Sunday, April 18, 2010


After the American civil war, gradually, many freed blacks were re-enslaved. Laws were passed that criminalized ordinary black life, sending blacks into forced labor camps, usually for petty offenses (talking too loudly in the presence of white women, vagrancy, etc.) . By 1900, at any given moment in the US, about 200,000 blacks were slaves. I dont mean that they were wage -slaves or peons, scraping by on their own for extremely low wages. No, I mean they were actual slaves, owned by someone or that persons organization. Most, but not all, of this neo-slavery occurred in the south...a black man or woman would get arrested for a trivial offense, and then end up a slave in someones farm or in their foundry, etc.

(Initially after 1865, most blacks made rapid gains in income and education. By 1885, the tide had turned against them-)

You ask, how could that be? The 13th amendment outlawed slavery after the civil war, there were no slaves after 1865...Well, federal anti slavery statutes didn't exist by which a slave holder could be prosecuted. It wasn't until a few days after Pearl harbor in December 1941 that this was pointed out to President Roosevelt- he was told that it could be used as propaganda by the enemy. How could we fight a war for freedom, when no anti slavery laws were on the books, and we still had over 200,000 slaves? The practice of this neo-slavery persisted into the 1950's.... (some states did have anti -slavery laws on their books, but a state prosecutor wasn't going to indict a fellow southerner for practicing slavery. The enactment of federal statutes allowed outside attorney generals to come in and put an end to slavery, 90 some years after the end of the civil war).

For the first few decades of the 20th century, 200,000 black slaves represented a decent percent of the total adult US black population. This neo- slavery affected almost every black family in America- the fear of returning to slavery was greater than the fear of being lynched.

( Source: Pulitzer prize winner Douglas Blackmon, 'Slavery by another name: The Re-enslavement of Black Americans from Reconstruction to World War Two')

Note: we still have real slaves. Slavery here is rare, but it exists. Colin Powell told the UN that the US still has 50,000 slaves, mostly in the textile industry, where girls are chained to their workstation. In this instance, the victims are not usually blacks.

Blacks are 12% of the US men raped about 30,000 white women last year. White men raped 8 black women last year (source, FBI)



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