Date of Award


Degree Type


University or Center

Clark Atlanta University(CAU)


School of Arts and Sciences

Degree Name



First Advisor

Dr. Richard Allen Morton

Second Advisor

Dr. Charmayne Patterson


This is an examination of Governor Rufus B. Bullock and his management of the state’s convict lease system between the years of 1868-187 1, a period associated with Radical Reconstruction before the introduction of the “New South” era. Georgia’s majority black convict population was leased out to private railroad companies under Bullock’s Administration. They experienced harsh and brutal treatment at times, and even death. Many were arrested for minor offenses and handed excessive sentences, which provided a consistent and dependable cheap labor force. This labor resource was exploited in rebuilding Georgia’s rail system to foster trade. The study uses primary and secondary sources to ascertain Bullock’s culpability in a penal system so heinous that it rivaled slavery itself. Bullock abandoned the ideals of the Republican Party, which advocated liberty for all men, and acquiesced to the principles of industrialism and capitalism, clinging to the tenets of “free labor” at the expense of Georgia’s newly freed slaves. The implications of this study point to why Reconstruction failed and it excavates the etiology of contemporary penitentiary trends.

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