Post Civil War Slavery in the South

This past summer I spent some time in Mississippi, tooling along the Natchez Trace through some still fairly remote rural areas. Of course, 150 years ago they were even more “remote,” and it set me to wondering if there were areas in the South where actual slavery did not cease to exist after the end of the Civil War, where the news that the South had lost the contest was suppressed, etc., and African Americans continued to be subjected to pre-Civil War slavery practices. I’m not discounting Jim Crow activities and the societal oppression heaped on African Americans in general that has lasted to the present, but I am wondering if what one might think of as pre-Civil War style plantations continued to exist for a while in remote areas?

Any information on the subject would be appreciated! =D

Sorry I can’t give you any answers here, for this type of historical arcana has always fascinated me.

If it happened, I’d be more inclined to expect it in a state like Texas, that had remote underpopulated areas.

The celebration of [url=""Juneteenth commemorates when the last slaves were freed… two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation.


The celebration of Juneteenth commemorates when the last slaves were freed… two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

But that would be June 1865, right–when the Amendment prohibiting slavery came into effect? Since the Proclamation had stipulated only the slaves in the rebellious area to be free, there must have been many thousands of slaves in the loyalist Border States up to the end of the war.

So I think any vestigial continuation of servitude, if it happened, would have been not in a state like Mississippi that had seceded, but in one of the border states.

The plantation owning class was well aware of the loss of the war and their “peculiar institution”. If there were any holdouts in the boondocks, they were not rich enough to own more than one slave, if that. Remote areas of the South did not support plantation argiculture.

Slavery, in order to be sustained for any length of time, requires more than an isolated master with a gun and a whip. It requires an infrastructure of state support, so that runaway slaves can be returned and slaves can be profitably and securely bought and sold. This infrastructure was thoroughly disrupted by the end of the Civil War. Also, word traveled fast among the slaves–Union soldiers were often surprised at the level of knowledge of war developments and emancipation that they encountered among former slaves at even the remotest settlements. Under those circumstances, no master was able to lord it over his former charges for very long.

Southern state governments, to be sure, did make a postwar attempt to reimpose at least part of the support structure for slavery via the infamous “Black Codes” of 1865-66. These included provisions allowing black children to be apprenticed to their former masters and vagrancy laws allowing unemployed African Americans to be hired out for plantation labor at auction. Congress quickly forbade enforcement of these Codes, however, and eventually sent the Army into every corner of the South to register former slaves to vote in biracial elections. Any lingering vestiges of slavery were dispersed at that time.

The explanation for Juneteenth that I heard was: News traveled slowly in those days, especially to the more distant parts. So that even though the Confederacy fell in April, the slaves in Texas didn’t find out about it until two months later.

Apparently there was slavery in at least one case until the 1960s… not a typo.

Listen to 2003 NPR show

I read this story last year, but this slightly eye-straining post is the only version of it I found quickly still on the web.

I imagine this must’ve been frighteningly common as you went back in time.

Crandolph—Didn’t we debunk that story here on the boards, a year or two ago? It seems familiar…

After the Civil War, slavery officially ended. Now what? You had large numbers of landless slaves, who had no place to go…what happened to them? They were absorbed into a NEW form of slavery…sharecropping! You were allowed to rent a cabin from a landowner, in return, you farmed the land for him. At harvest time, your crop was sold…and the bulk of it went to the landowner. Of course, he owned the local general store (who would advance you stuff like coffee, salt, sugar, thread, etc…all at a hefty markup (and an ungodly interest rate). Effectively, you were in debt for your whole life-you owned nothing and owed everything. This went on from 1865 till the 1950’s-when the South began to industrialize. If a factory moved in, you had the chance to break out of this cycle, because factory jobs paid CASH wages. of course you could migrate to the North (the “Great Migration”). But, in manyy resopects, what came after slavery was pretty bad!

Sharecropping was indeed an unpleasant existence, but it was a whole lot better than chattel slavery. At least sharecroppers couldn’t have their children sold away from them.

The book Lay This Body Down, written by a former Doper, details the story of the murder of 11 plantation “slaves” very close to where I live now. The plantation owner would bail out blacks from jail, and have them come work for him to “pay off the loan”. He kept them locked up at night, didn’t ever let them go after working off that amount of money, and after the Feds came looking about on a casual investigation of “peonage”, which was basically forced labor without sufficient recompense, he methodically killed those who had either spoken to the law, or who witness the killings of the other men. (He actually only killed one or two himself, he ordered other “slaves” to do the others, under threat of death themselves.)

The 13th Amendment didn’t go into effect unitl December of 1865. The last slaves to be freed didn’t live in the South but in the border states that stayed in in the Union!

Correct; Kentucky and Delaware were the last states in which it was legal to own a slave. The Emancipation Proclamation didn’t apply to the four slave states which remained in the Union (KY, MO, MD, DE) and exempted Tennessee and portions of Louisiana and Virginia. Most, but not all, of the exempted part of Virginia became West Virginia later in 1863. However, Missouri, Maryland, Tennessee, Louisiana, Virginia, and West Virginia all abolished slavery by state action prior to the end of the war. Kentucky and Delaware didn’t, and emancipation in those states had to await the ratification of the 13th Amendment in December 1865.

I know this isn’t exactly what you’re talking about, but there have been people prosecuted for involuntary servitude (essentially slavery) in the south in the modern era. Usually it is large commercial farms that grow one crop (tomatoes, corn, etc.) and for harvesting use migrant farmers who are kept from leaving by force. There have also been cases of homeless people and day laborers being kidnapped to the farms where, as you might expect, living conditions are Third-World, they must rely completely on the owner of the land for sustenance and legal recourse is unattainable either through corruption or physical restraint. There have been several cases of this reported (and, more importantly, aTV movie :wink: ) and when the cases go to court the landowners have been prosecuted in federal courts for violating the 13th amendment. (This isn’t a uniquely southern problem, btw.)

There are conflicting explanations for why slavery persisted in Texas for a couple months after the fall of the Confederacy, why slaves didn’t get the word until June 19.
Anyway, the site theorizes that at first there weren’t anough Federal troops on the ground in Texas to enforce Emancipation. It was the arrival of Federal troops in Galveston on June 19, 1865 to publicly read a proclamation that the slaves were free that is commemorated by the Juneteenth celebration. I guess it’s mainly that Texas was more remote, and prior to June 1865 there was more pressing business farther East mopping up the remnants of the Rebs, or something like that.

I wouldn’t know, wasn’t here a year or two ago. I’d say in any event that the current conditions of certain illegal immigrants in the US (owing money to the people who snuck them in) certainly sound like slavery. The original story doesn’t sound implausible to me, but I’m open to hearing anything anyone has to say about it.