Geneva Southall, the University of Minnesota musicologist and professor who devoted her professional career to studying Tom and who wrote a three-volume biography about him, argues that Tom was a musical genius along the lines of Mozart but that America could not accept the idea of a black genius in Tom’s lifetime. Of course, we all know that most white people of the nineteenth century believed that they were superior to black people, that we lacked true intelligence, that we were more animal than human. So how could such a populace entertain the idea of a black genius?
Likening supermax prisons and solitary confinement to the Egyptian underworld of "Amenta" or a kind of hell was completely intentional. In researching the sordid history of prisons in America, the appalling conditions of some contemporary institutions, and the growing privatization of prisons and its implications, I came to want to know more about what these incarcerated men and women themselves had to say about what goes on "inside."