Updated Wed, Feb 1, 2012 1:51 pm
Slavery By Another Name
Monday, Feb. 13, 9 p.m.
SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME challenges one of Americans’ most cherished assumptions: the belief that slavery in this country ended with the Emancipation Proclamation. The film relates that even as chattel slavery came to an end in the South in 1865, thousands of African Americans were pulled back into forced labor with shocking force and brutality. It was a system in which men, often guilty of no crime at all, were arrested, compelled to work without pay, repeatedly bought and sold, and coerced to do the bidding of masters. Tolerated by both the North and South, forced labor lasted well into the 20th century.
“The Thirteenth Amendment states that slavery was abolished, except as a punishment for a crime,” says author and co-executive producer Blackmon. “So across the South, laws were passed to criminalize everyday African-American life. It was a crime for a black man to walk beside a railroad, to speak loudly in the company of white women, to do someone’s laundry without a license, to sell cotton after dark. But the most damaging statutes were around vagrancy. If you couldn’t prove your employment at any moment, you were a criminal.”
Once convicted, African Americans were leased to coal mines, brick yards, plantations and turpentine farms and forced to work without pay. They were shackled, imprisoned and often tortured. Thousands died.
“It’s a brutal topic,” said producer/director Sam Pollard. “Forced labor practices, including inmate leasing and peonage, totally circumscribed the lives of hundreds of thousands of African Americans well into the 20th century. Most Americans are totally unaware of — and shocked by — this history, which is why we found it so imperative to translate Doug’s incredible book into a film.”