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A Georgia Negro Peon
The New Slavery in the South--An Autobiography
From The Independent, 56 (Feb. 25, 1904): 409-414. New York: Published for the proprietors, 1904.


Nothing is known about the source for "The New Slavery in the South—An Autobiography." It was published in The Independent, a New York newspaper, in 1904, and an editorial note at the beginning of the article assures the reader that it is a true story.

The narrator reports that he was born a slave in Elberton, Georgia sometime during the Civil War. Although emancipated while he was quite young, he remained a worker on the plantation where he had been born. First he worked under the man who had owned him and found the situation acceptable. When he was an adult, however, his employer died, and his son began managing the farm. This son soon contracted with the state to employ convicts on the farm. The narrator reports that the new environment of armed guards and chained convicts frightened him and his fellow free laborers, but they were constrained to remain on the plantation until they fulfilled their-ten-year contract. After the contract period expired, the owner put most of the men in shackles and required them to work off the debts he alleged they had incurred. In this "peon camp," as the narrator calls it, the men were required to work from sunrise to sunset with little food or rest. When the narrator was released three years later, he was taken to the South Carolina border and told to leave. He makes no mention of what happened to him after he left Georgia or how he came to have his story published in The Independent.

Harris Henderson

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