Slavery by Another Name in Florida

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Gov. Scott, still think justice is colorblind?
Last year, when Gov. Rick Scott and his cabinet enacted an archaic ban on the voting rights of ex-felons, supporters called the ban colorblind. They said making nonviolent felons wait five years after completing their sentences to apply for the right to vote again had nothing to do with Florida's ugly history of suppressing African-American voters.

Well, a PBS documentary that aired last night begs to differ. Slavery by Another Name documents with chilling precision the South's history of arresting African-Americans for petty crimes such as vagrancy and then forcing them, without a trial, into years of hard labor. Such convict-leasing programs lasted 80 years after the Civil War, until the 1940s.

In Florida, African-Americans were forced to work in turpentine camps, on railroads, and in lumber yards. In the 1880s, it was illegal for an African-American man to change employers without permission. White bosses would say their "employees" owed them money, then make them work off the debt indefinitely. This system, called debt peonage, worked hand in hand with convict leasing to keep African-Americans enslaved. Interestingly, it wasn't until a white man, arrested for vagrancy, was whipped to death in a Florida lumber camp that the state finally outlawed convict leasing.

Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Douglas Blackmon, Slavery by Another Name calls into question long-held assumptions about when slavery actually ended in this country. It also illustrates how seemingly colorblind laws, such as Florida's 1868 felon voting ban, were used to restrict the freedom of African-Americans.

Since African-Americans at the time were being arrested by the thousands, sent to work camps, and labeled felons for alleged crimes such as bigamy, the felon ban was very effective in keeping them from voting.

"It was used to target and weaken voting rights for blacks," Lance deHaven-Smith, professor of public administration at Florida State University, told New Times last year. "And that is what they're doing with it today."
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15 comments
FQS9000
FQS9000

Only the Democraps who are utterly convinced that felons, especially the Afro kind, reliably vote Democrat, want people who have been convicted of criminal violence, fraud, and theft to use their anti-social wisdom to elect our officials.

This is why I despise Democrats.  They are scum.

Prof. G
Prof. G

Cindy McCain, 2008: "I've always been proud of my country."

Enrique
Enrique

Again,it is how you defined criminality.

Lokal
Lokal

a bit of a stretch.....

do you want criminals to vote for who is lax on law enforcement?  then let them vote 3x!   

RogerClegg
RogerClegg

Nonsense:  If you aren’t willing to follow the law yourself, then you can’t demand a role in making the law for everyone else, which is what you do when you vote.  The right to vote can be restored to felons, but it should be done carefully, on a case-by-case basis after a person has shown that he or she has really turned over a new leaf, not automatically on the day someone walks out of prison.  Read more about this issue on our website here   [ http://www.ceousa.org/voting/v...  ] and our congressional testimony here:  [ http://judiciary.house.gov/hea... ]

Lifelong Dem
Lifelong Dem

So, in your view then, it's one strike and you're out -- loss of citizenship, whether you were a 17-year-old with a pound of pot or a 40-year-old rapist. One and done. Doesn't sound very Christian, but as angry as you sound -- worse than criminal West -- I can't imagine you ever going to a church. So, in your mind, the concept of paying your debt to society does not exist, right? Jack Abramhoff and all the Watergate conspirators should never get to vote again.

I don't know how to predict which way any former felon will vote, regardless of race, but I believe in civic duty and civic responsibility, especially for men who served in the armed forces, as some ex-offenders did. What's worse, letting a few ex-cons vote or letting Karl Rove implement a plan to destroy the presidential ballots of servicemen and women who were registered in predominantly black precincts? 

I'm sure all the guys buried in Arlington National Cemetery who were Democrats would be proud to call you an American instead of scum. You aren't good enough to be scum, Mr. White Trash.

Eric Barton
Eric Barton

 The documentary's title is definitely a stretch. Just the same, it's great that they're drawing attention to a law that many people see as a way to keep many black voters from the polls.

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