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If I see him I'm gonna beat him, gonna kick and bite him too, gonna take my Wade & Butcher, gonna cut him two in two - Bessie Smith, Hateful Blues, 1924

Author Topic: Forced to work  (Read 693 times)

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Offline wreid75

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Forced to work
« on: May 21, 2013, 07:55:20 AM »
I remember reading in a book a while back that several musicians would avoid going out during the daytime to keep from being rounded up as a vagrant and forced to work on a levee, a farm, or other such place.  Does anyone recall this?  I believe it was at certain times of the year but I can't be for sure.  I am wanting to go back to researching it but can't remember the source.  Thanks

Offline Stumblin

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Re: Forced to work
« Reply #1 on: May 21, 2013, 10:02:52 AM »
Lots of musicians I know avoid going out in the daytime because they haven't got up yet.

Offline wreid75

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Re: Forced to work
« Reply #2 on: May 21, 2013, 10:27:02 AM »
 :D

Offline jrn

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Re: Forced to work
« Reply #3 on: May 21, 2013, 12:25:05 PM »
"The World Don't Owe Me Nothing" by Honeyboy Edwards.
Quitman, Mississippi

Offline Gumbo

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Re: Forced to work
« Reply #4 on: May 21, 2013, 01:20:23 PM »
that was one of the themes in John Sayle's movie, Honeydripper. Not research I know, but I enjoyed it and it may lead you to something.

Offline Stumblin

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Re: Forced to work
« Reply #5 on: May 22, 2013, 06:19:57 AM »
On a more serious note, David Oshinsky's Worse Than Slavery: Parchman Farm and the Ordeal of Jim Crow Justice goes into great detail about the convict leasing system of forced labour. People could be picked up on any spurious pretext and banged up in the county slammer, from where they would be leased out as forced labour. Well worth reading, but a bit on the grim side.

Offline FrontPage

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Forced to work
« Reply #6 on: May 22, 2013, 03:35:43 PM »
A related documentary ran on PBS last year. It was very hard to watch, with the cruelty displayed by many lessors being beyond belief. The collection of still photos, plus interviews was riveting.

http://www.pbs.org/tpt/slavery-by-another-name/

It's a part of history, and some of it more recent than you might like to think.

Mr. Page
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FrontPage

Offline P D Grant

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Forced to work
« Reply #7 on: May 24, 2013, 04:30:47 PM »
I'll second the Parchman Farm book. Not always easy reading - I had to put it down couple of times - but it should be read.

Offline jrn

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Re: Forced to work
« Reply #8 on: May 24, 2013, 06:44:48 PM »
Just driving by that place gives me the creeps.
Quitman, Mississippi

Offline jphauser

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Re: Forced to work
« Reply #9 on: May 26, 2013, 10:33:57 AM »
This is a subject which I've looked at in some detail in the past.

It's been a while since I've read the book by Honeyboy Edwards, but here is what I recall from it and other sources I've come across.  The vagrancy laws established in the southern states basically made it illegal to be unemployed, and, to a large extent, the laws were selectively enforced against black people.   Anyone arrested for vagrancy could be put to work on the local farms providing a cheap source of labor for the plantations.   

The link below links to a webpage from the state library of Virginia which describes a vagrancy law established by the state of Virginia as "nothing less than slavery by another name."  I don't know if the vagrancy laws in other states were established by the states or local communities. 

http://www.virginiamemory.com/online_classroom/shaping_the_constitution/doc/vagrancy_law





Regarding the convict lease system,  it's been described as worse than slavery because the companies, plantation owners, and state and local governments who utilized convict laborers had very little financial incentive (if any) to keep the convicts alive.  On the other hand, the slaveholders wanted to keep their slaves healthy and alive to avoid having to shell out more money to buy replacements for slaves that died.  Maximizing profits for a company using convict lease workers could mean providing the minimum in food and shelter and working the convicts until they dropped dead.  I imagine that beatings and whippings of convict lease workers could be more brutal than those administered to the slaves.   These convicts often were convicted of very minor crimes.  White people were also subjected to this brutality, but blacks made up a largely disproportionate share of convict lease workers.

The PBS documentary about the convict lease system mentioned in a prior post is based on a book by Douglas Blackmon. 


Jim

I'm modifying my original post to add the part below.

I used to think that the line "Arrested on charges of unemployment" in "Brown-Eyed Handsome Man" was a nonsense lyric, but I guess Chuck Berry was just telling it like it was.
« Last Edit: May 26, 2013, 12:46:28 PM by jphauser2000 »

Offline thickpete

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Re: Forced to work
« Reply #10 on: May 26, 2013, 11:58:00 AM »
It should be pointed out that even as everything has changed much remains the same in the US re exploitation of poor people - especially poor people 'of color' by the prison/'criminal justice' industry. Big business for lawyers, cops, 'treatment centers', half-way houses, and the increasingly privatized prison system itself today. If your office furniture wasn't made by a convict working for pennies that call center inquiry you just made was answered by someone behind bars. It's still huge business and the fake 'war on drugs' serves as the modern day vag laws.....

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