. Up until that point, I’d had no idea that my mother had served time. Maybe I was too young to have those types of conversations surrounding punishment, incarceration, and life on the inside. As I sit here now, I think that we could have had a conversation about her incarceration once I was an adult. However, my mother passed away when I was fourteen. What remained sealed was her truth, her story, and her reality of what life was like as a Black woman incarcerated in the South. The truth is, had it not been for a general family conversation regarding my mother’s brother, who is currently incarcerated in a southern federal prison, I may never have learned the redacted version of my mother’s incarceration.

What the short, heartbreaking story of my mother’s incarceration meant for me was that I learned just how prevalent mass incarceration was in Black families, and, in a very real way, I felt the aftereffects, even though I came to the information years after she had passed away. Then, in 2015, the state of Georgia sentenced my sister to serve eighteen to twenty-four months in federal prison. Here, the realities of mass incarceration came full circle and I found myself driving three hours from Mississippi to Alabama to visit my sister every Monday. Soon after, on those trips, I began sending fifteen to twenty books inside and then hosting (off-the-record) weekly book discussions. I would also listen intently while the women shared stories of abuse, mistreatment, terrible medical care, and the horrific injustices they faced daily. I understood that my very presence, along with their eagerness to denounce the system that controlled their bodies, were the seeds of abolition in practice from the inside.

When I moved to Mississippi in the fall of 2004 to attend graduate school at the University of Mississippi, I had no idea that I would soon dedicate much of my life’s work, both inside and outside of the academy, not only to learning about and understanding the history of mass incarceration, but also to using my voice and activist spirit to fight for abolition. In Mississippi, the name Parchman is synonymous with a long history of brutality, injustice, racism, and different forms of retaliatory punishment that the state continues to implement today. After reading two pivotal works on Parchman Penitentiary, one by historian David M. Oshinsky, titled Worse than Slavery: Parchman Farm and the Ordeal of Jim Crow Justice, and the second by William Banks Taylor, Down on Parchman Farm: The Great Prison in the Mississippi Delta, I quickly realized that while shedding light on the harsh realities of Parchman and its long history of exploitative, racist, and cruel treatment of those behind its walls, what was clearly missing were the stories and lived experiences of incarcerated Black girls and women housed at Parchman. From its inception in 1905, Black girls and women were continuously housed at Parchman until 1986, when the Mississippi Department of Corrections opened the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility and moved women from Parchman to this facility.15

As I learned more about Parchman, I wanted to grasp why the slightest mention of the institution caused anxiousness and fear among those who were all too familiar with it. Since both Oshinsky’s and Taylor’s books delved into the narratives of men—specifically Black men incarcerated at Parchman—I hoped to learn more about the personal narratives of Black girls and women who witnessed the prison’s cruelty firsthand, or secondhand accounts from family and friends of their loved ones’ experiences on the inside. While conducting research at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, I learned that in the early 1900s, a twelve-year-old African American girl and an eighty-one-year-old African American woman were incarcerated at Parchman at the same time. This pattern of incarcerating Black girls and women continued throughout the twentieth century. What became clear to me was that, beginning in the Jim Crow era and moving through the early 1990s, Parchman and the Mississippi Department of Corrections criminalized Black bodies and Black girls and women were and continued to be at the forefront of that criminalization.16

Even after experiencing the real effects of mass incarceration in my own personal life, the language of abolition was not yet known to me. What brought me to this work was learning of the grave injustice that sisters Jamie and Gladys Scott, who had no prior criminal history, suffered. Accused in 1994 of arranging an armed robbery, the Scott sisters were subsequently arrested, charged, convicted, and sentenced by the state of Mississippi to serve two life sentences each in the Mississippi Department of Corrections for an alleged robbery of eleven dollars. Lawyers for the young men also charged in the alleged robbery instructed each to take a plea deal, thus leaving the sisters to take the fall for a crime that they did not commit. The case reeked of racism, classism, and sexism, all targeted at the sisters, whom the system viewed as wayward women—likely because they were single Black teenage parents. The sisters continued to appeal their conviction but received no recourse from the Mississippi Court of Appeals, which continued to uphold their conviction. In a continued fight to save her daughters’ lives, Evelyn Rasco began organizing with the help of civil rights advocates, hundreds of supporters, activists, and community members and leaders, and called on then–Mississippi governor Haley Barbour to pardon both sisters. Arguments heightened when Jamie Scott needed a kidney transplant and the state rejected granting the sisters a pardon so that Gladys could donate one of her kidneys to her sister and so that Medicaid could cover the surgery. Ultimately, the voices of the protestors, community members, activists, advocates, and media led to the parole board granting an indefinite “suspension of their sentences,” which the state could reverse if the sisters did not meet the conditions of their release. The story of the Scott sisters, along with working to secure my sister’s and other women’s freedom from a federal prison in Alabama, led me to abolition. This work that I continue to immerse myself in is in many ways about life or death.

