Shaping Stone for Construction of Texas State Capitol Building, circa 1885
This art piece features convict laborers who shaped columns and loaded them onto flat cars near a quarry in Marble Falls, Texas in approximately 1885. The columns were used for construction of the Texas state Capitol building in Austin after the old one burned down.
Convict leasing, which historians have called “slavery by another name,” emerged soon after the American Civil War when Southern lawmakers passed laws known as “Black Codes” targeting African-Americans with convictions for petty crimes like loitering, curfew and not carrying employment proof. The inmates were then leased out as workers to private businesses including iron foundries, quarries, factories and farms, earning significant profits for the state and the companies.
Convict leasing was eventually ended in Texas by 1912, but persisted in various forms in the U.S. until being federally abolished by President Franklin D. Roosevelt via Francis Biddle's "Circular 3591" on December 12, 1941.