parchman penitentiary

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Joe Savage sings “Peace In The Valley, recorded by Alan Lomax in Greenville, MS in 1978. Joe was one of four muleskinners interviewed by Lomax about his experiences working as a laborer building Mississippi’s massive levee system and his time spent at Parchman Farm (Mississippi State Penitentiary) at Lambert Camp and Camp 1. He spoke about the brutality he faced while serving time, and sang several songs capturing his emotions.

Parchman Penitentiary - Early 1900s

Mississippi Governor James Vardaman, an avowed racist, conceived Parchman Penitentiary as a “reform project.”  His goal was to create a state-run penal farm which led to the establishment of Parchman Prison Farm, which eventually became notorious as one of the most racist, violent, and brutal prisons in America, in 1904.

For further reading and research, see also:

Worse than Slavery: Parchman Farm and the Ordeal of Jim Crow Justice

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David M. Oshinsky. [book link
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Down on Parchman Farm: The Great Prison in the Mississippi Delta

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by Williams Banks Taylor. [book link
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Prison Songs (Historical Recordings From Parchman Farm 1947-48), Vol. 1: Murderous Home

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by Alan Lomax and various artists. [recording link
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The Inmates of the Chain Gang at Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. Rosie. Alan Lomax field recording (Italian vinyl version on Albatross Records, 1977). 1947.