544 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 24 halftones, 3 maps, 4 graphs, 11 tables, index
eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-5358-7
Published: November 2019
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-5357-0
Published: January 2020
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Drawing from three decades of legal documents compiled by prisoners, Robert T. Chase narrates the struggle to change prison from within. Prisoners forged an alliance with the NAACP to contest the constitutionality of Texas prisons. Behind bars, a prisoner coalition of Chicano Movement and Black Power organizations publicized their deplorable conditions as “slaves of the state” and initiated a prison-made civil rights revolution and labor protest movement. These insurgents won epochal legal victories that declared conditions in many southern prisons to be cruel and unusual--but their movement was overwhelmed by the increasing militarization of the prison system and empowerment of white supremacist gangs that, together, declared war on prison organizers. Told from the vantage point of the prisoners themselves, this book weaves together untold but devastatingly important truths from the histories of labor, civil rights, and politics in the United States as it narrates the transition from prison plantations of the past to the mass incarceration of today.
Published in association with the William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas
About the Author
Robert T. Chase is associate professor of history at Stony Brook University.
For more information about Robert T. Chase, visit the Author Page.
“Drawing from three decades of legal documents compiled by prisoners, Chase narrates the struggle to change prisons from within. . . . He finds that these insurgents won epochal legal victories but that their movement was overwhelmed by the increasing militarization of the prison system and empowerment of white supremacist gangs that, together, declared war on prison organizers.”--Law & Social Inquiry
“An outstanding work that will provoke discussion and undoubtedly inspire other studies as this country seeks solutions to problems that stem from the nation’s experience with incarceration.”--Southwestern Historical Quarterly
"Essential reading for anyone interested in the history of mass incarceration, We Are Not Slaves places incarcerated people themselves at the center of the postwar transformation of Texas prisons, demonstrating how they forged a multiracial, intersectional movement to challenge the brutal regimes of physical, legal, and sexual violence behind prison walls. This masterful study offers a template for future historical narratives of prisons and the grassroots."--Donna Murch, author of Living for the City: Migration, Education, and the Rise of the Black Panther Party in Oakland, California
"Brilliant and richly detailed, We Are Not Slaves is a must-read for those looking to understand the historical relationship between mass incarceration and slavery."--Talitha LeFlouria, author of Chained in Silence: Black Women and Convict Labor in the New South
"Chase’s excellent work adds a great deal to our understanding of the lives of prisoners, prison discipline, and the complexities of racism, labor, sexuality, and resistance."--Mary Ellen Curtin, author of Black Prisoners and Their World: Alabama, 1865-1900
"A must-read, tragic book, filled with agonizing accounts of state-sanctioned violence, clear analysis of the role of incarceration in shoring up the old Jim Crow, and breathtaking narratives of the struggles of ordinary prisoners to expose the system’s underlying brutality."--Max Krochmal, author of Blue Texas: The Making of a Multiracial Democratic Coalition in the Civil Rights Era