Convict Labor in the American South from the Civil War to the Great Depression

Karin Shapiro
Duke University
Jackson Skeen
Duke University
Discipline(s): History, African & African American Studies
Syllabus Last Updated: 
January, 2017

This independent study examines the convict labor system that emerged in the post-Civil War South. The student will explore the political and economic contexts in which convict leasing developed, analyze the demographics of those ensnared in convict labor, note the geographic variations in the convict lease system, and highlight the conditions in which convicts lived and labored. Throughout the semester, we will draw connections between convict leasing in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to the modern-day carceral state. In addition to a much deeper understanding of the convict lease system, the student will gain research experience and competence working with large quantities of critical texts. Readings will consist chiefly of academic accounts of convict leasing and prison labor conditions in the South from 1865 to roughly 1928.