Archive for the Category »BlackCodes «

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2013…Jubilee Year?

Allow me to open the New Year with some basics. Given a 25-yr bit with the feds I’ve had plenty of time to spend on studying humanity from the ancient Neolithic to relatively modern times (the stone to Bronze and Iron ages; 10,000-2000 BCE).

Some think that humanity has socially progressed over the past 10,000 years. Technically perhaps, but for the rest of it…. more…

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Prison Industry History (3)…

This article is third in a series.  The previous two were the 20th and 21st of October, 2010…

In the immediate period of the South after the Civil War (1865), there was a severe shortage of white males and a surplus of newly freed blacks.  In the competition between them, whites had the decided advantage of greater political and social resources.

Private Prison Industry...

For several years, the Union Army and the Freedman’s Bureau enforced emancipation, but by 1877 the Republican Party surrendered the South in return for the election.  The stage was set for Jim Crow and mass black criminalization. 

Labor-intensive industries, such as cotton, lent themselves to plantation organization.  Within short order, a number of Black Codes were specifically created to provide the law and sanctions to maintain this labor.  These included the Vagrancy Act, which provided that all blacks over the age of 18 must provide proof of a job at the beginning of every year. more…

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Prison Industry History (2)…

…This article is continued from yesterday, October 20th, 2010…

At the conclusion of the American Civil War, white Southerners soon enacted political control over the newly emancipated slaves.  Initially, the exception clause to the 13th Amendment (1865; outlawing slavery) allowed a form of re-enslavement by criminalizing blacks.

Col. "Ned" Richardson

Most blacks remained where they were working as tenants or field hands at whatever was paid them.  One Union officer was quoted as stating, “To be free and black in Mississippi is first to beg, then to steal, and then to starve.  That is their reality.”  For all too many, that more or less became their lot over the next 100 years.

White Southerners used the power that was available to them:  Political power over the laws.  David M. Oshinski’s book, Worse Than Slavery…” (1997), tracks how the political and justice system was used as a tool to re-enslave many blacks, to disenfranchise the race from all political power, to dehumanize them as a people before society, and to lay the foundation for the modern prison/industry system in America. more…

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Seamus Moley & the Molly Maguires…

In 1992, entering my 3rd yr in federal prison on a 25-yr sentence, I was bussed along with 200 other prisoners from FCI Ray Brook, Lake Placid, NY, to FCI Schuylkill, PA.

Molly Maguire Memorial

SCH had just opened and its population, eventually to reach over 1200, was being bussed in from a number of other prisons.  I was among the first to arrive.

I have a variety of memories from each of the dozen prisons I’ve served in.  I recall my cellmate at the time was Seamus Anthony Moley, #27800-004, a Northern Irish prisoner convicted of being an IRA officer procuring Stinger missiles in the US.

One of the strongest memories I have of Schuylkill was a large mural on the wall of the dining room by a gifted prisoner artist.  It depicted an historical pictorial of the community of Pottsville, PA.

Seamus (pronounced: Shā-mus) pointed out the Irish significance of the number of tree stumps in the mural.  “They represent the number of Molly Maguires that were hung by the coal mine bosses back in 1877,” he said. more…

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Prison Jobs (3)…

The genesis of prison industry in the U.S. is found in post-Civil War politics.  The ex-slaves, rooted by poverty, became the scapegoats for the South’s humiliating defeat.

By 1877, the Union Army and Freedman’s Bureau had abandoned the South back to the Confederates.

The solution to the post-bellum labor shortage was in part solved by the exception clause to the Constitution’s 13th Amendment (1865), which outlawed slavery and involuntary servitude, “except as a punishment for crime…

A mass of legislation soon spread throughout the South known as the Black Codes, whatever it took to criminalize the black population.  These Codes included the “crimes” of:  mischief, insulting gestures, intoxication, vagrancy, enticement, etc. more…

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Civil Death & Outlaws…

Some years back, I received a notice from the prison mailroom that a letter containing an application form for an absentee ballot was rejected by the prison and sent back.  On the notice, the mailroom guard had written, “When you were sent to prison, you lost your right to vote!”

State Prison Populations

Going to the mailroom, I told the supervisor that there was no such law.  States determine specific voting laws and they’re all different.  Prisoners from some states can vote.  The letter had been part of my procedure for checking on the status of my own state.

He snapped that it was federal law, and that I was a federal prisoner.  When I asked what law he was talking about, he glared at me and asked, “Who do you plan on voting for?”

When I didn’t answer, he said, “I thought so.  Well, you can’t vote.  And if you don’t get outta my face right now, I’m gonna kick your fuckin’ teeth down your throat!”

In the final analysis, that’s what prison is all about: Ignorance and the rule of raw power. more…

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The Old-New South (2)…

I recall that one of the more common sights I witnessed in the South of the 1950s and ‘60s were billboard ads: Impeach Earl Warren!  Warren was the Chief Justice at the United States Supreme Court.

June 1963 Birmingham, AL

It was almost 100 years since the end of the Civil War when Warren steered the unanimous decision for Brown v. Board of Education (1954), thus overturning the Jim Crow era Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), the so-called “separate but equal” racist double-speak decision. more…