Alumna Awarded Postdoctoral Fellowship
By Nathan Towery
Telisha Dionne Bailey, Ph.D., has begun a postdoctoral research fellowship with the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies at the University of Virginia.
She plans on using the first year of her fellowship to revise and build upon her dissertation, and will use the remaining time to conduct research for a book-length manuscript that will illustrate the frequently unnoticed gendered history of Parchman penitentiary.
The manuscript will expand the academic understanding of the purposeful construction of neo-slavery as well as practices of punishment that range from the Jim Crow era to the turn of the 21st century.
Bailey started her academic career at Reinhardt University, where she played basketball and received her bachelor’s degree in liberal studies in 2003. From there, she came to the University of Mississippi, where she received her master’s degree in history in 2006 and her doctorate in 2015.
During her time at the university, Bailey focused on gender injustices in the penitentiary system. Her dissertation, directed by history and Southern studies professor Ted Ownby, titled, “Please Don’t Forget About Me: African American Women, Mississippi, and the History of Crime and Punishment in Parchman Prison, 1890-1980,” received the 2016 Franklin Riley Prize from the Mississippi Historical Society for the best dissertation on Mississippi history completed during 2014 and 2015.
Her dissertation illustrates the broader political, social, economic and legal systems of the exploitation that black women faced due to both their race and gender. It explains how Southern societies profited from their punishment and labor. Additionally, it shows the cultural and political consequences of being a black woman not only in a racially driven penal system but also in a society that placed little value on the lives of African-Americans.
Bailey’s dissertation builds on David Oshinsky’s 1997 book, Worse than Slavery: Parchman Farm and the Ordeal of Jim Crow Justice. She explained that Oshinsky only briefly explored how black women were exploited during that time, and she wanted to expand on it.
Her work has been recognized in many publications, one being “Incarcerated Women: A History of Struggles, Oppression, and Resistance in American Prisons.”
Upon completion of her fellowship, Bailey hopes to obtain a tenure-track position at a university.