The Color Purple

The Shades of Slavery Still Stand: An Examination of Convict Leasing in The Color Purple 10th Grade

Contrary to common belief, slavery as broadly defined was not abolished after the Civil War and is still around to this day. White lawmakers in the postbellum South strived to create a system in which prisons could lease out inmates, especially black inmates, to private businesses for profit. This convict lease system resurrected the antebellum view that black people were property, had no rights, and belonged to white caretakers. These values and the convict lease system as a whole appear in The Color Purple by Alice Walker when Sofia is arrested and sentenced to prison. While Sofia, Celie’s step daughter-in-law, and her family are out, the mayor’s wife, Miss Millie, notices how orderly her children look and ask her if she would work for her and take care of her daughter, Eleanor Jane. Sofia rejects the offer with a coarse retort and as a result is arrested. Sofia is sentenced to twelve years in prison, after which her family renegotiates the sentence to twelve years working as a domestic servant for the mayor’s family. During the late 19th and early 20th century, the convict lease system perpetuated and escalated the culture and effects of slavery in the New American South structurally, socially, and economically (Myers 17)....

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