First Available Cell: Desegregation of the Texas Prison System

By Chad R. Trulson; James W. Marquart | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1
Broken Barriers

Looking up into the ultra-blue sky, members of the crowd strained their eyes to locate the small plane. A large fireball then appeared and the object shot vertical and continued its climb for nearly three minutes. Then the show was over. But something dramatic, history-making, had just occurred and only a few people were privy to the event. The date was September 7, 1956. On this day, famed test pilot Iven Kincheloe flew his X-2 to an altitude of 126,000 feet—to the edge of outer space. He was the first person to reach that altitude and he returned to Earth as a national hero.1 In the same month, another test pilot was the first to fly at three times the speed of sound, but his test plane veered out of control and he died in the crash. The year 1956 was one of major historical significance and involved individuals smashing barriers and crossing lines that had never before been breached. These test flights and a host of other technological breakthroughs shattered important boundaries that kept humans tethered to this planet and helped fuel the space race that would result in some of humankind’s greatest achievements.

For most people, the idea of breaking a barrier or smashing through a boundary involves important scientific breakthroughs. Not every barrier, though, requires advanced technology to foster a breakthrough. Some barriers are created as a result of human ingenuity, and sometimes all it takes is one ordinary person to take a chance, to make a move at the right time and in the right place to forever alter a barrier. While most Americans in 1956 were captivated by dueling test pilots, there was a barrier of a different sort that was also being brought down. On June 5, 1956, Elvis Presley sang “Hound Dog” on the Milton Berle television show and wowed the audience with gyrating hip movements that caused a scandal. Beyond his hips, Presley also crossed over the racial divide that existed in America at the time—a barrier main-

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First Available Cell: Desegregation of the Texas Prison System
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Foreword ix
  • Acknowledgments xii
  • Introduction xiv
  • From Segregation to Desegregation in Texas Prisons- A Timeline xvi
  • Part I - The outside 1
  • Chapter 1 - Broken Barriers 3
  • Chapter 2 - An Institutional Fault Line 15
  • Chapter 3 - 18,000 Days 42
  • Part II - The Inside 59
  • Chapter 4 - The Color Line Persists 61
  • Chapter 5 - Cracks in the Color Line 89
  • Chapter 6 - Full Assault on the Color Line 111
  • Chapter 7 - The Color Line Breaks 134
  • Chapter 8 - 7,000 Days Later 163
  • Chapter 9 - Life in the First Available Cell 176
  • Part III - A Colorless Society? 201
  • Chapter 10 - The Most Unlikely Place 203
  • Notes 225
  • Select Bibliography 265
  • Index 269
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