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The History of Chain Gangs

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antoinette harrell

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Nearly half a century after the Civil War, the southern states’ prison systems, with a largely black population, comprised two models of outdoor convict labor: The prison farm and the road chain gang. The chain gang started in Georgia in 1908 and was envisioned as a progressive penal reform movement, the direct consequence of the ending of the convict lease system, as well as public demand for improved transportation.Chain gangs flourished throughout the South and by the 1920s and 1930s chained prisoners, mostly black, became a common sight along southern roadway. Please join Host Antoinette Harrell and Co-host Robin Foster for this discussion.

Photo Credits: Courtesy of the Library of Congress

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