“Except as Punishment for Crime”: African Americans, Convict Leasing, and the Legacy of the Constitution's Greatest Loophole


ACLS Fellowship Program


Southern Studies


Although recent debates on equality, race, and justice in the United States have revitalized conversations on the history of our incarceration system, the role of convict leasing has been largely overlooked. Historians of post-Emancipation convict leasing have discussed the political and economic implications of convict leasing; to date, however, no scholarship has addressed the lived material and social circumstances of the individuals ensnared in the convict lease system during their period of incarceration or the lasting legacies of that system. This project adopts a material culture lens grounded in historical archaeology to evaluate the system from a new perspective.