Ain't Scared of your Jail

Ain't Scared of your Jail

Arrest, Imprisonment, and the Civil Rights Movement

eBook - 2013
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An exploration of the impact on imprisonment of individuals involved in the Civil Rights Movement as a whole.
Publisher: Gainesville : University Press of Florida, ©2013
ISBN: 9780813043050
Characteristics: 1 online resource (x, 158 pages)


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Feb 07, 2013

This is a new book about a particular aspect of the Civil Rights Movement in the South. Although it's a slender volume and has a modest cover, the author, Zoe Colley, imparts significant information about civil rights activists who were jailed for their protests against racism and discrimination. She briefly mentions specific individuals' experiences (despite what the title might infer, this is not a memoir or oral history) but also focuses on the controversies in the movement about being arrested and then bailed (or not bailed) out. Many of the movement's activists and supporters were middle-class people who had always striven to prove that not all blacks were criminally inclined and they looked down on people who were arrested. Now that they were taking principled stands against discrimination and were facing arrest, they were forced to reevaluate the issue. Allowing themselves to be arrested was risky on multiple fronts - , their families would possibly feel shame or suffer economic retribution, the arrestee's future might be limited because of the need to admit to prior arrests when applying for jobs, college, or mortgages etc, their economic livelihood would be jeopardized by their absence from work for the duration of their arrest, they may actually be fired because of their civil rights work and arrest and, not least of all, they could face serious physical assault and death at the hands of the law enforcement agencies and/or other inmates. Nonetheless, the activists came to believe that they were strengthening their cause by their civil disobedience and by being willing to go all the way and be arrested. Initially, they were quickly bailed out but later the decision was made to not accept bail to prove their point even more forcefully. Their longer jail stays resulted in increased fraternization with the other non-political prisoners and both sides learned much about each other. A new urgency developed within the movement to look at inequitable justice in this country; that effort continues today. Although blacks and whites of both genders were arrested during civil rights actions, it was primarily African American men who were affected and risked the most. The prison population was already primarily black males in the South due to historical prejudicial patterns of arrest and detainment and to risk imprisonment voluntarily was somewhat mind boggling. Thus being arrested became a symbol of manhood for many of those participating in the movement. It was considered inalienable proof of being courageous & committed to the movement and thus being arrested became almost imperative for activists. The dramatic arrests and imprisonment of civil rights activists including Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr, and many many others helped to bring the movement to the rest of America via television and print media and was instrumental in bringing about public support for equal rights.

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