The End of Slavery Was Not The End of Slavery
I was born in the deep south.
The city was Jacksonville, Fl.
The year was 1949.
It was a time and place where racism thrived.
What I didn’t know until recently is just how bad Florida’s racism was. In my recollection, states like Alabama and Mississippi got most of the bad press so I thought of them as the real offenders but Florida, it seems, was just as bad if not worse.
Florida has a checkered past. It is recognized as the first location where free people of color first arrived in the early 1500’s and is also home to the first settlement of runaway slaves, Fort Mose. The Fort is situated two miles north of St. Augustine and was established under Spanish authority in 1738. It was a safe place for slaves to settle after escaping from plantations in the north. According to history, these liberated slaves bravely fought alongside the Spanish against English invasion.
Contrasting that, however, is the fact that Florida is the place where slavery first began in the Continental US (1526) and where it was practiced for decades even after the Civil War. Though history offers a flicker of decency in the early years, slavery and racism dominate the record.
I was surprised to learn that the U.S. Sugar Corporation was federally indicted for enslaving black sugarcane workers through debt peonage on Florida plantations as late as 1942. I wasn’t taught that bit of history in school but you can read about it here. The indictment was ultimately quashed on procedural grounds but it and the reasons for it are on the record.
The horrors of that historical fact should be unacceptable to any decent, fair-minded, rational person. Seventy-seven years is a long time to NOT figure it out, but that’s how long sugar cane farmers flouted the 13th Amendment of the Constitution with their slavery workarounds.
It begs the question. Do slavery loopholes still happen today? If businesses, aided by sentimentally aligned policymakers, could get around the law for seventy-seven years, is it improbable to think the same mindset could be driving segments of the business community today?
Innocence By Ignorance
As a youngster growing up in Jacksonville, I didn’t know enough to ask these questions. I was innocent but only because I was ignorant and I was also immersed. I was surrounded by racism. Things were better in Jacksonville than on the plantation but not by much. You didn’t need to look hard to find the evidence of Jacksonville’s racism everywhere: public transportation, public facilities, education, politics and even the workplace.
Racism was the norm. It was accepted. It was entrenched. [Read more…] about The Long Journey From Racism To Equality