Essay on Autobiography of the Imprisoned Peon

Essay on Autobiography of the Imprisoned Peon

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People who have power are in control of the world around them. This includes the government, which in turn means the justice system. What happens when society doesn’t look like the dream of those in control? They manipulate the rules in attempt to make dreams come true. In the nineteenth century after the Civil War, the government and people in society had a particular vision in mind. Some wanted whites to still have control over African Americans, others wanted streets without the homeless and jobless. Even though these are different approaches, the primary goal was to “fix” the appearance of society, to keep the streets looking presentable, and to create contributing members of society from the less fortunate.
The Civil War ended in 1863, and the “Autobiography of an Imprisoned Peon” was spoken by a man who was alive at the end of the war and was hired out to a plantation owner before he was ten years old (22). The man signed many contracts and continued working for the same plantation in Georgia. As the plantation changed hands, conditions changed and eventually lead the workers there being treated like prisoners and working alongside actual prisoners.
Conditions included horrible housing, taking women away from their husbands, and punishments including death. Several rules had to be followed. One of these rules was that the workers had to buy all supplies from one store. “In this store we were charged all sorts of high prices for goods, because every year we would come out in debt to out employer” (25). Ending the year in debt meant owing the contract holder something. Since they had no money, they were forced to pay with their hard labor.
Who could force such horrible conditions on these people just because they were Afric...


... middle of paper ...


... the “Autobiography of the Imprisoned Peon.” He said, “…we had sold ourselves into slavery-and what could we do about it? The white folks had all the courts, all the guns, all the hounds, all the railroads, all the telegraph wires, all the newspapers, all the money, and nearly all the land-and we had only our ignorance, our poverty and our empty hands” (25). Keep in mind that this doesn’t just apply to whites oppressing other races. This applies to everyone that has control and the people they are discriminating against. With the vision of society being composed of a certain race and class and the determination of making the vision a reality, those who don’t meet the expectations may be forced to pay simply because of who they are or what their social status is.


Works Cited

Franklin, H. Bruce. Prison writing in 20th-century America. New York: Penguin Books, 1998.

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