Slavery in America didn’t end with the Emancipation Proclamation. It lived on—even after the Civil War had ended and the 13th Amendment had been put into place.
The Civil War brought the Confederate States back into the Union, but the people who lived in the South weren’t through fighting. They were determined to keep things exactly as they were during the heyday of slavery.
They made state laws that let them keep black people in essential servitude. As a result, slavery in America lived on for a lot longer than most people realize.
10. Slavery Was Used As A Legal Punishment
The 13th Amendment didn’t make all forms of slavery illegal. It kept one exception. Slavery, it ruled, was still permitted “as a punishment for crime.”
All the Southern states had to do was find a reason to arrest their former slaves, and they could legally throw them right back on the plantation. So, Southern politicians set up a series of laws called the “Black Codes” that let them arrest black people for almost anything.
In Mississippi, a black person could be arrested for anything from using obscene language to selling cotton after sunset. If he was as much as caught using a bad word, he could be charged, leased out as a slave laborer, and put to work in chain gangs and work camps on farms, mines, and quarries.
It happened a lot. By 1898, 73 percent of Alabama’s revenue came from leasing out convicts as slaves.
The enslaved convicts were treated terribly. They were beaten so brutally and viciously that, in one year, one of every four enslaved convicts died while working. Work camps kept secret, unmarked graves where they would bury men they’d beaten to death to hide the evidence. By the end, those graves held the mutilated bodies of at least 9,000 men.