@PhDThesis{ gossett1992,
    author = {Larry D. Gossett},
    title = {The Keepers and the Kept: The First Hundred Years of the Tennessee State Prison System, 1830-1930},
    school = {Louisiana State University},
    year = 1992,


p. 67: “The net result of this practice of using the criminal justice system to subjugate blacks was that the penitentiary population shifted suddenly to a black majority following the end of the war. Records of the Tennessee penitentiary indicate that only thirty-three percent of the prisoners were black on October 1, 1866, while on November 29, 1867, the percentage had increased to more than fifty-eight percent. By contrast in 1859, less than three percent of the Tennessee convict population was black.”

p. 72: “The shift to contract-labor and convict leasing in Tennessee came at almost exactly the same time that the penitentiary population became primarily black.”

What’s interesting is that Gossett (and crowe1956) consistently refer to the lessees as “furniture makers” Hyatt and Briggs, even though at some point Zebulon Ward was clearly involved. But Gossett never even mentions Ward, perhaps because in this period both authors rely almost exclusively on the House and Senate Journal reports from the penitentiary directors. One newspaper report at the time complained that these official reports were “most silent upon those points in which the public feel the greatest immediate interest,” such as the deficits run up since the fire, and “the case of the Warden.”1

  1. Nashville Union and American, October 17, 1867, p. 2.