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Civic LaborsScholar Activism and Working-Class Studies$
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Dennis Deslippe, Eric Fure-Slocum, and John W. Mckerley

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780252040498

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252040498.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM ILLINOIS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.illinois.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Illinois University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ISO for personal use.date: 25 May 2022

“Feets Don’t Fail Me Now”

“Feets Don’t Fail Me Now”

Navigating an Unpaved, Rocky Road to, through, and from the Last Slave Plantation

(p.54) Chapter 3 “Feets Don’t Fail Me Now”
Civic Labors

Daniel E. Atkinson

University of Illinois Press

In this chapter, the author examines prison labor and the relationship between imprisoned people and society more generally by focusing on the case of inmates of the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. Using his training as an ethnomusicologist and insight as an Afro-American, the author looks at the very real cultural work and broader social significance of imprisoned black musicians laboring in antebellum-like conditions on a former plantation in the first decade of the twenty-first century. The author encountered resistance from prison officials when he tried to investigate black vernacular responses to white supremacy through oral interviews and recording inmate music. His efforts to combine engaged scholarship and activism struck a nerve when his ethnographic efforts became “something resembling a twenty-first-century slave narrative.” The author highlights the ways in which his own cultural work as a scholar—while certainly not subject to the same brutalizing environment as the prisoners—was shaped by many of the same racialized power structures both within and outside its gates.

Keywords:   prison labor, Louisiana State Penitentiary, black musicians, white supremacy, engaged scholarship, activism, prisoners

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