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Public Corruption in Chester County, PA
I believe an unlikely mix of alleged drug trafficking related politicos and alleged white nationalist related politicos united to elect the infamous “Bloc of Four” in the abysmal voter turnout election of 2005. During their four year term the drug business was good again and white nationalists used Coatesville as an example on white supremacist websites like “Stormfront”. Strong community organization and support from law enforcement, in particular Chester County District Attorney Joseph W. Carroll has begun to turn our community around. The Chester County drug trafficking that I believe centers on Coatesville continues and I believe we still have public officials in place that profit from the drug sales. But the people here are amazing and continue to work against the odds to make Coatesville a good place to live.
Sunday, September 7, 2008
“Slavery by Another Name, The Re-enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II.”
My father had a pained look on his face when he talked about the working conditions at Lukens Steel Company before the Unions came. But he was paid for his work. Listen up United Steel Workers Union members; the revelations of this work give a whole new dimension to US Steel Company. Allegedly US Steel in Birmingham Alabama was not significantly different from the slave labor “corporations” of Nazi Germany. US Steel allegedly used thousands of Black male slaves laboring in hellish conditions for five decades; finally ending its alleged slavery at the beginning of World War II.
As historians here in Chester County know, the history of Black people in the USA, while documented is hard to dig up. We know a little about the Jim Crow days but we might just be discovering the devastating effect of what could be called the re-introduction of slavery to the USA following the Civil War. Although Congress had freed the slaves the Federal Government did not prosecute slave owners. “State Rights” prevailed until the 1940s. It is very disturbing that slavery in the USA did not end in the 19th Century. It ended in the 20th Century in 1941 when suggestions that slavery in the USA might be used as propaganda by the enemy prompted President Roosevelt to direct the USDoJ to prosecute slave owners.
From Mr.Blackmon's website:
“The Justice Department recently had formed its Civil Rights Section, created primarily to investigate cases related to anti-organized-labor efforts. It began shifting its focus to discrimination and racial abuse -- issues more commonly associated with the term ‘civil rights’ today.”
“Five days after the Japanese attack, on Dec. 12, 1941, Attorney General Francis Biddle issued a directive -- Circular No. 3591 -- to all federal prosecutors acknowledging the history of unwritten federal policy to ignore most reports of involuntary servitude.
Mr. Biddle wrote: ‘In the United States one cannot sell himself as a peon or slave -- the law is fixed and established to protect the weak-minded, the poor, the miserable. ...Any such sale or contract is positively null and void and the procuring and causing of such contract to be made violates [the] statutes.’He ordered all Department of Justice investigators to entirely drop reference to peonage in their written reports. Instead, they were to label every file ‘Involuntary Servitude and Slavery.”
" Based on a vast record of original documents and personal narratives, SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME unearths the lost stories of slaves and their descendants who journeyed into freedom after the Emancipation Proclamation and then back into the shadow of involuntary servitude. It also reveals the stories of those who fought unsuccessfully against the re-emergence of human labor trafficking, the modern companies that profited most from neoslavery, and the system’s final demise in the 1940s, partly due to fears of enemy propaganda about American racial abuse at the beginning of World War II."
An excerpt from the book at:
The Bricks We Stand On
On March 30, 1908, Green Cottenham was arrested by the sheriff of Shelby County, Alabama, and charged with “vagrancy.”1 Cottenham had committed no true crime. Vagrancy, the offense of a person not being able to prove at a given moment that he or she is employed, was a new and flimsy concoction dredged up from legal obscurity at the end of the nineteenth century by the state legislatures of Alabama and other southern states. It was capriciously enforced by local sheriffs and constables, adjudicated by mayors and notaries public, recorded haphazardly or not at all in court records, and, most tellingly in a time of massive unemployment among all southern men, was reserved almost exclusively for black men. Cottenham’s offense was blackness.
After three days behind bars, twenty-two-year-old Cottenham was found guilty in a swift appearance before the county judge and immediately sentenced to a thirty-day term of hard labor. Unable to pay the array of fees assessed on every prisoner—fees to the sheriff, the deputy, the court clerk, the witnesses—Cottenham’s sentence was extended to nearly a year of hard labor.
The next day, Cottenham, the youngest of nine children born to former slaves in an adjoining county, was sold. Under a standing arrangement between the county and a vast subsidiary of the industrial titan of the North—U.S. Steel Corporation—the sheriff turned the young man over to the company for the duration of his sentence. In return, the subsidiary, Tennessee Coal, Iron & Railroad Company, gave the county $12 a month to pay off Cottenham’s fine and fees. What the company’s managers did with Cottenham, and thousands of other black men they purchased from sheriffs across Alabama, was entirely up to them.
