From the official website of Douglas A. Blackmon, author of the best-selling book, Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans From the Civil War to World War II:
Coming to PBS – In 2012
tpt National Productions is developing Slavery by Another Name, a multi-part PBS project based upon the 2009 Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Wall Street Journal writer Douglas Blackmon.
Based on Blackmon’s research into original documents and personal narratives, Slavery by Another Name unearths the lost stories of slaves and their descendants who journeyed into freedom after Emancipation and then back into involuntary servitude. It also tells stories of courage and redemption, and the men and women who fought against the re-emergence of human labor trafficking.
The project includes:
- A 90-minute national PBS prime-time television documentary, produced and directed by noted filmmaker Sam Pollard (Eyes on the Prize, The Blues, When the Levees Broke) to be broadcast nationwide in the fall of 2012.
- An online interactive site using Web 2.0 tools on pbs.org that will be a destination for sharing stories, gathered in partnership with the oral history organization, StoryCorps.
- Educational outreach, in conjunction with outreach specialists 2MPower Media, LLC and content experts at The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, providing a standards-based curriculum for high school educators and students nationwide and a Viewer’s Guide for use by families and community groups.
“Niggers is cheap.”
“The negro dies faster.”
“One dies, get another.”
Such was the brutal way of thinking towards Black men and women who suffered under this inhumane regime of neo-slavery, which consisted of were five forms of forced black labor from 1874 to 1942: tenancy, sharecropping; debt peonage; convict leasing, and chain gains, where they were known as gandy dancers as they toiled while repairing rail tracks.
In the movie The Color Purple, there is a short scene depicting them working on rail tracks.
The convict lease system-peonage-chain gang of neo-slavery that was enacted to keep Black women and men in perpetual bondage gave the South its many fine buildings, bridges, pavement roads, as well as various types of labor such as mining in rock quarries, working in turpentine mills, brick making, felling trees, harvesting crops–all through the enforced illegal stolen labor of Black people. This age of neo-slavery era was truly worse than slavery, and the documentation that Mr. Blackmon’s book gives refuses to let the truth lie dormant and unknown.
“They were whipping all the time. It would be hard to tell how many whippings they did a day,” testified Arthur W. Moore, a white ex-employee of the company. Another former guard said Captain Casey was a “barbarous” whipping boss who beat fifteen to twenty convicts each day, often until they begged or screamed. “You can hear that any time you go out there. When you get within a quarter of a mile you will hear them,” testified Ed Strickland.
A rare former convict who was white testified that after a black prisoner named Peter Harris said he couldn’t work due to a grossly infected hand, the camp doctor carved off the affected skin tissue with a surgeon’s knife and then ordered him back to work. Instead, Harris, his hand mangled and bleeding, collapsed after the procedure. The camp boss ordered him dragged to the courtyard.
“They taken the old negro out and told him to take his britches down, he took them down and they made him get on his all fours,” testified the former prisoner J.A. Cochran. “I could see that he was a mighty sick man to be whipped. He hit him twenty-five licks.”
When Harris couldn’t stand up after the whipping, he was thrown “in the wagon like they would a dead hog,” continued Cochran, and then taken to a nearby field. Still unable to get to his feet, another guard named Redman came over and began shouting. “Get up from there and get to work. If you ain’t dead I will make you dead if you don’t go to work,” Redman said. “Get up from there, you damn negro. I know what’s the matter with you, you damn negro, you want to run away.” Harris never stood. He died lying between the rows of cotton.”
from Slavery By Another Name, Chapter XVI, “Atlanta, the South’s Finest City”, pgs. 341 – 342.
In fact, the convict lease system made a mockery of the 13TH Amendment, especially in the part that reads “except as a punishment for crime”:
Section 1.Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
States where neo-slavery occurred:
A prisoner receiving punishment in a Georgia labor camp. (Photograph by John L. Spivak), from Slavery By Another Name.
The following are just a few of the trumped-up excuses used by the racist Whites of that era to re-enslave Black citizens back into slavery:
-Attempting to leave present employer (without permission) for another employer
-Not being able to pay a debt to the landlord of a sharecropping farm
Punishments for not working, or for being too sick to work:
-Severe beatings, which sometimes resulted in death
-Starving and malnutrition, due to spoiled food or minimal food, period
-Hobbling (cutting the tendons in the heel, to prevent escaping)
It was not until the conditions faced by White convicts, and the release of the movie I Was a Fugitive From a (Georgia) Chain Gang, as well as legislative attempts to abolish the cruel system, that convict leasing begin to face its death throes.
Lasting from 1890 to 1920, the convict lease system was abolished, only to be replaced with the chain gang, which lasted another seventy-five years.
Today, the legacy of the convict lease system still has ramifications.
Involuntary servitude still lives, with the mass incarceration of Black women and men in America’s prisons, as a result of the War on Drugs against Black communities across America resulting in many Tulia, Texas sweeps that destroy the lives, and livelihoods of so many Black citizens.
Watch in full the following video of Slavery by Another Name: