Sadly Slavery did not end for African Americans in 1865, in fact some African Americans were slaves well into the 1960s. Between "Apprenticeship," Convict Leasing and Peonage white southerners kept the institution of slavery alive. From kidnapping, to false charges and made up debt. Black families were then forced to provide free labors sometimes on the plantations they were just freed from. With slavery less than 100 years removed from us today, we have lots of work still to be done. This is not a system far removed from our generation with rumors that it may have gone on even longer with stories lost with the generations.
Minors were to be apprenticed, if male until they were twenty-one, if female until eighteen years of age. Such corporal punishment as a “father” would administer to a child might be inflicted upon apprentices by their masters.
As with slaves, should the apprentice leave his master's employ, the master was authorized to pursue and recapture the youngster. If the apprentice still refused to return without just cause, he would be arrested and imprisoned.
Minors were often kidnapped into apprenticeship. When the child’s parents would try and get him back the kidnapper’s justified his work as apprenticeship. the courts would allow the kidnappers to keep him under their “employment.”
Convict leasing was a system of penal labor practiced in the South and by some northern states which overwhelmingly targeted African American men. Convict leasing provided prisoner labor to private parties, such as plantation owners and corporations.
The state of Louisiana leased out convicts as early as 1844, but the system expanded all through the South with the emancipation of slaves at the end of the American Civil War in 1865. It could be lucrative for the states: in 1898, some 73% of Alabama's entire annual state revenue came from convict leasing.
Corruption, lack of accountability, and racial violence resulted in "one of the harshest and most exploitative labor systems known in American history." African Americans, mostly adult males, due to "vigorous and selective enforcement of laws and discriminatory sentencing," made up the vast majority of the convicts leased.
Douglas A. Blackmon described the system: It was nonetheless slavery – a system in which armies of free men, guilty of no crimes and entitled by law to freedom, were compelled to labor without compensation, were repeatedly bought and sold, and were forced to do the bidding of white masters through the regular application of extraordinary physical coercion.
U.S. Steel is among American companies who have acknowledged using African-American leased convict labor. The practice peaked around 1880, was formally outlawed by the last state (Alabama) in 1928, and persisted in various forms until it was abolished by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on December 12, 1941
Cleveland told Daddy-Yo he had been taken to the Mississippi delta, sold into slavery and held for 20 years on a plantation surrounded by two rivers and protected by armed guards, barbed wire and dogs. He said he eventually escaped with the help of a white laborer, who drove him off with the woman who had become Cleveland's wife on the plantation. There were other plantations, all over the South, Cleveland said. Men kept under lock and key. Men whipped for insubordination, men killed on a whim.
Peonage slavery — slavery justified and enforced through deceptive contracts and debt, rather than claims of ownership — even though peonage was technically outlawed in the United States in 1867, four years after the Emancipation Proclamation.
People enslaved through peonage may not have appeared in any ledgers as belonging to their enslavers, but the experience was indistinguishable in many respects from the brutal practices of the antebellum period.
One day a woman familiar with my work approached me and said, “Antoinette, I know a group of people who didn’t receive their freedom until the 1950s.” She had me over to her house where I met about 20 people, all who had worked on the Waterford Plantation in St. Charles Parish, Louisiana. They told me they had worked the fields for most of their lives. One way or another, they had become indebted to the plantation’s owner and were not allowed to leave the property. This situation had them living their lives as 20th-century slaves. At the end of the harvest, when they tried to settle up with the owner, they were always told they didn't make it into the black and to try again next year. Every passing year, the workers fell deeper and deeper in debt. Some of those folks were tied to that land into the 1960s.
I was giving a lecture on genealogy and reparations in Amite, Louisiana, when I met Mae Louise Walls Miller. Mae walked in after the lecture was over, demanding to speak with me. She walked up, looked me in the eye, and stated, “I didn’t get my freedom until 1963.”
"People are afraid to share their stories, because in the South so many of the same white families who owned these plantations are still running local government and big businesses. They still hold the power. So the poor and disenfranchised really don't have anywhere to share these injustices without fearing major repercussions."