Stop Using Inmates As Slaves


By Annie McGrew and Angela Hanks for Talk Poverty – Last week, a Louisiana sheriff gave a press conference railing against a new prisoner release program because it cost him free labor from “some good [inmates] that we use every day to wash cars, to change oil in the cars, to cook in the kitchen.” Two days later, news broke that up to 40 percent of the firefighters battling California’s outbreak of forest fires are prison inmates working for $2 an hour. Practices like these are disturbingly common: Military gear, ground meat, Starbucks holiday products, and McDonald’s uniforms have all been made (or are still made) with low-wage prison labor. Inmates are exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act, which requires that workers are paid at least the federal minimum wage. That makes it completely legal for states to exploit inmates for free or cheap labor. More than half of the 1.5 million people in state and federal prisons work while incarcerated, and the vast majority only make a few cents per hour. Most inmates work in their own prison facilities, in jobs such as maintenance or food service. These jobs pay an average of just 86 cents an hour, and are primarily designed to keep the prison running at a low cost. Others may be employed in so-called “correctional industries,” where inmates work for the Department of Corrections to produce goods that are sold to government entities and nonprofit organizations.

Benjamin Lay A Dwarf Who Challenged The Big Issues

Benjamin Lay (American School, 18th century)

By Natasha Frost for Atlas Obscura. During his life and after his death, many people, Rediker says, thought of Benjamin Lay as deranged. “[Historians] thought he was not sane, and this was a very effective way of putting him at the margins.” Ableism, too, seems to have factored in this general unwillingness to take him seriously. But some of those in the abolitionist movement did feel the need to celebrate this “Quaker comet,” as he came to be known. Benjamin Rush, one of his earliest biographers, said Lay was known to virtually everyone in Pennsylvania; his curious portrait was said to hang in many Philadelphia homes. This early abolitionist burned bright, and, despite his exclusion from many abolitionist narratives, refuses to be extinguished from history.

Oldest Columbus Memorial Vandalized In Protest Against White Supremacy


By Staff for Popular Resistance. In the dark of night on August 21, 2017, protesters attacked a memorial commemorating Christopher Columbus. The memorial is the oldest monument to Columbus in North America and is one of three in Baltimore. The video shows an individual who identifies himself as “Ty” explaining why he is destroying the plaque commemorating Columbus. He says: “Christopher Columbus symbolizes the initial invasion of European capitalism into the Western Hemisphere. Columbus initiated a centuries-old wave of terrorism, murder, genocide, rape, slavery, ecological degradation and capitalist exploitation of labor in the Americas. That Columbian wave of destruction continues on the backs of Indigenous, African-American and brown people. “Racist monuments to slave owners and murderers have always bothered me. Baltimore’s poverty is concentrated in African-American households, and these statues are just an extra slap in the face. They were built in the 20th century in response to a movement for African Americans’ human dignity. What kind of a culture goes to such lengths to build such hate-filled monuments? What kind of a culture clings to those monuments in 2017?” The protest deepens the actions against the culture that glorifies white supremacy and the racism that goes along with it.

Millions For Prisoners’ Human Rights March In DC

Prisoners walking handcuffed at prison

By Kyle Fraser for Black Agenda Report. Prisoner rights advocates will converge for what aims to be the largest abolitionist demonstration in U.S. history, Saturday, August 9, in Washington D.C. The Millions for Prisoners’ Human Rights March is centered around the demand that the exceptions clause, which allows for slavery to continue in United States prisons, be removed from the Constitution’s 13th Amendment. With over 1,100 lives claimed last year by today’s slave-catchers in law enforcement, a Black imprisoned population that comprises 1/9 of the prisoners on earth and a manufactured “war on drugs” that rages on despite untold evidence of its foul origins, the fact of prison slavery should not exceed the imagination’s limits — and yet mass mobilization for its abolition has thus far not reflected the brutally severe implications of its ongoing practice. On August 19th, IAmWeUbuntu and the other march organizers both in and outside the walls seek to change that, as they bring family members, friends and supporters of the incarcerated from across the country together under the banner of abolitionism. The growing modern-day abolitionist movement calls on all people of conscience to join in on the mass denunciation of this country’s original sin in D.C.’s Lafayette Park this Saturday, August 19th, to finally achieve the goal of ending slavery once and for all and without exception.

