Dr. Antoinette Harrell has spent the last fifteen years unearthing peonage records and interviewing African-Americans who were held in involuntary servitude in sixteen states.
Wednesday, October 18, 2017
National Equal Rights League Federal Petitions Committee
The Honorable The Attorney General of the United States Washington, D.C., Sir:
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.