The 8-part investigative series hosted by Journalist Josie Duffy Rice launches Jan 18, 2023
School of Humans and iHeartPodcasts today announce “Unreformed: The Story of the Alabama Industrial School for Negro Children.” In 1968, five Black girls escaped from the Alabama Industrial School for Negro Children, a so-called “reform school” outside of Montgomery, Alabama. These girls were not the first children to run away from the institution, which everyone called Mt. Meigs. Children tried to escape all the time, desperate to get away from a place described by many as a child’s prison. But this time was different. This time, a girl named Mary Stephens chose to tell someone her story. It was a decision that would change everything.
“Unreformed: The Story of the Alabama Industrial School for Negro Children,” hosted by Josie Duffy Rice, is an investigative podcast chronicling the history of Mt. Meigs, an institution that began as a safe haven for black youth before mutating into a “modern-day slave plantation” rife with torture and abuse. It tells the story of the man who decided to blow the whistle on the corruption and brutality that flourished at Mt. Meigs, and the repercussions he suffered as a result. And it traces the histories of the now-adults who were trapped there as children in the 1960s.
The podcast traces how individuals and policies seeded in the Jim Crow era allowed places like it to exist without accountability. It explores how ideas about juvenile criminal justice became institutionalized throughout the country, in places like the Dozier School in Florida, where the remains of 55 boys were discovered in 2012.
“Unreformed” features the voices of survivors who will tell their stories for the first time. Each of them remains haunted by their experience. Among them is artist Lonnie Holley, sent to Mt. Meigs at age 11 for being out past curfew. Now 72, Holley’s art is found all over the world, from The National Gallery to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Yet he still wakes at night with terrors. So does Mary Stephens, now 67 years old.
Still, Mary and Lonnie are, in many ways, the lucky ones. This podcast tells the story of countless former students who ended up on death row or serving life sentences. In particular, it focuses on Jesse James Andrews, who was sentenced to death for the grisly murder of three people in Los Angeles.
At its inception, Mt. Meigs seemed almost too good to be true — started by the daughter of an enslaved woman, the pride of Booker T. Washington, the place where Satchel Paige learned to play baseball. But soon, its vast potential was corrupted by the virulent racism of the state of Alabama. But despite its history of torture and abuse, Mt. Meigs remains open. Understanding what happened at institutions like Mt. Meigs is a critical part of reckoning with America’s past. That past lives on in contemporary law enforcement, education policy, and disproportionate violence against Black people. Guided by Josie Duffy Rice, “Unreformed: The Story of the Alabama Industrial School for Negro Children” tells the story of what really happened at Mt Meigs.
“Unreformed: The Story of the Alabama Industrial School for Negro Children” is distributed by iHeartPodcasts and will debut January 18,2023. Listen to the official trailer now on the iHeartRadio app and everywhere podcasts are heard. Click follow to be alerted when new episodes post.
About Josie Duffy Rice
Josie Duffy Rice is a journalist, writer, Harvard Law School graduate, and podcast host whose work is primarily focused on prosecutors, prisons, and other criminal justice issues.
Currently, she co-hosts of What a Day, Crooked Media’s daily news podcast. She is also the creator and co-host of the podcast Justice in America. Until May 2021, she was President of The Appeal, a news publication that publishes original journalism about the criminal justice system. Her writing has been featured in The New York Times, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and Slate, among others. She was a writer on the FX show The Premise. Josie was also a consulting producer for Campside Media’s Suspect, a #1 hit podcast and winner of a 2022 Ambie Award for Best True Crime Podcast. About Producer Gabbie Watts Gabbie Watts began her audio career as a DJ in college radio at WPRB Princeton. After graduating, she made her foray into public radio, producing daily arts and culture show "City Lights" at WABE Atlanta. She became a School of Humans podcast podcast producer in 2019 and has produced a variety of shows from true crime to history and hosted iHeart’s “Cadaver Gals.”
About Composer Ben Sollee
Kentuckian Ben Sollee is an Emmy Award-winning composer and musician. He has toured the globe as a cellist, songwriter, storyteller and bandleader, sometimes by bicycle, performing his original music. As a composer he has created music for stage, screen (Land with Robin Wright) , podcasts (Hell & Gone) and virtual reality apps. He earned an Emmy Award for his 2018 score for Base Ballet. As a producer, he has curated hundreds of live events including experiences for the Speed Art Museum and Lincoln Center. Throughout it all, he has continued to advocate for people and the land by creating and curating experiences that grow a greater sense of togetherness.
About School of Humans
School of Humans is a multi-platform production company producing series for television (Dirty Jobs, Stuff You Should Know). The company launched its audio division with the hit true crime podcast HELL AND GONE in 2018. The perennial top ten podcast is now in its fourth season, with over 15 million downloads to date. School of Humans Audio Holdings now boasts a slate of successful non-fiction titles distributed under a multi-year deal with iHeartMedia. Among them, Big Brother: North Korea’s Forgotten Prince (reaching #8 for History podcasts); Out of The Shadows: Children of ‘86 (with iHeart/My Cultura network); ASTRAY (debuted at #15 on national podcast charts); and RACKET (A Vulture “Best New True Crime Podcasts” pick). School of Humans’ first scripted podcast, Sisters of The Underground starring Dania Ramirez (X-Men, Sweet Tooth) and Judy Reyes (Succession, Scrubs) was produced in conjunction with My Cultura and Eva Longoria’s UnbeliEVAble Entertainment.