The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003

Book Reviews

role in inciting the affair. Leiker asserts that Mexicans and whites made black
soldiers feel unwelcome in the border community. While white racism, accord-
ing to Leiker, has been an inhibiting factor in the lives of non-whites, it cannot
be studied in isolation to non-whites' own prejudices and attitudes toward one
another. Leiker fails to consider, however, the degree to which white racism has
historically been the driving force behind the actions and attitudes of other
groups toward one another in their pursuit of social acceptance by Anglos.
Sam Houston State Unsverszty BERNADETTE PRUITT
Texas Gulag: The Chazn Gang Years, 1875-1925. By Gary Brown. (Plano: Republic
of Texas Press, 2002. Pp. xii+284. Preface, acknowledgments, epilogue, bib-
liography, index. ISBN 1-55622-931-2. $18.95, paper.)
Sometimes the simplest books are the most effective. Such is the case with
Gary Brown's contribution to the history and lore of his former employer--the
Institutional Division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Texas Gulag
describes the wretched conditions endured by state convicts during this period
by drawing upon thirteen inmate narratives, a 1910 Legislative Report, and a
smattering of additional relevant sources. It succeeds admirably because victims
are the most eloquent witnesses. Described is a regimen of violent beatings, un-
wholesome food, seemingly impossible work quotas, bad housing, constant ha-
rassment, and occasional murders. Readers will long remember many of the
images and anecdotes, such as the woman who was forced to birth her child in
the cotton field.
Since Brown succeeds so well in doing what he intended it may be uncharita-
ble to note Texas Gulag's limitations but the potential reader must be aware that
there are shortcomings. It is not a narrative history but a collection of thirty-four
short essays covering topics as diverse as "Aggies" (hoes, not scholars) to Satanta
(incarcerated in Huntsville in 1871). There is little or no transition between
chapters and a great deal of redundancy. A more important fault is that Texas
Gulag is as short on analysis as it is long on description. Brown makes only the
most elemental efforts to place the Texas prison system in context with its time
and place and makes no reference to the philosophy of corrections that in-
formed administrators and legislators. One wonders if the reform movement ad-
vocated by the National Prison Association at the Cincinnati Congress of 1870
had any effect in Texas.
Readers must also wonder if the regimen described was really the norm or the
more memorable excesses. Based upon this book one would expect a mortality
rate approaching 10o perecent but that was obviously not the case. The thought-
ful reader will come away knowing that the prison system was bad but unsure of
how bad it really was and how poorly it compared to those of other states.
Texas Gulag is well illustrated including both contemporary and modern im-
ages but the index is so cursory that it is of little use. The bibliography is down-
right bizarre, including both Donald R. Walker's Penology for Profit: A Hzstory of the
Texas Prison System, 1867-1912 (Texas A&M University Press, 1998) and Lee

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101223/. Accessed March 4, 2015.