Wednesday, October 18, 2017

National Equal Rights League Federal Petitions Committee

The Honorable
The Attorney General of the United States
Washington, D.C., 


The flooded sections of the Mississippi Valley in which Refugee Camps were established, have brought to light among many other deplorable things the existence of peonage. I have before me many newspaper clippings setting forth this state of affairs. While I feel confident that the matter has already been brought to the attention of your Department, the situation as revealed in these press reports is so grave that the National Equal Rights League is moved to make sure of the fact.

Mr. Walter White and intelligent and dependable representative of the the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, some situation in the flooded areas, and that report shows the existence of a condition which can be classified under no other criminal violation of the law except that of Peonage. Herewith you will please find a copy of Mr. White's reports. 

I have many other press articles on the situation, but desiring to put the Department of Justice is possession of facts which can easily be verified, I cite the White report alone.

The Peonage exists is other parts of the South has recently been revealed in the trial of Dr. King before one of the Georgia courts. He was acquitted but enough evidence was produced by Federal agents to have justified another verdict--according to press reports.

As the Chairman of the Federal Petitions Committee, National Equal Rights League, I most respectfully submit the request that a comprehensive investigation of industrial conditions in every Southern State be instituted by your Department to the end that this infamous relic of a by-gone age be lifted from the bodies and souls of a people whose ancestors were held in slavery from 1619 to 1863. 

Respectfully yours,

Tho H,R. Clarke

Mississippi Executive Department, Governor Earl Brewer

I have spent countless of hours conducting peonage research at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.,  This is one of the letters I found in the peonage files was from Mississipi Governor Earl Brewer dates April 8th, 1915. 

April 8th, 1915

Hon. C.E. Lee,

U.S. District Attorney,  Jackson, Mississippi

Dear Mr. Lee:

I am handing you a letter from a darkey, which is rather difficult to read, but which refers to the forced detention of a family on the plantation of Mr. Sell Jones, at or near Sharkey, Miss. I will state that within the past month at least five negroes have been to me with pitiful tales as to the way they have been beaten up and the statement that they had to flee for their lives leaving their families on this place, One of them was caught aft3er having gotten some miles away and carried back there forcibly. It looks as if peonage was practiced on this place to quite an extent and if your department could make an investigation I believe you would unearth a bad condition there. I know it is a difficult matter to get evidence is such cases but that you will do all in the power I am confident.



If You Don't Take Us; They Are Going to Kill Us

Sumner Courthouse in Tallahatchie County Courthouse Photo Credit: Walter C. Black, Sr.   On April 8, 1912, Jerry Weekly was seeking hel...