Baltimore Removes Confederate Monuments In Face Of Protests

Stonewall Jackson being removed

By Kevin Zeese for Popular Resistance. Baltimore, MD – In the dark of the night, Baltimore City government removed four Confederate monuments. The removal began at 11:30 pm on August 15 and was completed at 5:30 am. Protests had been held against the monuments and more protests were being planned. Two days ago activists created a statue to replace General Robert E. Lee – Madre Luz (Mother Light), a pregnant woman standing with her fist in the air. In addition, another statue, the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument, had red paint sprayed all over it. We are currently out of town, but last night we organized so that a protest planned for today would be live streamed on Popular Resistance. Activists were going to build on the success in Durham, NC and pull down a Confederate monument. We awoke this morning to find the job had been done last night. Protests had been held against the monuments and more were being planned. Two days ago activists created a statute to replace General Robert E. Lee – Madre Luz (Mother Light), a pregnant women standing with her fist in the air. In addition, another statute, the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument, had red paint sprayed all over it.We are out of town, but last night we organized to have a protest planned for today to be live streamed as activists were going to build on the success in Durham, NC and pull down a Confederate monument. When we started working at 6 AM this morning we awoke to find the job had been done last night.

’13th’ And The Culture Of Surplus Punishment


By Victor Wallis for the San Francisco Bay View. From the late 1800s until now, unpaid prison labor has been the pattern, practice, and collective mindset of various states across America. Southern states have taken particular advantage of the wording of the 13th Amendment, and in turn, current resistance movements have risen out of prison-dense states like Texas and Alabama, where units are often compared to plantations. The degrading treatment of people in prison, however, is a nationwide issue, as shown in the widespread imposition of solitary confinement, assaults by guards, and medical neglect. On Saturday, August 19th, prison activists and everyone who wants to join in will march in Washington DC, San Jose CA, and other cities around the country.

Descendants Of Freed Slaves Fight For Their Land In The Amazon


By Nick Barrickman and Alex González for WSWS – Local residents inform the International Amazon Workers Voice that Amazon is attempting to seize 50 acres of land owned by elderly working class descendants of slaves in Northern Virginia, pave over the residents’ homes, and build power lines. The soil that Amazon plans to cover with asphalt contains the sweat of slaves and the blood of Civil War soldiers. The residents’ ancestors, who worked the land as slaves, took possession of these plots after being freed by the Emancipation Proclamation and liberated by the Union Army during the American Civil War. American capitalism has come full-circle: the government is stealing land from the descendants of slaves and giving it to one of the world’s most powerful corporations. A representative of a community group called the Alliance to Save Carver Road (ASCR) told the IAWV, “The homeowners have been there for generations. Many of the properties were purchased by freed slaves. After emancipation, the slaves that worked that area were allowed to purchase property. A number of the property owners are descendants of those freed slaves.” Last month, Amazon subsidiary VAData, working in collusion with local government agencies and utility company Dominion Virginia Power, announced plans to construct 230,000 volt power lines running through the semi-rural community of Carver Road just outside of Gainesville, in order to power nearby internet data centers.

Elon Musk Subsidiary Using Prison Labor

By Aura Bogado for Grist – SolarCity is probably the best-known name in the U.S. for residential solar installations — it’s top in the market. The company was founded by Elon Musk, along with two of his cousins, and has set the popular standard for cleantech. But SolarCity has one thing it doesn’t want to be known for: For a huge solar-panel project launched in 2012 at two university campuses in Oregon, it relied on a vendor that used cheap prison labor to produce the panels, under a “buy American/buy local” banner. The story is a good reminder that we need to watch the renewables industry closely to make sure it doesn’t throw human rights and labor ethics out the window in its push toward a clean energy economy. Here’s how the SolarCity prison saga came about. Oregon State University and the Oregon Institute of Technology teamed up a few years ago to install solar panels on their campuses, in what would become one of the largest solar installations in the state. Since the vendor, ultimately SolarCity, would own and maintain the panels, the two schools wouldn’t need to spend a penny on the project. For SolarCity, the contract also looked like a win. Under a lucrative state program, the Oregon Department of Energy doled out $11.8 million in tax credits for the $27 million project. (SolarCity would not confirm the amount of the tax breaks despite repeated requests.)

Would Slavery Have Ended Sooner If British Had Defeated Colonists’ Bid For Independence?


By Keith Brooks for Black Agenda Report – Historians have long grappled with the contradiction of a revolution under the banner of “all men are created equal” being largely led by slave owners. Once free of England, the U.S. grew over the next 89 years to be the largest slave-owning republic in history. But the July 4th 1776 Declaration of Independence (DI) was in itself a revolutionary document. Never before in history had people asserted the right of revolution — not just to overthrow a specific government that no longer met the needs of the people, but as a general principle for the relationship between the rulers and the ruled: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.–That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government…”

The Black American Holiday Everyone Should Celebrate


By Jamelle Bouie for Slate. Officially, the Emancipation Proclamation freed “all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State” where the residents were “in rebellion against the United States.” In practice, it applied only to those slaves who lived near Union lines, where they could make an easy escape or take advantage of the Northern advance. News of emancipation would move slowly, which would be compounded by the mass migration of slave owners, who fled their holdings in Louisiana and Mississippi—slaves in tow—following the Union victories at New Orleans in 1862 and Vicksburg in the spring and summer of 1863. Tens of thousands of slaves arrived in Texas, joining the hundreds of thousands in the interior of the state, where they were isolated from most fighting and any news of the war.

