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Worse than Slavery by David Oshinsky | Review

Info: 1087 words (4 pages) Essay
Published: 18th May 2020 in History

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Worse than Slavery

Worse than slavery was written by David Oshinsky. The writer tells the story of a structure that was implemented after the civil war in the south. David explains the whole story after the civil war where conflict labor was implemented in the system as a replacement to slavery against the Negros present in Mississippi and south. The two ways in which white southerners utilized the criminal justice system to uphold power over afresh freed blacks were offender leasing and system inside the farm of parchment. Blacks used to get imprisoned for crimes easily and get a harsh judgment consisting of harsh punishments.

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The book sheds light upon the circumstances that blacks had to face after their freedom from slavery. The book verifies the life that these newly freed men had to face on a daily basis, and it made me ponder that how a human can be part of such horrific acts and how other people let this happen to them. According to law, slavery was abolished, but how could slavery be abolished from the minds of the whites, who have been practicing slavery since their births. The slavery was just a word wiped out from the law; nothing that happened afterward is different from slavery or in other words, was worse than slavery. After the long earned freedom that was right of blacks from the start, things got uglier. Whites could not bear blacks walking beside them as free men. They have been ruling their bodies and minds for years. How could they acknowledge that the people that were inferior to them for centuries are now to become their fellowmen? Whites didn`t realize that they were both the same from the start as both came from a mother shared the same blood and flesh and had the same needs and desires as others. Though Lincoln abolished slavery, still, slavery had been removed from the minds of whites, and no one could do that. With black being free, whites started fearing that blacks would take over them and treat them the same way they did. To maintain their supremacy and power whites came up with laws the harsher laws and that treated blacks differently than whites. The blacks would get harder punishments for their crimes and will endure physical punishments as well, whereas whites had short and less serious punishments.

As soon as blacks got freed, whites devised another way to use and enslave them. They started leasing blacks out to carry out crimes. Some blacks went to the plantation that they have been doing before freedom, but their life there had worsened than before. The laws were partial to black people. Black was considered replaceable and worthless. Only people who had to gain some personal favor from them would consider them worthy. Blacks were kept uneducated by the whites during times of slavery. They knew that if blacks were to get the education, they would start to resist their master. Whites knew that their power lies in their illiteracy. After the freedom blacks became unemployed, and as they had no education, they were, they were unable to get jobs. Most of the blacks were unable to support their families, which made them commit crimes. Whites knew it all along, and they did nothing to support and get those blacks back onto the track. In fact, they used this as an opportunity by leasing them for convicting crimes or by capturing them for stealing food or other things. They would then send them to prisons and impose heavy fines on them and sentence them to longer punishments. Blacks would have no money to pay their fines or hire lawyers. Hence, they would spend the rest of their free lives not so free in prison.

Crime convictions lead to the deaths of many blacks. The freedom, in this case, brought only suffering and pain for them. Most of these criminals were charged were petty crimes, but they had to pay for them with their lives, which were in hand of whites. Blacks didn`t think of the trap they were pushed into; they only cared about the rewards. All this injustice would have been condemned if it happened in the present century. Now the laws are made equal for everyone irrespective of the color or race. All the people black or white have the right to education, and the government is responsible for providing them with jobs. Now a day, thousands of lawsuits and organizations are working to protect the rights of blacks and minorities. Blacks are not alone anymore; they have got whites working for them for their rights. People have seemed to learn from their mistakes, and now they are making their mistakes right in every possible way. It’s very sad and hard to hear how the blacks were given hope of freedom by the whites but got caught in another trap of them. I can’t even imagine the way slaves saved their lives and fled to south to discover freedom. The way they were treated by the whites by the dream of freedom is heartbreaking. The centuries of hope crushed by the whites are cruel.

One more thing that bothered me after reading the book is how blacks were kept separated from whites, how they were still reminded every time that they were inferiors. Whites had different trains for whites and blacks and would kick any black men out who rode in their train and shower him with harsh comments. The Parchman farm was made to discipline and respect for white authority. The mastermind behind this slavery was Vardaman, who was a white chief. The blacks who would disobey the in the Parchman farm were subjected to torture in an electric chair, and a total of 73 people were tortured through the electric chair out of which 57 were blacks. This kind of punishment is horrific. I cannot even imagine the sufferings of the black men at that time. In 1972 the Parchman farm was demolished, and the segregation of blacks from whites ended as well.

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This book is a well-written monograph which provides a history of what happened after slavery was abolished. It opened my eyes, and many details made my heart bleed with pain. I cannot start to acknowledge or believe that our forefather and leaders this to another human. How flawed the justice system was. In fact, calling it, justice would be an injustice. The laws were just devised to murder and enslave the black again. People gave their lives in hope for justice to be done one day.


  • Oshinsky, D. M. (1997). Worse than slavery. Simon and Schuster.


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