People who have power are in control of the world around them. This includes the government, which in turn means the justice system. What happens when society doesn’t look like the dream of those in control? They manipulate the rules to attempt to make dreams come true. In the nineteenth century after the civil war, the government and people in the society had a particular vision in mind. Some wanted whites to still have control over African Americans, others wanted streets without the homeless and jobless. Even though these are different approaches, the primary goal was to “fix” the appearance of society, to keep the streets looking presentable, and to create contributing members of society from the less fortunate.
The Civil War ended in 1863, and the “Autobiography of an Imprisoned Peon” was spoken by a man who witnessed his mother die, the end of the Civil War, and was hired out to the Captain by the time he was ten years old (22). He was content with working there, but then he signed a contract. This wasn’t a contract that he reviewed and was aware of what in involved. He signed a contract that he couldn’t read nor did he have it explained to him. This is how the white man took control of the other race. It was the beginning of “fixing” the appearance of society.
Inside of these contracts, there were several rules that had to be followed, or severe punishment was used. One of these rules was that the workers had to buy all supplies from one store. “In this store we were charges all sorts of high prices for goods, because every year we would come out in debt to out employer (Autobiography 25). Ending the year in debt meant owing the contract holder something. Since they had no money, they were forced to pay with their hard labor. This is only the beginning. Horrible housing conditions, taking women away from their husbands, and punishments including death were all enforced under these contracts.
Is any of this fair, of course not! The important thing to remember here is the time period. These particular events took place shortly after the Civil War in Georgia. Even though African Americans were technically free, they obviously weren’t treated this way. If they were truly free, contracts would have been explained and laws wouldn’t have permitted such things from occurring. He said “…no one of us would have dared to dispute a white man’s word-not in those times” (Autobiography 26). People still had the mindset of certain races being better than others. With this vision, the only thing to do was to make sure that society didn’t appear like a melting pot of races. This was accomplished by imprisoning people on vague charges, or to trick them into practically selling themselves back into slavery.
Now fast forward to the year 1894. It is in this year when a man by the name of Jack London was placed in prison in Erie, PA. His charge? Vagrancy. How does this white...