After generation on generation of idleness, the “royals” could not even set a decent table. There weren’t even any jails to speak of. “Royals” didn’t lock up “royals”. If slaves did something wrong they were punished by overseers. Sometimes the sadistic plantation owners would do the punishing. “Low-lifed” Whites were not excused . There was just no need for jails. If there was a dispute between “royals” they settled it like gentlemen.
Fast-backward to before the Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln was already planning Reconstruction before the Civil War started. He knew the “royals” didn’t know how to close the barn door even after the horses were gone. This was the last nation that hadn’t yet abolished importation of slave labor. The South was totally dependant on slave labor, and Lincoln was well aware of it. So it was simple: free the slaves and kill two birds with one stone.
Fast-forward. By Executive order then, Lincoln instituted the one tactic that hastened the end of the Civil War. Unfortunately it ended too soon. Since there were many parts of the South that were never over-run by Union soldiers, slavery was not completely ended. The Emancipation Proclamation applied only to territories occupied by Union soldiers. Many slaves escaped to Union occupied territory and thus to freedom. Most of them didn’t.
After the Civil War it was relatively easy for the Republican (Union) armies to control the cities of the South that had been captured. It was also relatively easy to occupy cities that had not seen battle, due to some few Democrats in the South who were “loyal” to the Republican North. It was a different story in the countryside. Southern Whites(they called themselves “royals” because they felt themselves so far superior that “White” did not fully do them justice)were extremely angry and frightened of the prospect of having to work with their own hands to make a living. They just didn’t know how to do anything. House (N-word) had to work 7 days a week, sometimes as much as 20 hours a day. (N-word) labor worked sunup to sundown until they could no longer see. But they were off on Sunday until sundown. During harvest time if one would slow down due to sickness, etc., they were beaten until they either got up or passed out, “as an example”. White folks knew work when they saw it, so they got busy. They formed GANGS, like the KKK, and roamed the countryside. NOT the cities where the Feds were. They would terrorize groups of freedmen and ex-slaves. They would ambush Union army patrols and kill them all. They would kill government agents, no matter their race. They would lynch “loyal” Democrats. They would kidnap freed slaves, take them back to “friendly” territory and sell them back into slavery, in order to raise cash. Remember, slaves could no longer be imported into the Republic. And remember, there were no jails to speak of. But slave breeders-traders and plantation owners had a plenty of facilities in which to detain slaves. Since it was so dangerous for “loyal” Democrats and government agents and regulators to roam the rural areas, the federals stayed away from them. It left former slaves without any protection. The time was right for slavery to be reborn.
From 1800 to 1866 the “Black Codes” were in effect. They were now really enforced. “If Black Stay Back” was the battle cry. Indiana and Illinois would not let Blacks into their states from 1848 to 1853. From 1876 to 1965 Jim Crow laws were in effect (Separate but Equal). In 1866 the Republicans took over the South and ended the “Black Codes”. However Jim Crow stayed around.
Disturbing the Peace(whatever that means). Vagrancy and Loitering. Loud talking. Selling whiskey. Cursing in public. “Threatening” a White person. Walking down a lonely country road without identification. Changing jobs without written permission from your former employer, and no papers from your new employer. All of the above are violations of the then penal code set up to “control” the unruly former slaves. Whites need not have been concerned. You see, the 13th Amendment says slavery was abolished and Involuntary Servitude was banished EXCEPT as punishment connected with a prison sentence! You know, hard labor. Involuntary Servitude: making people work without compensation, under threat of punishment of some kind. Like the threat of losing your job if you don`t work. So all the deep South had to do was set up a “legal” system tailored to ex-slaves and they would be back in business.
Here`s how the system worked. You are a freed slave. You are walking down Main Street looking for work. A policeman comes up and asks to see your paperwork. You have none because you are temporarily out of work. You are arrested and hauled before a justice of the peace. He listens to the police story but you are not allowed to speak. You are found guilty, fined $3.00 for police services, $5.00 for jop services, $10.00 for jailhousing, and $20.00 for vagrancy. You have no money and the jop counted on it. So the jop sells you to a mining company for fines and court “costs”. The mining company takes you away and you are never heard from again. Transaction papers always had a habit of getting “lost”. In the mines your life expectancy was 3 years if you were healthy. A little longer elsewhere. It was general practice to be as cruel as possible in order to strike fear into slaves of the “new era of slavery”. It was so hard to get good slaves anymore. So they had to be tightly controlled. Even the poor White indentured “prisoners” were whipped and lynched. They weren’t called slaves anymore. They all were called “prisoners”. You gotta remember, the 13th Amendment was adopted before the southern states were readmitted to the Union. Federal control ended in the South with the Compromise of 1877 and the collapse of the governments of the last 3 southern Republican states. The Democrats then dominated the South and Jim Crow came into full bloom. Right on into the 20th Century.
Prisons. They were built in ernest when the “law” got into the slave trade business. The “law” acted as procurer and middle man. Slave breeding took off and became really big business. It got so bad that the “law” would pick up ex-slaves for no reason, charge them with anything and sell them off. Always for non-payment of fines, too high for anyone to pay. Some slave buyers would be in the courtroom to bargain for slaves if the slave had been sold “under contract” BEFORE he was found guilty. Most contract sales were in lots numbering in the hundreds, and made to mines, lumber camps and railroads construction. You see, the South was trying to become industrialized.
Thus, more and bigger jails and prisons. TODAY, you ask? Contract prisons are a multi-billion dollar industry. Government at all levels contract with them to house prisoners. Innocents are sent to prison even today, to rot in a hell on earth. Abuses abound and nobody pays. Who is being locked up most? Black males. On big, trumped up charges. With the book thrown at them. It was not until 1965 that Jim Crow finally began a slow death. Separate-but-Equal laws began to disappear.
When I was 15 years old in 1945, I was required to get a Social Security card and get it signed by my White employer. This was to keep me from being picked up for vagrancy. Mr. D. Edgar Thompson signed it. My father and I worked for him. He eventually sold his business to my father in 1953. What irony. And right here in Tarboro NC . Freedom? To what degree do you expect it? And in what form? I have been and always will be working for EQUALITY, at the greatest degree possible under the circumstances. I am convinced there is no right and wrong, only Best and Worst. Between best and worst there is lots of room for movement. For many people it is hard to decide what is right and what is wrong.
One more note. If anyone wants to argue the legitimacy of the 1st Amendment, the Supreme Court has ruled that the 14th Amendment effectively plugs any holes in the 1st Amendment. So, go ahead and speak your piece or peace. Go ahead and assemble peaceably and petition anywhere you want. And demand answers. You MUST be heard.
The NEW SOUTH? You take it from here.
We’ll talk again soon.
Richard H. Parker Jr.