History of Chain Gangs in America and the Social Theories

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Paper Topic: History of Chain Gangs in America and the Social Theories All day long they work so hard Till the sun is goin ‘ down Working on the highways and byways And wearing , wearing a frown You hear them moanin ‘ their lives away Then you hear somebody sa-ay That ‘s the sound of the men working on the chain ga-a-ang That ‘s the sound of the men working on the chain gang `– Sam Cooke ‘Chain Gang ,1960 For many Americans , the only memories that exist of American chain gangs are the ones supplied by movies like Cool Hand Luke ‘ and either Otis Redding or Sam Cooke with the ooh ‘ and ah ‘ as the sounds of the chain gang

With absolute power of life and death over his slaves , the plantation owner could punish his slaves any way that he saw fir (Colvin 1997

The chain gang was never about crime and punishment it was about economics pure and simple Before the Civil War , the chain gang had used been sporadically in some parts of the country , usually by railroads and others needing hard physical labor done and wanting it done cheap

The modern chain gang , revolutionized and instituted in the South after the Emancipation Proclamation was a form of modern slavery , a way to return to a bygone era of feudalism and a way for the rich to keep getting richer

This then was a region ripe with need for free labor and the chain gang was one of many ways to get it

Chinese immigrants and slaves were the primary victims of the earliest incarnations of the chain gang though it wasn ‘t until after the Civil War that the habit of shackling the workers together grew in popularity

They allowed forced labor and corporal punishment for blacks who could not prove that they had a job (usually in the form of a plantation contract or who tried to run from the contract (Colvin 1997

The war had eaten their resources and Lincoln took their free labor force and made them freed men

Then , with the swipe of a pen , a few words , and Sherman ‘s March to the Sea , President Abraham Lincoln changed everything and the world as understood by the Southern white man , fell apart Most of them understood that the land required many hands to work it and plantation owners were left decimated by the war

South Carolina and Mississippi acted with the harshest manners of redefining slavery for the freed men with black codes institutes in 1865 and 1866

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