ATMORE State Prison Farm is way down deep in Alabama not far from Mobile. It touches the Florida line. It's about 168 miles south of Montgomery. You might say the southmost part of hell. It is in Escambia County. They have a law there that nobody who commits murder will die for it. On the farm they take advantage of that. A prisoner who threatens to murder another, he will say, "I'll make your time." That means for killing the other guy a few years will be added onto his own sentence, the years the murdered man will never serve. To a lifer a few years more would mean nothing.
I went to Atmore in a transfer wagon. Twelve white convicts and one other Negro. We got there about four o'clock in the afternoon. No sooner we pulled in we had to march straight into the bookkeeper's office. There was a clerk there they called York. I never knew him by any other name. His job was to look over the papers that went along with the prisoners. These records consisted of the time you been carried in prison, when you came in, what you were there for, and how long you had ahead of you. First York went over the papers of the whites. Each name he called he said, "Stand over there." That was the other side of the room. Finally he came to us two Negroes. He looked over the other guy's papers. His name was Allan Hines. He told Hines to get over on the other side. I watched York when he looked at my papers. His eyes swelled up like hen's eggs.
"You goddamned black sonofabitch," he said, "you come down here and try to be tight and we going to kill you. I done heard about you. We going to make a good nigger out of you."