For a Kinder, Gentler Society
Slouching Toward Tyranny
Mass Incarceration, Death Sentences and Racism
  • Joseph B. Ingle
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Slouching Toward Tyranny. Mass Incarceration, Death Sentences and Racism
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As a pastor to Death Row inmates across the South and as a powerful advocate to prison wardens, lawyers, judges, and legislators, Joseph Ingle has come to some shocking conclusions about the United States, champion of human rights throughout the world. He began to recognize another aspect to US history: systematic oppression imposed by the very people who founded the country.

The book is part personal experience, part history: the history of systematic destruction of minorities in America, from colonial days to now, by physical slaughter and by legal and judicial means.

About the Author

Joseph B. Ingle began visiting prison inmates while studying at Union Seminary and living in East Harlem. A native of North Carolina, he returned to the South, to Tennessee, as a United Church of Christ minister. He has been working with prisoners, especially the condemned, since 1974.

He has previously written Last Rights: 13 Fatal Encounters with the State's Justice and The Inferno: A Southern Morality Tale. He is a graduate of St. Andrews College and received a Merrill Fellowship to Harvard in 1991.

About the Book
Working with death-row inmates in the killing ground of the South, Rev. Ingle lost over 20 people to the executioner in twelve years. In 1991 he made his way to Harvard University on a Merrill Fellowship where he began a twenty-year process of...
Working with death-row inmates in the killing ground of the South, Rev. Ingle lost over 20 people to the executioner in twelve years. In 1991 he made his way to Harvard University on a Merrill Fellowship where he began a twenty-year process of reading, writing; and he continued to work with the condemned. He began to comprehend that the United States, foremost advocate of democratic government and a champion of human rights throughout the world, was built on contradictions. And he began to ask whether, in fact, we have to consider the government of our country in terms of tyranny.
Introduction
. . . The Pilgrims spoke of building "a city on a hill" that would be a beacon for all to see. In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed with certain unalienable Rights, that among them are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of...
. . . The Pilgrims spoke of building "a city on a hill" that would be a beacon for all to see. In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed with certain unalienable Rights, that among them are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

It is this very history from which I took a deep draught through my education growing up in North Carolina. I was in Boys State in high school studying how government worked at the University of North Carolina School of Government, shook John F. Kennedy’s hand when he came to Raleigh campaigning for the office of President and became a student leader in college. I helped organize major changes in the student life at St. Andrews Presbyterian College as well as actively oppose the Vietnam War. I was the embodiment of an engaged, active citizen through my coming of age in North Carolina.

My pursuit of democratic rights led me to fight against the death penalty via Union Theological Seminary in New York and living in East Harlem. It was there I visited my first jail, and that experience led me to prison ministry when I returned to the South after graduation. And to be engaged in prison ministry in the South in 1974 meant dealing with the death penalty. I became Director of the Southern Coalition on Jails and Prisons in the spring of 1976, the year the U.S. Supreme Court gave the country its peculiar 200th anniversary present by permitting the reinstatement of the death penalty on the July 4th weekend (Gregg v. Georgia, Proffitt v. Florida and Jurek v. Texas).

My colleagues and I fought against the death penalty and excessive prison incarceration across the South through 1990. I came to know and love death-row prisoners, met with governors, bishops, U.S. and state senators and representatives, worked with victims’ families, did civil disobedience and went to jail, fasted, and did simply anything and everything one could to halt the killing machinery wherever possible and make a witness against it. Yet the body count rose and my experience in the corridors of power and the death houses of the South led me to think that perhaps what I had been taught about democracy was not quite right. Maybe the government, like a runaway train, had run off the track.

Then came acute melancholia in the autumns of 1988, 89 and 90. I was profoundly sad, beyond sad, really enervated. Maybe it was my emotional state, not the government, that had leapt the track. I sought counseling and with the help of a good therapist and medication began to combat the overwhelming weariness that overcame my life. During this time, William Styron buoyed me when he told me: “You can get over this. I know you don’t believe me when I tell you this but you can get over it and it will never come back.” Bill had known the depths of melancholia (Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness) and was kind enough to write the introduction to my book Last Rights: 13 Fatal Encounters with the States Justice. Our friendship developed through the fight against the death penalty, which he abhorred.