For me, then, abolition has a long historical tradition rooted in effecting real change. As a life-saving practice, I continue to partner with individuals whose main goal is to denounce police violence while also working to dismantle, abolish, and put an end to racial injustice. This work, we all know, has come at insurmountable costs. Lives have been lost, tears have been shed, and blood has been bled. In the name of abolition, however, the fight must press on. I have found that to recognize and honor my mother and the thousands of Black girls and women incarcerated in Mississippi and other southern prisons and jails, immersing myself in the lived practice of abolition and working alongside a new generation of organizers, activists, community leaders, and scholars has been life altering. What I am most energized about is that what was once a call for prison reform has now transformed into a full-blown movement to abolish prisons. We are taking our call to the streets to protest and disrupt a system that has for far too long been catastrophic for Black lives.

In my own personal journey, I have also seen that strangers have become family in this struggle. The life-saving practice of abolition has bridged racial, economic, social, cultural, and even political gaps and has helped foster a generation of people who are actively practicing abolitionist tactics by protesting; those most active in this current freedom movement understand that imagining a world without prisons while seeking real social justice is one of the main strategies that will lead to true Black liberation and real change. The fight will not come easy. Those deeply invested in true liberation understand fully, as Ruth Wilson Gilmore and James Kilgore have exclaimed, “We’re in a long game.” And for my mother, I intend to be a part of the game until there is victory.17

This essay introduces the Abolitionist South Issue (vol. 27, no. 3: Fall 2021), guest edited by the authors.

