This Week in Reconstruction, December 1-15. 1866

Dublin Core


This Week in Reconstruction, December 1-15. 1866


It took the South only two years to find a way to force black Americans back into shackles. The Virginia legislature recently passed a law allowing cities to send vagrants and people convicted of petty crimes to the chain gang. The chain gang is a new punishment that forces a group of people to be chained together and perform hard labor tasks such as ditch digging, farming, or road construction. The dehumanizing effects of chains are apparently not enough, as each person in Richmond's chain gang is connected to a twelve-pound weight that grinds along behind them. The legislature passed a law that made chains the proper punishment for poverty. Any person could be arrested for vagrancy and soon find themselves stripped of their humanity, constrained by chains, as a member of the chain gang. The Dispatch has very little to say about the chain gang. The editors published only brief commentary, hidden amongst other articles. The Dispatch has only one regret: that the chain gang was not created earlier. A war was fought, over six-hundred thousand Americans lost their lives, to cement our Nation's belief that people do not belong in chains. But this week, the metal clanking of shackles could be heard across Richmond as a group of twenty-six "criminals" walked the streets of Richmond. All but one was a "negro." This chain gang punishment is not a part of the legal system, it is not just a form of punishment, it is a thinly veiled attempt to invent a new form of slavery. Slavery is no longer accepted in this land, "except as a punishment for crime" the thirteenth amendment mandates, a loophole has been found. Slavery is returning to Richmond disguised as punishment.


December 1-15. 1866


Nat Berry