Down on Parchman Farm

The Great Prison in the Mississippi Delta

William Banks Taylor
Foreword by Peggy Whitman Prenshaw

“The extraordinary attention devoted to Parchman by musicians and writers owes perhaps to the power of the old convict farm to give such a rich image of human beings contending with bad times. The farm offered a visual manifestation of the blues. Set in the Yazoo Delta of isolated Sunflower County, it lay in the heart of blues country, and the inmates, always predominantly black, sang of back-breaking labor and love miseries, themes that characterize the blues everywhere.” —from the foreword by Peggy Whitman Prenshaw

Down on Parchman Farm is a greatly revised edition of William Banks Taylor’s Brokered Justice (1993). While Brokered Justice was a history of the prison system and prison reform in Mississippi, this new edition tells the story of Parchman Farm, from its beginnings as a penal farm at the turn of the century to the 1972 court decision that sealed its fate. Parchman Farm’s story is rich in oral history. Taylor interviewed many former convicts, along with former employees of the penal system and a number of others who had some association with the farm. Their memories and opinions form the heart of his narrative. Their testimonies support Taylor’s assertion that for all its problems, Parchman Farm was for many years a remarkably effective and humane penal institution.

William Banks Taylor is a professor of criminal justice at the University of Southern Mississippi. Peggy Whitman Prenshaw is Fred C. Frey Professor of Southern Studies at Louisiana State University.

Jul 1999
Criminal Justice/History
256 pp. 6 x 9 33 illustrations

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