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The brutal conditions and inhuman treatment of African-Americans in Southern prisons has been immortalized in blues songs and in such movies as Cool Hand Luke. Now, drawing on police and prison records and oral histories, David M. Oshinsky presents an account of Mississippi’s notorious Parchman Farm; what it tells us about our past is well worth remembering in a nation deeply divided by race.

Topics: Slavery

Published: Free Press on Apr 22, 1997
ISBN: 9781439107744
List price: $12.99
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An immensely informative read - as riveting as it is sobering. I should note that Oshinsky covers a significant amount of time before Parchman's establishment. He begins before the Civil War, then examines Reconstruction and Jim Crow practices. I considered this a bit more interesting than Parchman, as these parts introduce the culture and sentiments that would generate a place like the infamous penitentiary.The book is not for the squeamish; accounts of sickening brutality come thick and fast. The Deep South has a remarkably troubled history, and to that end, my only critique is that I would have liked the author to more closely examine the conditions in the South that led to such depravity. As it stands, there's sparse context for the seeming anomalous traditions of torture and denigration so prominent there. Some space is given to elaborating such conditions, but with so many descriptions of brutality and inhumanity, one keeps asking, "Why?" Certainly others have given healthy treatments to this question, and it is not the stated intention of the book, so I don't consider this a deal breaker by any means. Still, I would have welcomed another 100 pages or so placing the South's violent and oppositional culture into a broader context. The author's main point - that the post-plantation South was in many, many ways a far more dangerous and lethal place for blacks, is very well taken.read more
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Reviews

An immensely informative read - as riveting as it is sobering. I should note that Oshinsky covers a significant amount of time before Parchman's establishment. He begins before the Civil War, then examines Reconstruction and Jim Crow practices. I considered this a bit more interesting than Parchman, as these parts introduce the culture and sentiments that would generate a place like the infamous penitentiary.The book is not for the squeamish; accounts of sickening brutality come thick and fast. The Deep South has a remarkably troubled history, and to that end, my only critique is that I would have liked the author to more closely examine the conditions in the South that led to such depravity. As it stands, there's sparse context for the seeming anomalous traditions of torture and denigration so prominent there. Some space is given to elaborating such conditions, but with so many descriptions of brutality and inhumanity, one keeps asking, "Why?" Certainly others have given healthy treatments to this question, and it is not the stated intention of the book, so I don't consider this a deal breaker by any means. Still, I would have welcomed another 100 pages or so placing the South's violent and oppositional culture into a broader context. The author's main point - that the post-plantation South was in many, many ways a far more dangerous and lethal place for blacks, is very well taken.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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