Summary Of David Oshinsky's Worse Than Slavery

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Worse than Slavery, by David Oshinsky, is a novel about post-Civil War America, and the life it gave free African Americans in Mississippi and other parts of the South. Oshinsky writes about the strict laws and corrupt criminal justice system blacks faced after they were freed, and while the contents of the book are not typically read about in history textbooks, it is important to understand what life was like for the freedman. Anyone interested in reading his book would profit from it. With the end of the Civil War came the destruction of the old system of slavery. Many white Southerner’s were outraged, but were forced to accept the newly freed blacks. However, the South relied on labor, and with the slavery abolished, they had no one to …show more content…

The wealthy were in need of cheap labor, and with the amount of blacks being sentenced, most jails still functioning were overflowing with them. Leasing was designed for black convicts, and laws passed allowed towns and independent men to lease them for a price. They black convicts were put to work building railroads, levees or doing work for private owners. The convicts did work that free labor could not. Conditions were horrible and they were forced to work knee deep in muck, in malaria-ridden swamps, and to dynamite tunnels. Convicts that were leased to plantations experienced much of the same conditions they were subjected to during enslavement. “The prisoners ate and slept on the bare ground, without blankets or mattresses, and often without clothes.” They were forced to live in their own filth, bloodied floors and vermin infested quarters. Punishments were usually carried out with lashings, however, they were subjected to “natural punishments” such as exhaustion, pneumonia, heatstroke, dysentery, malaria and frostbite. Convicts were more vulnerable than free workers, and paid a greater price. They were forced to do the jobs no one else would, especially when working for the railroad companies. “Convicts regularly were blown to bits tunnel explosions, buried in mountain landslides, and swept away in springtime

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