The New South and the New Slavery

Convict Labor in Georgia

Convict Lease Under a New Name

Image of the cover of the Robert Elliott Burns memoir I Am a Fugitive from a Georgia Chain Gang (1932). The book details Burns' two escapes from the Georgia chain gang. The book describes the brutality and harsh conditions of the Georgia prison system during the 1920s. This book cover is from the 1997 reprint by the University of Georgia Press.
Image of the cover of the Robert Elliott Burns memoir I Am a Fugitive from a Georgia Chain Gang (1932). The book details Burns' two escapes from the Georgia chain gang. The book describes the brutality and harsh conditions of the Georgia prison system during the 1920s. This book cover is from the 1997 reprint by the University of Georgia Press.
Image of the cover of the Robert Elliott Burns memoir I Am a Fugitive from a Georgia Chain Gang (1932). The book details Burns' two escapes from the Georgia chain gang. The book describes the brutality and harsh conditions of the Georgia prison system during the 1920s. This book cover is from the 1997 reprint by the University of Georgia Press.
Image of the cover of the Robert Elliott Burns memoir I Am a Fugitive from a Georgia Chain Gang (1932). The book details Burns' two escapes from the Georgia chain gang. The book describes the brutality and harsh conditions of the Georgia prison system during the 1920s. This book cover is from the 1997 reprint by the University of Georgia Press.

Progressive reformers won a victory when the Georgia legislature outlawed the convict lease system in 1908. Under the system that followed, the state allotted prisoners to Georgia counties where they built and maintained roads and highways. Many southern white progressives touted the new system as more humane than its predecessor, but prisoners were still poorly clothed, underfed, overworked, and abused. Each day prisoners were transported to work sites in metal cages, and they were physically bound together by chains both day and night to prevent escape.