Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Florida history: Florida's disgrace, the convict lease system

Miami Metropolis, March 28, 1910

(Use search box at right to find more Florida history)

By Jane Feehan

 The convict lease system emerged in the South after slavery was abolished in 1865. Some lawmen helped farmers cope with the workforce shortage by arresting African Americans, and later white men, on trumped up charges and renting them out for labor.  Sentiment raged for decades against leasing convicts but Florida and Alabama were the last two states to pass laws against the system in 1923.

Miami Metropolis, Nov, 28, 1923
The case of Martin Tabert, a young North Dakota resident arrested for hopping a train near Leon County  brought an end to this dark chapter in Florida’s history. Sentenced to labor, he was rented out to a lumber company operating in the Panhandle. Soon after, Tabert was flogged when he became too ill to work. Within hours of the beating, he died.  His parents brought suit against the lumber company more than a year later after they were informed of the circumstances of their son’s death. They were awarded $20,000 in a court battle that grabbed national headlines. Subsequent to the trial, Florida Governor Cary Hardee introduced legislation that outlawed flogging and abolished the convict lease system in 1923.
Estabrook, Barry. Tomatoland. Kansas City: Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2011
Miami Metropolis, March 28, 1910, p. 9
Miami Metropolis, July 12, 1911, p. 4

Tags: Florida history, labor history, African-American history, convict lease, flogging, film research

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