Something every educator should know about and read…
Bettye Stroud offers a glimpse into life as a slave family FIVE YEARS AFTER emancipation in her fabulous book, The Leaving. A family finds themselves in “debt” to their “former” owners who also own the only store the family is allowed to shop at – seeing no way to work off their debt, ever, the family plans an escape and a brave young girl decides to take charge of her possible future and becomes an important part of the escape plan.
In addition to the brief reference to the debt owed by the slave family (one way millions of slaves were held captive post-emancipation), there is also a brief mention of the “convicts” who also came to work on the farm. “Convict Leasing” became a systemic way of doing at least two things: 1) criminalizing any act of being black so that arrests could be made at will (leaving a White employer without his written permission, for example), charging fines that were unable to be paid by the “criminal,” and allowing a nearby business owner to pay the “fine” ($14.00 perhaps) and “lease” the “convict” as a forced worker on his farm/mill/mine for up to many years or until brutal death; and 2) generate tremendous revenue (millions of dollars – an enormous amount of money in 1868-1930) for county law enforcement that allowed the building of offices, hiring of law enforcement workers, etc. Essentially, the creation of the criminal justice system as we know it today.
Douglas A. Blackmon wrote a Pulitzer Prize winner, Slavery by Another Name, that should be required reading by any educator who teaches slavery, the civil war, emancipation, reconstruction, criminal justice, economics, labor histories, African American history, or civil rights. Perhaps every educator should read it;)