A few hours later, the company plunged Cottenham into the darkness of a mine called Slope No. 12—one shaft in a vast subterranean labyrinth on the edge of Birmingham known as the Pratt Mines. There, he was chained inside a long wooden barrack at night and required to spend nearly every waking hour digging and loading coal. His required daily “task” was to remove eight tons of coal from the mine. Cottenham was subject to the whip for failure to dig the requisite amount, at risk of physical torture for disobedience, and vulnerable to the sexual predations of other miners— many of whom already had passed years or decades in their own chthonian confinement. The lightless catacombs of black rock, packed with hundreds of desperate men slick with sweat and coated in pulverized coal, must have exceeded any vision of hell a boy born in the countryside of Alabama—even a child of slaves—could have ever imagined.
Waves of disease ripped through the population. In the month before Cottenham arrived at the prison mine, pneumonia and tuberculosis sickened dozens. Within his first four weeks, six died. Before the year was over, almost sixty men forced into Slope 12 were dead of disease, accidents, or homicide.
Most of the broken bodies, along with hundreds of others before and after, were dumped into shallow graves scattered among the refuse of the mine.
Others were incinerated in nearby ovens used to blast millions of tons of coal brought to the surface into coke—the carbon-rich fuel essential to U.S.
Steel’s production of iron. Forty-five years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation freeing American slaves, Green Cottenham and more than a thousand other black men toiled under the lash at Slope 12.
Imprisoned in what was then the most advanced city of the South, guarded by whipping bosses employed by the most iconic example of the modern corporation emerging in the gilded North, they were slaves in all but name.
Almost a century later, on an overgrown hillside five miles from the bustling downtown of contemporary Birmingham, I found my way to one of the only tangible relics of what Green Cottenham endured. The ground was all but completely obscured by the dense thicket. But beneath the undergrowth of privet, the faint outlines of hundreds upon hundreds of oval depressions still marked the land. Spread in haphazard rows across the forest floor, these were sunken graves of the dead from nearby prison mines once operated by U.S. Steel.2 Here and there, antediluvian headstones jutted from the foliage. No signs marked the place. No paths led to it.
I was a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, exploring the possibility of a story asking a provocative question: What would be revealed if American corporations were examined through the same sharp lens of historical confrontation as the one then being trained on German corporations that relied on Jewish slave labor during World War II and the Swiss banks that robbed victims of the Holocaust of their fortunes? My guide that day in the summer of 2000 was an industrial archaeologist named Jack Bergstresser. Years earlier, he had stumbled across a simple iron fence surrounding a single collapsed grave during a survey of the area.
Bergstresser was mystified by its presence at the center of what at the beginning of the twentieth century was one of the busiest confluences of industrial activity in the United States. The grave and the twisted wrought iron around it sat near what had been the intersection of two rail lines and a complex of mines, coal processing facilities, and furnaces in which thousands of men operated around the clock to generate millions of tons of coal and iron—all owned and operated by U.S. Steel at the height of its supremacy in American commerce. Bergstresser, who is white, told me he wondered if the dead here were forced laborers. He knew that African Americans had been compelled to work in Alabama mines prior to the Great Depression. His grandfather, once a coal miner himself, had told him stories of a similar burial field near the family home place south of Birmingham.
A year later, the Journal published my long article chronicling the saga of that burial ground. No specific record of the internments survived, but mountains of archival evidence and the oral histories of old and dying African Americans nearby confirmed that most of the cemetery’s inhabitants had been inmates of the labor camp that operated for three decades on the hilltop above the graveyard. Later I would discover atop a nearby rise another burial field, where Green Cottenham almost certainly was buried.
The camp had supplied tens of thousands of men over five decades to a succession of prison mines ultimately purchased by U.S. Steel in 1907. Hundreds of them had not survived. Nearly all were black men arrested and then “leased” by state and county governments to U.S. Steel or the companies it had acquired.3 Here and in scores of other similarly crude graveyards, the final chapter of American slavery had been buried. It was a form of bondage distinctly different from that of the antebellum South in that for most men, and the relatively few women drawn in, this slavery did not last a lifetime and did not automatically extend from one generation to the next. But it was nonetheless slavery—a system in which armies of free men, guilty of no crimes and entitled by law to freedom, were compelled to labor without compensation, were repeatedly bought and sold, and were forced to do the bidding of white masters through the regular application of extraordinary physical coercion.