By Alan Bean
You need to read Douglas A. Blackmon’s article on 20th Century slavery in the American South. The evidence, contained in thousands of letters preserved by the National Archive and the NAACP, is irrefutable. But Blackmon says that’s just the beginning.
Dwarfing everything at those repositories are the still largely unexamined collections of local records in courthouses across the South. In dank basements, abandoned buildings, and local archives, seemingly endless numbers of files contain hundreds of thousands of handwritten entries documenting in monotonous granularity the details of an immense, metastasizing horror that stretched well into the twentieth century.
We will never know how many African Americans were forced into lifetimes of unpaid servitude under appalling conditions, but Blackmon, who has researched and written a book on the subject, says the numbers are staggering. (more…)