There are a wealth of resources for learning about the legal, social, and ecological history of Louisiana. This is an in-progress list of some of what we’ve read, seen, and heard that we’d like to share.
Louisiana State Penitentiary (Angola)
In The Place of Justice – Wilbert Rideau’s autobiography, a fascinating history of Angola from the 1960’s to just recently, told from the perspective of the former editor of The Angolite.
God of the Rodeo – Daniel Bergner: The story of several inmates participating in Angola’s infamous rodeo, as well as Bergner’s struggles to deal with Angola’s administration.
Angola Prison Hospice: Opening the door: A short documentary (courtesy of the Open Society Institute) about Angola’s inmate hospice program.
The New Jim Crow – Michelle Alexander’s dissection of mass incarceration as it constitutes a modern-day racialized caste system that replaced older, more explicit methods of social control.
Actual Innocence – Sheck, Neufeld, and Dwyer: Stories of the wrongly convicted from the founders of the Innocence Project.
Who Owns Death? – Lifton and Mitchell: An examination of capital punishment in the United States.
Death at Midnight – Don Cabana: The former Parchman, MS warden’s memoir of presiding over executions and his growing opposition to capital punishment.
Desire Street – Jed Horne: The story of Curtis Kyles, who was exonerated of one murder and tragically convicted of another shortly after his release from prison.
Killing Time – Holloway and Gauthier: John Thompson of Resurrection After Exoneration’s story of wrongful conviction and exoneration.
Southern Social History
There Goes My Everything – Jason Sokol: A history of the civil rights movement that focuses on the reactions of white southerners. The chapter on school integration in New Orleans is particularly interesting.
On to New Orleans – Albert Thrasher: Tracing the 1811 slave revolt; apparently hard to find most places, but Community Books on Bayou Road in New Orleans often has copies.
Deacons for Defense – Lance Hill: The story of the Jonesboro-founded Deacons for Defense and Justice, a Black self-defense organization established in part to respond to Klan intimidation
Breach of Peace: Portraits of the 1961 Mississippi Freedom Riders – Eric Etheridge: Portraits of Freedom Riders who flooded into Jackson from around the U.S. (including many who made the journey from New Orleans), paired with their 1961 mug shots, short biographies, and interviews
We Will Shoot Back: Armed Resistance in the Mississippi Freedom Movement – Akinyele Omowale Umoja: Examining the role of armed resistance in the Civil Rights struggle in Mississippi
Rising Tide – John M. Barry: A history of the 1927 flood and its effect on Mississippi flood control.
Control of Nature – John McPhee: A critical look at 3 attempts to massively subvert nature, the first of which is the taming of the Mississippi. This functions as something of a follow-up to Rising Tide.
Bienville’s Dilemma – Richard Campanella: A geographic history of the city of New Orleans, from its founding through Hurricane Katrina.
Reconstruction in the Cane Fields: From Slavery to Free Labor in Louisiana’s Sugar Parishes, 1862 – 1880 – John C. Rodrigue: Emancipation and the transition from slavery to wage labor in the cane sugar region of southern Louisiana
Delta Sugar: Louisiana’s Vanishing Plantation Landscape – John B. Rehder: A history of Louisiana’s sugar industry
Uneasy Alchemy: Citizens and Experts in Louisiana’s Chemical Corridor Disputes – Barbara L. Allen: Struggles for environmental justice in the state’s infamous Chemical Corridor, AKA “Cancer Alley.”