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Did WW II end slavery in the US?

April 24, 2014

Doug Muder reviews Douglas Blackmon’s Slavery by Another Name, which uncovers a sordid history in the south between those two great wars, where blacks were arrested on trumped up charges, then sold to private interests for their labor. The photo left shows incarcerated laborers at the Birmingham mines in 1907, from this 2010 article on the book. The practice was ended only after US entry into WW II:

When the U.S. entered World War II, the Franklin Roosevelt administration realized that the continued existence of involuntary servitude in the South undermined the propaganda war against the Axis. Less than a week after Pearl Harbor, Attorney General Francis Biddle issued a directive to all federal prosecutors instructing them to prosecute cases of “involuntary servitude and slavery”.

That history relates to why whites today are more likely to support capital punishment. And casts a cold shadow on Alabama’s current practice of selling inmate labor to private companies.

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