Chained in Silence:
Black Women and Convict Labor in the New South
by Talita L. LeFlouria
In 1868, the state of Georgia began to make its rapidly growing population of prisoners available for hire. The resulting convict leasing system ensnared not only men but also African American women, who were forced to labor in camps and factories to make profits for private investors. In this vivid work of history, Talitha L. LeFlouria draws from a rich array of primary sources to piece together the stories of these women, recounting what they endured in Georgia's prison system and what their labor accomplished. LeFlouria argues that African American women's presence within the convict lease and chain-gang systems of Georgia helped to modernize the South by creating a new and dynamic set of skills for black women. At the same time, female inmates struggled to resist physical and sexual exploitation and to preserve their human dignity within a hostile climate of terror. This revealing history redefines the social context of black women's lives and labor in the New South and allows their stories to be told for the first time.
Dr. Talitha LeFlouria has been an associate professor of history at Florida Atlantic University. Her research was featured in the Sundance award-nominated documentary, Slavery by Another Name, based on Douglas Blackmon’s Pulitzer Prize winning book on convict labor in the southern states. Currently, she serves on the Board of Directors for the Labor and Working-Class History Association and Historians Against Slavery. She is also the southern regional director for the Association of Black Women Historians.
In cooperation with her scholarly achievements, LeFlouria is an accomplished public historian. She has worked as a researcher for the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site and, in 2009, authored the museum’s official publication: Frederick Douglass: A Watchtower of Human Freedom. She subsequently appeared on C-SPAN to discuss her publication.
Currently, LeFlouria is on leave at the Carter G. Woodson Institute at the University of Virginia, where she is a postdoctoral fellow.
“Every page of Chained in Silence is a revelation. The author connects the hideous conditions that black female convicts endured with the emergence of white business supremacy and the modernization of the South. LeFlouria skillfully illuminates the ties between gender, racism, and labor exploitation in the making of the New South. This book is destined to play an integral role in contemporary debates on mass incarceration and prison reform.” – Paul Ortiz, University of Florida