Prison Labor: Background information when reading Sing, Unburied, Sing

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Sing, Unburied, Sing

by Jesmyn Ward

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward X
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2017, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2018, 288 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte

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About this Book

Prison Labor

This article relates to Sing, Unburied, Sing

Parchman LaborersIn Sing, Unburied, Sing, Pop serves time at the notorious Parchman prison in Mississippi, the maximum security state penitentiary. While a prisoner, he toils in the cotton fields. "I'd worked, but never like that," he recalls. "Never sunup to sundown in no cotton field. Never in that kind of heat. It's different up there. The heat. Ain't no water to catch the wind and cool you off, so the heat settles and bakes. Like a wet oven."

If this sounds like slavery that's because it essentially is. And while slavery was declared unconstitutional in the United States in 1865, with the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, a small but significant exception paved the way for prisoners to be used as free labor. "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction." By inserting this exception, the country ensured that prisoners, in essence,...

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