Inmates at Parchman Farm Study Blues Literature
Inmates at Mississippi State Penitentiary, also known as Parchman Farm, are participating in a unique college course centered on blues literature at the facility once infamous for its harsh conditions. Led by Professor Adam Gussow, the prisoners explore how the themes of the blues—hardship, desire, and freedom—are reflected in American literary works, John Burnett reports for NPR. Participants are studying blues songs and reading works by renowned authors. The education program aims to provide inmates with personal growth opportunities and enhance their chances of successful reintegration into society.
Arthur Gentryu, who has been incarcerated for more than 40 years, sang a version of a song with a long history of tradition called the Parchman Prison Blues while Burnett was reporting:
I got the penitentiary blues,
day in and day out,
all through the night,
I got the blues,
we all got the blues.