New Orleans, LA (PRWEB) October 14, 2010
Ramshackle cabins covered with soot from butane gas tanks, no running water, no electricity, no ability to earn a living wage, and no access to the modern world Americans have all become accustomed to. Is this America 1840? Or, a modern day third world country thousands of miles and an ocean away? No, this is modern day America, long after slavery was abolished, 1940's, 1960's and 2010 America as revealed by the unearthing of previously unknown archives and the interviewing of several people over this past year. While Americans celebrated the conquest of outer space, the defeat of totalitarianism and the rush into modernity, many Americans lived and continue to live destitute and diminished lives as peons in a system more akin to feudalism than the free capitalist market on which Americans pride ourselves, according to a noted genealogist Antoinette Harrell who has committed her life to the subject.
Renowned Genealogist Antoinette Harrell has spent the last ten years traversing the country collecting the stories of post-emancipation slaves who were viciously exploited by a system determined to reap bloody profits from forced labor even while the rest of the country forged a new path. Traveling and researching in 3 Louisiana counties and 27 counties in Mississippi, Harrell spoke to over 200 people who told tales of forced servitude in the South long after slavery was abolished. The formerly enslaved and their descendents detailed the harsh conditions under which they lived and how their post-emancipation enslavement has created a negative legacy that is lingering on in communities where descendents of these formerly enslaved people still live. Communities such as Glendora, MS where there is no local library, no public transport and no police. Harrell's research has uncovered a fringe economy in small towns such as Glendora that exploit poor, uneducated residents by overcharging them for substandard housing, food and even stealing their labor by failing to pay minimum wage for their work.
Scouring through the national archives and local records, Harrell revealed evidence of post-emancipation slavery and peonage such as the case of young black boys being kidnapped and sold into slavery to the Delta in 1912 Dr. Wares and his family. Although there were many black boys kidnapped and sold into slavery during this time, the Wares family of Mize, Mississippi were only arrested and tried for the kidnapping of one the black boys in that case. There is also the 1946 case of two black albinos, Iko and Eko who were kidnapped and used as a circus attraction by a Clyde Beatty circus sideshow operator.
Harrell discovered that three American Presidents were made aware of post-emancipation slavery; but failed to take action. President Coolidge, President Roosevelt and President Harding were warned that a system of slavery had survived in many southern towns and those directly impacted by this enslavement pleaded for their help; but to no avail. Most of the post-emancipation slaves who escaped their bondage did so under their own will and efforts; but Harrell's research reveals that their descendents are still suffering because their parents and grandparents resources were stolen preventing them from using those resources to improve their lot in life. What is the first step to helping the descendents of those who were illegally enslaved in this country? Harrell believes that awareness is the first step and is working with Professor Clare Washington of Portland State University to have classes taught on slavery and peonage in the 20th Century. She is also collecting and sharing much of her research at American-Slavery.org ( http://www.american-slavery.org/index.html ).
Antoinette Harrell's research on peonage and post-emancipation slavery in the 20th Century has been featured in People Magazine, Nightline News and many other national and international publications. She also produced a 30 min documentary on the life story of Mae Louise Miller who lived in slave like conditions until 1961. Harrell is available for speaking engagements, workshops, seminars and lectures. You can watch one of the many YouTube videos that Harrell created to highlight the injustice of slavery and poverty at http://www.youtube.com/user/yourstory08.