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States of Incarceration is created by over 500 people in 17 states, and growing. We explore the roots of mass incarceration in our own communities -- to open national dialogue on what should happen next.
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state:
North Carolina
Local history:
Voices from the Chain Gang
What Can We Learn From Listening?
University of North Carolina at Greensboro
National Traveling Venue:
International Civil Rights Center & Museum
134 South Elm Street, Greensboro, NC 27401-2604
November 8, 2016December 15, 2016

Upcoming Events

February 1, 2017, 6:30 pm
States of Incarceration UMiami Opening Reception
Wesley Foundation Gallery

1210 Stanford Drive Drive,
Coral Gables, FL 33146

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North Carolina: Voices from the Chain Gang
What Can We Learn From Listening?
University of North Carolina at Greensboro

In the early 1900s, courts sentenced prisoners to pound rocks and shovel dirt. Convicted of minor crimes, these men built North Carolina’s highways. The Good Roads Movement in the 1910s promoted the construction of modern highways to facilitate commerce and tourism. Progressive reformers, appalled by abuses in convict leasing to private industries, urged the state to use prisoners to build roads. North Carolina’s state government refused to oversee highway construction and left the administration of chain gangs to county governments. County employees, unconcerned with prisoners’ welfare, kept them in filthy camps and cages, refused them medical care, and beat them without mercy.

In the 1920s, social workers in the North Carolina State Board of Charities, headed by Kate Johnson, initiated investigations of the brutal treatment of chain gang prisoners. Prisoners and their families, aware of Johnson’s interest, wrote scores of letters to her and Governor Thomas Bickett, to document their experiences and advocate for change.

Prisoner appeals did not produce immediate results, but they influenced the state’s decision to assume control of highway construction during the Great Depression. Dozens of county prisons were constructed in the 1930s to house convicts, removing them from the unregulated county labor camps. As a result, sanitary conditions improved slightly and physical abuse slowly declined.

North Carolina continued to use chain gangs on roads until the 1970s.

Our Point of View

Why is this important? Studying the history of chain gangs in North Carolina compels us to think about incarcerated people today. We are troubled that while conditions have changed, historic racial patterns persist. Moreover, many do not know the reality of prison life, and believe that incarceration is justice served. Listening to incarcerated people can end complacency and creates the opportunity to start a dialogue for change.

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North Carolina: Voices from the Chain Gang    University of North Carolina at Greensboro
What Can We Learn From Listening?
North Carolina: Voices from the Chain Gang
What Can We Learn From Listening?
  University of North Carolina at Greensboro

National Exhibition Venue    International Civil Rights Center & Museum

Public Dialogues and Events
| November 8 – December 15, 2016

See Full Exhibition & Events Schedule
Nov 8, 2016

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

States of Incarceration UNCG Opening Reception with Open Mic Event

Description: 

Opening Reception & Open Mic Night: A creative outlet to share experiences and feelings on mass incarceration. If you wish to perform, contact arlucas@uncg.edu.

Refreshments Served.

UNCG Local Focus:
In the early 1900s, courts sentenced prisoners to pound rocks and shovel dirt. Convicted of minor crimes, these men built North Carolina’s highways. The Good Roads Movement in the 1910s promoted the construction of modern highways to facilitate commerce and tourism. Progressive reformers, appalled by abuses in convict leasing to private industries, urged the state to use prisoners to build roads. North Carolina’s state government refused to oversee highway construction and...read more…

Time: 
6:30 PM
Venue: 

International Civil Rights Center & Museum
134 South Elm Street
Greensboro, NC 27401

Nov 12, 2016

Credit: Christina Itchon Courtesy of: Red Dog

Credit: Christina Itchon Courtesy of: Red Dog

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Mass Story Lab: Learning from Listening

Description: 

A participatory storytelling experience that promotes empathy, healing, reform, and justice. Mass Story Lab is a project of Create Forward.

What happens when you bring together storytelling, dialogue, and design? You get a Mass Story Lab, an interactive storytelling event that promotes community, creativity, and justice. In a Mass Story Lab the experiences of people directly impacted by mass incarceration become a catalyst for imagining a world beyond prisons.

About Mass Story Lab: Mass Story Lab travels to communities across the U.S providing a model for participatory storytelling that promotes community building, creativity, and justice. Each community choses a theme for their...read more…

Time: 
1 PM to 5 PM
Venue: 

International Civil Rights Center & Museum
134 South Elm Street
Greensboro, NC 27401

Dec 1, 2016

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Talk by Historian Heather Ann Thompson: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971: Why History Matters to Mass Incarceration Today

Description: 

Dr. Heather Ann Thompson is a native Detroiter currently on faculty of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Thompson has just completed the first comprehensive history of the Attica Prison Rebellion of 1971 and its legacy for Pantheon Books. This book is slated for a Summer 2016 release in time for the 45th anniversary of the Attica rebellion. To recover this story Thompson has immersed herself in legal, state, federal, prison, and personal records related to the Attica uprising and its aftermath (some never-before-seen) located in archives, governmental institutions, and various individual collections around the country and the world....read more…

Time: 
7 PM
Venue: 

International Civil Rights Center & Museum
134 South Elm Street
Greensboro, NC 27401

Dec 10, 2016

Courtesy of: GrowingChange

Courtesy of: GrowingChange

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Legacy of Chain Gangs

Description: 

Youth-led organization GrowingChange presents on the chain gang era in rural North Carolina.

About GrowingChange:
Few projects solve—or even address—several problems at once. GrowingChange is one that does. GrowingChange is a youth empowered, nonprofit organization that is designed to address several tough problems that challenge North Carolina:

· the numbers of young people entering the penal system;
· a county with no locally grown, sustainable produced food;
· joblessness among wounded warriors returning from deployment;
· health disparities between African-Americans, Latinos, and whites;
· decreasing numbers of small farms and independent farmers,
· abandoned Brownfield properties decaying into dysfunction; and
· declining...read more…

Time: 
1 PM
Venue: 

International Civil Rights Center & Museum
134 South Elm Street
Greensboro, NC 27401

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