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Grant number: GN-50485-04

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California Newsreel (San Francisco, CA 94103)
Christiane Badgley (Project Director: March 2004 to present)

From Slavery to the Chain Gang: Convict Leasing in the American South

Consultation between filmmakers and humanities advisers for a television documentary on the convict lease system in the post-Civil War South as a form of post-emancipation racial and social control and as a means of mobilizing labor.

"From Slavery to the Chain Gang: Convict Leasing in the American South," is a historical documentary examining one of the bleakest—yet least discussed—chapters in American penal history. Convict leasing: convicts leased by states to the highest bidder, farmed out to mining camps, plantations and railroads. A system of forced labor beginning soon after the Civil War, often described as “worse than slavery.” Drawing on a wealth of archival material, ranging from the writings of W.E.B. DuBois and Mark Twain to court records, prisoners’ letters and the accounts of muckraking journalists, the film tells the story of the lease, which despite numerous denunciations and a death rate at times exceeding 10%, persisted for more than 60 years.

Project fields:
U.S. History

Media, Humanities Projects in

Public Programs

Total amounts:
$10,000 (approved)
$10,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
1/1/2005 – 9/30/2005