Wednesday, July 3, 1996

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  • Slavery in the Sudan

    Today on Democracy Now! we’re going to talk about an issue that has little to do with the 1996 elections, but has a great deal to with democracy. The issue is slavery and today we bring you two powerful, unforgettable stories about the persistence of slavery in this century. Later in today’s program Washington Post freelance journalist Len Cooper will join us to talk about how African Americans were forced into slavery long after the Emancipation Proclamation. Cooper searched to uncover the truth behind his grandfather’s stories of growing up in Alabama, where black youth were kidnapped by armed goons and forced to work on plantation to pay off bogus debts. It was called peonage and it’s a chapter of American history that continued with a vengeance beyond the 1930s. But first, we’re going to talk about slavery today in 1996 in the Sudan. Nation of Islam Leader Louis Farrakhan has publicly claimed that slavery no longer exists in the Sudan, the poorest country in the poorest continent in the world. Largely ignored by the mainstream press, the issue has a heated controversy in the black press where abolition groups and member of the Nation have been carrying out a war of words. To get to the truth of this matter, Baltimore Sun reporters Gilbert Lewthwaite and Gregory Caine made an illegal journey to the Sudan to see and experience the chattel slave trade for themselves. The journal of their trip was published in a three part series in the Sun last month.

  • Slavery in the United States

    "GENTLEMEN, as I can not read or write I got a friend to write this. I never went to school in my life. I worked on this man’s farm all my life, I didn’t get a cent for my labor until I run away. I am 35 years old, all we Negroes got to eat was corn bread and bacon and few clothes and forced to live 10-12 in a room. His overseers carried sticks and whips and guns. They whipped children and women and men. They would make men and women strip their clothes down and get on their knees and some time tie them to a place and whip them from 25 to 100 lashes at a time. You dare not ask for money or anything else. The overseers seduced any young girls they wanted and parents could not help them I would send my name but I don’t want to go back to this farm. I did never commit a crime." This letter, from Omaha Nebraska, is dated October 8th, 1923. Washington Post freelance journalist Len Cooper who joins us now found it among many others in the Library of Congress as he dug to find the truth behind stories his grandfather told about how slavery did not end with the Civil War, but persisted in the U.S. into the 20th century. It’s a secret history you won’t find in American textbooks, but remains buried into the memory of African Americans in the South and hidden in the Library of Congress.