In spite of the fact that the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 altered the status of more than 3.5 million enslaved black people in the South from slave to free, it did not emancipate some hundreds of thousands of people who remained slaves until the 1960s.
As historian and genealogist Antoinette Harrell discovered, slaves in Southern states such as Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Florida were still being held in slavery more than a century after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed.
The memories of numerous twentieth-century slaves who came forward in New Orleans after hearing that she was utilizing genealogy to connect the dots of a lost past were disclosed to her on her 1994 journey of historical truth, according to Justin Fornal.
Approximately 20 enslaved black people who had worked as slaves on the Waterford Plantation in St. Charles Parish, Louisiana, until the 1960s were introduced to her by a woman, according to her.
It was determined that they had become indebted to the plantation’s owner and were not permitted to leave the site… When they went to settle up with the landowner at the conclusion of the harvest, they were invariably told that they didn’t make it into the black and that they should try again the following year. “With each passing year, the workers’ debt grew more and more burdensome,” she explained.
Many of them were frightened to tell their stories for fear of being taken back to the plantation, which is not even in operation at the time. ”People are frightened to tell their tales because, in the South, so many of the same white families that controlled these plantations are still in charge of local government and large corporations. ” They still have the upper hand.
“As a result, the poor and marginalized have nowhere to express their dissatisfaction with these injustices without fear of penalties. For the majority of people, it simply isn’t worth the risk. Unfortunately, the vast majority of such incidents go unreported,” she told Justin Fornal in an interview that was published on the art and entertainment website Vice.
Mae Louise Walls Miller was one of the slaves that lived in the twentieth century, and she didn’t gain her freedom until 1963. Her father, Cain Wall, lost his farm by signing a contract he couldn’t understand, which enslaved his entire family and forced them to work as slaves.
In addition, they were subjected to beatings and rape by the landowners, who would not allow them to leave. When Mae and her mother went to the main house to work, they were frequently raped at the same time by white males who approached them from behind.
According to Harrell’s narration, Mae and her family were unaware of what was going on beyond the farm because they did not have access to television. Her father attempted to flee the property but was apprehended by other landowners, who returned him to the farm, where he was savagely beaten in front of his children and grandchildren.
When Harrell first met Mae, her father was still living and well into his ninetieth century, with a strong recall. When Mae was 14 years old, he beat her for attempting to abandon the farm, an action that resulted in the beating of the entire family as a result.
Mae, covered in blood, continued to flee into the woods in the dusk and hide in the bushes, where she was discovered by a white family, who took her in and later saved the rest of her family.
According to Harrell, the family suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of their experiences. Mae passed away in 2014.
”I told you my story to show you that I am not afraid in my heart. What is it that a living person can do to me? It was Mae who informed Harrell, “There is nothing that can be done to me that hasn’t already been done,” during a visit to the property where she and her family were being held captive.
According to Antoinette Harrell, “there are still African families that are wedded to Southern farms in the most antebellum meaning of the word.” Without further investigation and exposure of how slavery was discreetly maintained, it is possible that it will occur again.”