"Examines the history of the civil rights movement and the criminal justice system beyond the court rooms and into the arrests, jail cells, and prisons that were the locus of grassroots protests and organizing."--Robert Cassanello, coeditor of Migration and the Transformation of the Southern Workplace since 1945
Beyond Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham City Jail," there has been little discussion on the incarceration experiences of civil rights activists. In this book, Zoe Colley does what no historian has done before by following civil rights activists inside the southern jails and prisons to explore their treatment and the different responses that civil rights organizations had to mass arrest and imprisonment.
Imprisonment became a way to expose the evils of segregation and highlighted to the rest of American society the injustice of southern racism. Protestors shifted from seeing jail as something to be avoided to seeing it as a way to further the cause. Colley examines the many factors that shaped how an individual interpreted their imprisonment: race, gender, age, class, or whether one was from the North or the South. While some found imprisonment to be an energizing or inspiring experience and celebrated jail-going as liberating and honorable, others struggled to find a positive value.
By drawing together the narratives of many individuals and organizations, Colley paints a clearer picture how the incarceration of civil rights activists helped shape the course of the movement. She places imprisonment at the forefront of civil rights history and shows how these new attitudes toward arrest continue to impact contemporary society and shape strategies for civil disobedience.
Zoe A. Colley is lecturer in American history at the University of Dundee.
A volume in the series New Perspectives on the History of the South, edited by John David Smith