According to the National Registry, Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation – which had become official January 1, 1863.
Though the official end of slavery was declared on June 19th, it would be many years until Americans were willing to give up their free labor. This is in spite of the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution which declared that slavery shall no longer exist in the United States.
Despite the 13th Amendment vestiges of racial discrimination and inequality would continue to exist in America well into the 20th century. What’s more, thanks to the language included in the amendment coupled with the subsequent criminalization of normal behaviors over the next century, the 13th Amendment would eventually be used to expand the potential for slavery to all United States citizens.
The 13th amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified on December 6, 1865, provides that:
“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
Pay attention to the bold text above and now think about all the things that are considered “crimes” in the land of the free. This is not some covert conspiracy theory either. The Louisiana State Penitentiary of Angola operates exactly like a slave plantation did 150 years ago. In fact, the slave plantation which occupied the land previously, was converted into the prison. As a report from the Atlantic titled ‘American Slavery, Reinvented’ points out:
Angola’s farm operations and other similar prison industries have ancestral roots in the black chattel slavery of the South. Specifically, the proliferation of prison labor camps grew during the Reconstruction era following the Civil War, a time when southern states established large prisons throughout the region that they quickly filled, primarily with black men. Many of these prisons had very recently been slave plantations, Angola and Mississippi State Penitentiary (known as Parchman Farm) among them. Other prisons began convict-leasing programs, where, for a leasing fee, the state would lease out the labor of incarcerated workers as hired work crews. Convict leasing was cheaper than slavery, since farm owners and companies did not have to worry at all about the health of their workers.
This prison labor has since morphed into a slavery-for-all type scenario, which is why the ostensible land of the free has more prisoners per population than any country in the world. In fact, about 1 in every 110 U.S. adults is currently incarcerated and 1 in every 38 U.S. adults is under some form of correctional supervision. The prison industry is booming and so are the profits from forced labor.
Thanks to the war on drugs and the criminalization of damn near everything in this country, the US now has 2.3 million people locked behind bars, with many of them forced into labor. In fact, as Diego Arene-Morley, president of Brown University Students for Sensible Drug Policy stated in 2014, “There are more African American men in prison, jail, on probation or parole than were enslaved in 1850.”
At any given time, a little less than half of the entire US prison population is behind bars and forced into slavery for crimes which have no victim. In fact, the criminalization of American life has become so profitable, that it’s spawned an entire prison industry dedicated to enslaving Americans.
Though the term Private Prison is a farce from the get-go, it is these corporations that continue to lobby the government to make more things illegal, thereby increasing their prison and de facto slavery populations.
A truly Private prison would not be solely funded by taxpayer dollars. These Private prisons are nothing more than a fascist mixture of state and corporate, completely dependent upon the extortion factor of the state, i.e., taxation, as a means of their corporate sustenance.
A truly Private prison would have a negative incentive to boost its population for the simple fact that it is particularly expensive to house inmates. On the contrary, these fascist, or more aptly, corporatist prisons contractually require occupancy rates of 95%-100%.
The requirement for a 95% occupancy rate creates a demand for criminals. Think about that for a second; a need or demand for people to commit crimes is created by this corporatist arrangement. The implications associated with demanding people commit crimes are horrifying.
People are rioting in the streets right now because cops are the ones who the private prisons depend upon to maintain these high occupancy rates.
Creating a completely immoral demand for “criminals” leads to the situations like George Floyd’s or others whose lives are ruined or ended as cops attempt to keep these occupancy rates high.
People, who are otherwise entirely innocent are labeled as criminals for their personal choices and thrown in cages. We are now witnessing a vicious cycle between law enforcement — who must create and arrest criminals — and the corporatist prison system that constantly demands more prisoners. And people are clearly growing tired of it!
Sadly, many people dismiss the fact that there are nearly a million people in prison for victimless crimes saying things like, “well they shouldn’t have broken the law.” Ironically enough, the people who say these things simply don’t even realize they are likely breaking the law too.
Former NSA official William Binney sums this myth up quite accurately, “The problem is, if they think they’re not doing anything that’s wrong, they don’t get to define that. The central government does.”