The Invisible Threads Of Gender, Race, And Slavery

Enslaved African Americans hoe and plow the earth and cut piles of sweet potatoes on a South Carolina plantation, circa 1862-3 (Image courtesy of Library of Congress).

By Sasha Turner for Black Perspectives – On March 24, 2017 the United Nations commemorated its ten-year anniversary for the International Day of Remembrance honoring the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. This year, the theme chosen for the commemoration is “Remember Slavery: Recognizing the Legacy and Contributions of People of African Descent.” In the keynote address, delivered by Lonnie Bunch, the founding director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture urgently called on us to be vigilant in recognizing the ways in which the legacy of slavery continues today. Cloaking the history of slavery in silence, Bunch argues, permits the violence of slavery to live on, dishonoring the struggles, losses, and strength experienced by our ancestors. It is fitting that the UN-designated International Day of Remembrance falls on March 25, coinciding with Women’s History Month. Indeed, any attempt to remember the enslavement of African peoples is incomplete without considering women’s experiences in slavery and the transatlantic slave trade.

Expanding The Slaveocracy

Union soldiers during the US civil war. Library of Congress

By Matt Karp & Eric Foner for Jacobin Magazine – One of the cottage industries in the historical profession right now is studying the relationship between capitalism and American slavery. This is an old discussion; it goes way, way back. Karl Marx said things about it. That’s not exactly the subject of your book, but I’m wondering how you think your study, which is a study of slaveowners and their vision of America as a great power in the world, fits into the ongoing debates about slavery and capitalism nowadays? The book joins a whole series of works that explore the slave South in a transnational sense. That’s another fashionable aspect: reemphasizing the dynamism and brutality of antebellum slavery.

Sanctuary Echoes Of Cities Opposing The Fugitive Slave Act

Nicolas Vigier/ Flickr

By Tim Butterworth for Other Words – A century and a half before Trump’s refugee ban, cities like Boston rebelled against the Fugitive Slave Act. Shortly after Donald Trump’s order to ban thousands of documented, vetted immigrants and refugees from our shores, crowds rushed to airports all over the country to protect those who’d just arrived. Soon after, crowds in Phoenix and other cities surrounded federal immigration enforcement vans during raids on immigrants, in an attempt to block deportations. In Boston, which was home to many of these actions, I was reminded of another time citizens rejected an odious federal law to protect refugees seeking shelter here. On May 24th, 1854, Anthony Burns — a 19-year-old man who’d escaped slavery in Virginia — was captured in the city and held under armed guard by federal marshals.

Even Before Sanctuary Cities, Here’s How Black Americans Protected Fugitive Slaves

Fugitive Slaves Recaptured: 1850.  Washington Area Spark, CC BY-NC

By Barbara Krauthamer for The Conversation – While the Constitution mainly called for the return of runaway slaves, the 1850 law vastly expanded the authority of federal law enforcement officials. The law criminalized helping or harboring a runaway slave and denied the accused person the right to offer testimony in her or his own defense. The 1850 law confirmed what generations of enslaved African-Americans knew too well: They existed as property, not persons, in the eyes of the law. Enslaved women and men could not enter legal marriages because slaveholders claimed their bodies, time, movement and even reproductive capacity.

Christmas And Resistance To Slavery In The Americas

Burning of the Roehampton Estate during the Baptist War, a slave revolt initiated in Jamaica on Christmas Day, 1831

By Yesenia Barragan for African American Intellectual History Society. It was a humid Christmas day in 1820 when twenty-five-year-old Santiago Martínez presented himself before the army commander stationed in the frontier Colombian town of Quibdó for service in the republican army. Just the year prior, in 1819, the new republic of Gran Colombia, a nation encompassing the present-day countries of Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, and Ecuador, was created in the final throes of the Wars of Independence against Spain. Four feet and five inches tall, with a notable, long scar on his right cheek up to his eyebrow, Martínez sought to serve in the local army, perhaps heeding Independence leader Simón Bolívar’s call for voluntary conscription in the young Andean nation. According to army records, Martínez declared that he was a “liberto,” a free black or formerly enslaved person, and that he was a “worker” [labrador] by profession.