Ed note: this review originally appears in a now long defunct livejournal.
Worse than Slavery: Parchman Farm and the Ordeal of Jim Crow Justice
David M. Oshinsky
This is the must read book on the faailures of reconstruction and the horrors of the Jim Crow era. When I was reading it, there were times I felt sick to my stomach. Oshinky lays out the horror and despicable racism of the Jim Crow South better than any other author I have read. If you have a conscience, the book will leave you shaken despondent and angry.
Worse Than Slavery focuses primarily on the infamous Parchman Farm, a prison farm in Mississippi. In the Jim Crow era, Parchman was work camp you were lucky to survive and the stories of how people got there, why the farm was useful for the Mississippi government, and what the experience of life on the farm was like for those unlucky enough to end up there gives you a real sense of both the physical and emotional assault on people of color that was the Jim Crow era and the economic impact it had on the deep south.
This book isn’t only about Parchman. It is more generally about the total failure of reconstruction, the abandonment of the idea of equality by America, and the very real price many, many African Americans had to pay for the nation’s lack of guts in the face of Southern White Racism.
It’s a hard read, but a necessary one.