Attorney Harvey Silverglate argues that the average American commits three felonies a day without even knowing it. Most of these crimes have no victim either — like possessing marijuana, driving a car with dark windows, or a burned out license plate light.
While prison labor, aka forced slavery is one facet of slavery in the land of the free, there is another, far more widely accepted one.
In quite the same fashion as the people of 18th and 19th centuries, most Americans today, do not know they are slaves. Of course, this notion sounds insane on the surface. However, try to keep 100% of the product of your labor and see if you do not get punished by the state, thrown in prison and forced into labor. Of course, the masters of today don’t use whips and chains to keep us oppressed; they use the law and the money.
In her years as an activist, Harriet Tubman risked her life to rescue around 70 people. These 70 people all had the same power to flee their captors as Harriet Tubman did. However, they needed her to incite the wildfire of liberty inside them before they realized they had the ability to resist and escape.
While she only freed 70 people, her actions led to the eventual abolition of slavery. Because of her work, Harriet crossed paths with Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglas, who pushed together to rid their land of the vile acceptance of slavery.
In the meantime, however, those who refused to go along with the freeing of the slaves, plotted in the background and as the world gradually became freer, they waited for their time to strike.
The wars of American history were not fought with sticks and stones — they require weapons. All wars cost money, and all governments borrow that money to fund them. The banks love this tendency of governments to wage war as it enriches them for decades to come.
Every few decades, the greedy politicians, working from buildings built by slaves, would propose plans to tax the income of the citizens. As their ‘free’ labor diminished and debts on the costs of war increased, their attempts become more overt and more frequent.
In July 1861, the Congress passed a 3% tax on all net income above $600 a year, but no one paid it. Then, in 1864, for the first time, Americans had to swear to the veracity of their taxes, and government assessors could challenge that credibility — the seeds of what would eventually become the IRS were spawning their wicked roots.
After the war had ended in 1865, income tax was increased to pay the government’s gigantic war debt to the bankers, but the people resisted. As the people resisted, the penalties for non-payment grew.
In 1895, President Grover Cleveland opposed the income tax, but let the law pass without his signature, with faith that the Supreme Court would finally strike it down as unconstitutional — and they did, in a 5-4 ruling, noting that the income tax’s provisions amounted to a direct tax, which was prohibited by the U.S. Constitution.
Article I, Section 8 and 9 declares that direct taxes must be apportioned amongst the states according to the census.
But the bankers needed their debt payments on all the funds they lent to both sides during the civil war, and they weren’t about to let a little piece of paper like the Constitution get in their way.
In 1910, Richard E. Byrd, speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates, predicted the leviathan that was on the horizon, “a hand from Washington will be stretched out and placed upon every man’s business. . . . Heavy fines imposed by distant and unfamiliar tribunals will constantly menace the taxpayer. An army of Federal officials, spies and detectives will descend upon the state. . . .”
Sounds like the IRS of today, doesn’t it? The sole duty of the IRS is to make sure Americans pay “their fair share.” But what is fair? If they took 100% of our income, this would be de facto slavery, right? So then, at what percentage does the theft of our labor not become slavery?
Unfortunately, all the warnings throughout the years fell on deaf ears.
As Adam Young writes for the Mises Institute, the income tax returned as the product of an unholy combine between statist intellectuals with visions of state-sponsored utopias, envious demagogues and the desire by established, wealthy interests to prevent any competition to their place and to offload business costs to an expanding regulatory welfare state.
At first, the revenue raised by the new income tax was disappointing: only $28 million in 1914. But then it accelerated. $41 million the next year, when the top rate was 7%, and nearly $68 million in 1916, when it was raised to 15%. Eventually, more than $1 billion would be pulled in by the income tax during the whole of World War I, when the rates were raised to 67% in 1917 and 77% in 1918, and make the hated tax the permanent feature it has become today.
Since 1913, all of this taxation and new modern slavery has been facilitated, largely by the group responsible for printing America’s currency — the infamous privately owned, Federal Reserve Bank.
So, while it is certainly heartening to celebrate the “official” end to slavery in the U.S. this Juneteenth, we would be irresponsible not to continue fighting for freedom by ending the drug war and prosecution of victimless crimes as well as the income tax.