T. DIONNE BAILEY is assistant professor of Africana and Latin American studies at Colgate University. A historian whose interdisciplinary work focuses on the mass incarceration of Black girls and women in the South, Bailey is the founder of I-VOW (I am a Voice of Women), a nonprofit organization that aids incarcerated women in their transition out of the penal system. Bailey is currently working on her first book project, “‘Daughters of Jim Crow’s Injustice’: African American Women, Mass Incarceration, and the Business of Black Women’s Bodies, 1890–1980.”
GARRETT FELBER is a visiting faculty fellow at Yale University. He is an interdisciplinary historian whose work focuses on radical social movements and the carceral state. Felber organizes with Study and Struggle, a project that organizes against criminalization and incarceration in Mississippi through political education and mutual aid.
  1. The Prison Policy Initiative estimated in 2017 that the US government expends over $80 billion on prisons, jails, parole, and probation alone. Peter Wagner and Bernadette Rabuy, “Following the Money of Mass Incarceration,” Prison Policy Initiative, January 25, 2017, https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/money.html. Annual police killings are remarkably consistent. In 2015, the Washington Post began tracking every police killing by an on-duty officer and has found nearly one thousand people were killed nearly every year since their project began; see “964 People Have Been Shot and Killed by Police in the Past Year,” Washington Post, last modified July 2, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/investigations/police-shootings-database/. For overall incarceration numbers in the United States, especially by system, see the Prison Policy Initiative’s “Whole Pie” report. Wendy Sawyer and Peter Wagner, “Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2020,” Prison Policy Initiative, March 24, 2020, https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/pie2020.html.
  2. “SSJ Blog: To Define ‘Incarceration’ against ‘Mass Incarceration’ by Dylan Rodriguez,” Scholars for Social Justice, accessed June 9, 2021, https://scholarsforsocialjustice.com/ssj-blog-to-define-incarceration-against-mass-incarceration-by-dylan-rodriguez/. If US states were countries, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, Texas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida, Virginia, South Carolina, West Virginia, and North Carolina would all rank higher than the first non-US country with a population over five hundred thousand (El Salvador) in incarceration rates. For more on the global context of the imprisonment rates of the US South, see Peter Wagner and Wendy Sawyer, “States of Incarceration: The Global Context 2018,” Prison Policy Initiative, June 2018, https://www.prisonpolicy.org/global/2018.html.
  3. Sarah Haley, “Abolition,” in Keywords for African American Studies, ed. Erica R. Edwards, Roderick A. Ferguson, and Jeffrey O. G. Ogbar (New York University Press, 2018), https://keywords.nyupress.org/african-american-studies/essay/abolition/; Rachel Kushner, “Is Prison Necessary? Ruth Wilson Gilmore Might Change Your Mind,” New York Times, April 17, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/17/magazine/prison-abolition-ruth-wilson-gilmore.html; Ruth Wilson Gilmore quoted in adrienne maree brown, We Will Not Cancel Us: And Other Dreams of Transformative Justice (Chico, CA: AK Press: 2020), 1; Dan Berger, Mariame Kaba, and David Stein, “What Abolitionists Do,” Jacobin, August 24, 2017, https://www.jacobinmag.com/2017/08/prison-abolition-reform-mass-incarceration.
  4. Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Change Everything: Racial Capitalism and the Case for Abolition, ed. Naomi Murakawa (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2022).
  5. David M. Oshinsky, “Worse Than Slavery”: Parchman Farm and the Ordeal of Jim Crow Justice (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1997), 90; Innocence Staff, “The Lasting Legacy of Parchman Farm, the Prison Modeled after a Slave Plantation,” Innocence Project, May 29, 2020, https://innocenceproject.org/parchman-farm-prison-mississippi-history/; Oshinsky, “Worse Than Slavery,” 110. For Vardaman’s views on convict leasing, see his address to the legislature of Mississippi in 1904, reproduced in Archibald Stinson Coody, Biographical Sketches of James Kimble Vardaman (Jackson, MS: A. S. Coody, 1922). On Vardaman as a populist, see David M. Oshinsky, “The White Chief,” chap. 4 in “Worse Than Slavery”: Parchman Farm and the Ordeal of Jim Crow Justice (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1997). There is a vast literature on the system of convict leasing. See in particular: Douglas A. Blackmon, Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II (New York: Anchor Books, 2009); Talitha L. LeFlouria, Chained in Silence: Black Women and Convict Labor in the New South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015); Sarah Haley, No Mercy Here: Gender, Punishment, and the Making of Jim Crow Modernity (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2016); Alex Lichtenstein, Twice the Work of Free Labor: The Political Economy of Convict Labor in the New South (New York: Verso, 1996); and Matthew J. Mancini, One Dies, Get Another: Convict Leasing in the American South, 1866–1928 (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1996).
  6. Oshinsky, “Worse Than Slavery,” 109; Innocence Staff, “The Lasting Legacy of Parchman Farm.” For more on the Freedom Riders, see Raymond Arsenault, Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006).
  7. “Oxford Campus and University Buildings,” University of Mississippi, accessed July 3, 2021, https://catalog.olemiss.edu/university/buildings. Also see “Final Report: Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on History and Contextualization,” June 16, 2017, pp. 11–16, https://context.olemiss.edu/final-report/; Ray Stannard Baker, Following the Color Line: An Account of Negro Citizenship in the American Democracy (New York: Doubleday, Page, 1908), 246.
  8. FBI file 157-JN-10585 (Black Student Union, University of Mississippi) disclosed through Freedom of Information Act request. For a list of the twenty-seven demands, see “The University of Mississippi Black Students Demands!,” University of Mississippi, accessed July 3, 2021, https://aas.wp2.olemiss.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/62/2015/11/blackstudentdemands2.jpeg. For more on the ongoing effort to document this history of state surveillance and violence and to secure reparations, see “Black Power at Ole Miss Task Force,” University of Mississippi, accessed July 3, 2021, https://blackpower.olemiss.edu/.
  9. “Immigration Agency Sets New Contract with Mississippi Prison,” AP News, September 5, 2019, https://apnews.com/article/d31e939ffc3c48e48ef7d4820b415ef2.
  10. According to the Overby Center website, the center was funded by an initial $5 million grant from the Freedom Forum. Although Overby is listed as the CEO of the Freedom Forum, there is no mention of his role with CoreCivic. “About the Overby Center,” Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics, accessed July 3, 2021, http://overbycenter.org/index2.htm. In 2019, the year we hosted the MUMI conference, Overby received $251,990 in salary and stocks from CoreCivic. “Form DEF 14A Corecivic, Inc. Other Definitive Proxy Statements,” Securities and Exchange Commission, April 3, 2020, https://sec.report/Document/0001564590-20-015091/.
  11. Debbie Elliott and Walter Ray Watson, “After Inmate Deaths, Mississippi Faces Pressure to Reform Its Prisons,” NPR, April 20, 2020, https://www.npr.org/2020/04/20/836829813/after-inmate-deaths-mississippi-faces-pressure-to-reform-its-prisons. On Nora’s death, see Sydney Franklin, “Inmate Death Reported at Marshall County Correctional Facility,” WCBI, January 30, 2020, https://www.wcbi.com/inmate-death-reported-at-marshall-county-correctional-facility/.
  12. Noell Wilson to Chuck Hussey, email message, October 26, 2020, disclosed through Freedom of Information Act request; Tina H. Hahn, “UM Receives $1M to Study Evidence-Based Policing, Reform,” University of Mississippi News, June 8, 2021, https://news.olemiss.edu/um-receives-1m-to-study-evidence-based-policing-reform/.
  13. One notable exception is the Education Justice Project, which foregrounds the goals of prison abolition while acknowledging its inherent tensions with higher education in prisons. See “About,” Education Justice Report, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, accessed July 9, 2021, https://educationjustice.net/about/#prison-abolition.
  14. W. E. B. Du Bois, Black Reconstruction in America, 1860–1880 (New York: Free Press, 1998), 5; Walter Johnson, “To Remake the World: Slavery, Racial Capitalism, and Justice,” Boston Review, February 20, 2018, http://bostonreview.net/forum/walter-johnson-to-remake-the-world; Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Golden Gulag (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007), 11.
  15. “State Prisons,” Mississippi Department of Corrections, accessed June 6, 2021, https://www.mdoc.ms.gov/Institutions/Pages/State-Prisons.aspx.
  16. Mississippi Biennial Report of the Board of Control, Mississippi State Penitentiary, July 1, 1903–July 1, 1905.
  17. Ruth Wilson Gilmore and James Kilgore, “The Case for Abolition,” Marshall Project, last modified June 19, 2019, https://www.themarshallproject.org/2019/06/19/the-case-for-abolition.