Chained in Silence

Black Women and Convict Labor in the New South

By Talitha L. LeFlouria

280 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 8 halftones, 5 tables, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-3000-7
    Published: March 2016
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-2248-4
    Published: April 2015
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-4762-1
    Published: April 2015

Justice, Power, and Politics

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Awards & distinctions

2015 Letitia Woods Brown Memorial Book Prize, Association of Black Women Historians

2016 Darlene Clark Hine Award, Organization of American Historians

2015 Berkshire Conference of Women Historians Book Prize

2016 Philip Taft Labor History Award, Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations / Labor and Working-Class History Association

2016 Malcolm Bell, Jr. and Muriel Barrow Bell Award, Georgia Historical Society

Ida B. Wells Tribute Award, Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History

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.

About the Author

Talitha L. LeFlouria is associate professor and fellow of the Mastin Gentry White Professorship in Southern History at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research was featured in the documentary Slavery by Another Name, based on Douglas A. Blackmon's Pulitzer Prize-winning book.
For more information about Talitha L. LeFlouria, visit the Author Page.


"Leaves us with a radically new understanding of the historical dimensions of racism, gender, and state violence." —Elizabeth Hinton, The Nation

"This beautifully written book leads its readers on the journey from Emancipation to the devastating convict-leasing system in Georgia. . . . [and] examines the exploitation of black women's bodies, the beginnings of mass incarceration, and the rise of the modern New South." —Erica Armstrong Dunbar, The Nation

“Highly recommended.” —Choice

“A deeply researched and carefully crafted mouthpiece for black female convict laborers.” —American Historical Review

“An indispensable reference point.” —Journal of Southern History

“A much-needed and distinctly gendered perspective on carceral roots of both antiblack racism and resistance to it, a history that can be silenced no longer.” —Journal of American History