Across the South, a new variety of slavery emerged after the Civil War. Laws were rewritten to criminalize African-American life. The judicial system was retooled to provide cheap forced labor to mines, farms, timber camps, turpentine makers, railroad builders and entrepreneurs large and small. Tens of thousands of men, the vast majority of them black, found themselves pulled back into slavery.
In Alabama and Georgia, where coal and iron ore mining thrived at the end of the 19th century, forced black laborers acquired from county sheriffs and state officials became a backbone of the industry.
The slave mines and forced labor camps of the South were places of pestilential conditions and unwavering violence. Thousands of men and women died as a result of beatings, torture, disease, and malnourishment.
At the dawn of the 20th century, American mythology said a New South was emerging from the destruction of the Civil War, industrial and modern. But the South remained overwhelmingly dependent on its ability to coerce African-Americans to work under slave conditions for white owned farms and businesses.
The architects of neoslavery were often the men who had most aggressively promoted the expansion of slavery into industrial settings before the Civil War
In the heart of Alabama, at the beginning of the 20th century, John W. Pace stood at the center of a human trafficking system that enslaved hundreds of men and women.