So, I came to Harvard a broken man. What I had been taught about democracy had been repeatedly shattered as the men and women I knew on death row were exterminated no matter what information we put before governors, judges or religious leaders. Clearly, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” only applied to certain people. Rarely was there justice in this process. Rather, it was all about killing and winning the next election by posturing about being tough on crime. My time at Harvard allowed me to delve into history, take a course in constitutional law, and begin to assemble some cognitive context to my wrecked emotional landscape. And the more I read, the more I began to rethink what I had been taught. I realized there was another aspect to the historical effort to establish a truly democratic form of government in the United States. It was the story of oppression established by the very people who founded the country and wrote the Constitution. In 1991 the study of such oppression had only recently begun to be incorporated into the public consciousness. But people were beginning to consider the facts of stealing Native American land and the near extermination of the native inhabitants in America, the yoking of Africans to slavery after forcefully removing them from their homes on another continent, and the relegating of white women to second-class citizenship.

This dialectic of slavery/freedom was difficult to understand. The shards of my own emotional life revealed how little I understood it. But perhaps the primary reason for Americans to feel problematical when confronted with such contradictory history was the unique sense of righteousness we Americans maintained. Indeed, in the 20th century alone, we began with a war “to keep the world safe for democracy,” then fought a second world war twenty years later against German tyranny and Japanese aggression, only to plunge into a military conflict in Korea as part of a United Nations peacekeeping force to stem Communist expansion, and, finally, to let our ideals go astray in the forests of Vietnam during the last third of the century. And now, in the 21st century, the citizens were misled into war against Iraq and a war of revenge in Afghanistan.

T.S. Eliot, in “The Four Quartets,” observed: “We had the experience but missed the meaning.” It became my belief that Eliot’s description applied to much of Western and American history. So, let us begin our journey by considering the concept which illuminates our interpretation of American history: The racial tyranny of the majority.

The perception of a majoritarian tyranny of whites over minorities in this country was initially articulated by a Frenchman, Alexis de Tocqueville. Tocqueville’s classic analysis of 19th century America, Democracy in America, raised the concern of the tyranny of the white majority. Tocqueville observed and feared the power of the racial majority (whites), over and against the racial minorities (blacks and Indians). Although we will examine this insight in depth later in the book, it is the fundamental perspective which guides our interpretation of American history . . .


Table of Contents
Introduction 1 Chapter I. Arri

Introduction

1

Chapter I. Arrival and Beginnings (1619–1808)

17

Chapter 2. Willie Watson, Jr.

23

Chapter 3. The Slavery Regime (1662–1865)

29

Chapter 4. Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826)

35

Chapter 5. The South and the Death Penalty: 1984

47

Chapter 6. The Tyranny of the Majority

55

Chapter 7. The Genocide Regime (1830–1890)

65

Chapter 8. Reconstruction (1866–1876)

85

Chapter 9. The Regime of Segregation (1883–1953)

113

Chapter 10. The Beat Goes On

155

Chapter 11. The Second Reconstruction

165

Chapter 12. The Regime of Disfranchisement I (1980–92)

189

Chapter 13. Willie Darden

207

Chapter 14. The Regime of Disfranchisement II (2000–2008)

221

Chapter 15. President Barack Obama and the Era of Disfranchisement

229


More Information
Nominated for the
Benjamin Hooks National Book Award
and the
Lillian Smith Book Award

Nominated for the
Benjamin Hooks National Book Award
and the
Lillian Smith Book Award

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Pages 262
Year: 2015
BISAC: SOCIAL SCIENCE / Penology
BISAC: LAW / Discrimination
BISAC: LAW / Criminal Law / Sentencing
Soft Cover
ISBN: 978-1-62894-120-3
Price: USD 22.95
Hard Cover
ISBN: 978-1-62894-121-0
Price: USD 32.95
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