Thursday, January 25, 2024

Child Slave Labor Is Still Around Today

This post is about two things that my readers have asked me to answer. First, I've been asked if I think "reparations" for the ancestors of black slaves would be "the right thing to do." 

Let me answer it this way, there were a lot of things that took place in history that may have been wrong according to how we see the world today. It seems to me that while many people today focus on the bad, people conveniently forget that many of the ills of what took place were remedied over time. From the end of slavery and segregation to the once completely unimaginable reality of our nation electing a Black President, nothing is as it once was. This is evidence that we have moved forward in many positive aspects. 

Americans of all races have learned to be Americans. Sure some refuse to as if carrying dual citizenship with some other place, and still call themselves by nationalities and ancestries that they themselves and their families have not been a part of in more than a century or two. But overall, I believe most people who can trace their ancestry back to some nation in Africa consider themselves Americans today. 

As for "reparations"? Where do we start? Do we give reparations to everyone for some ill that beset their ancestors? Do we give reparations to the Italians and Irish for the racism and hatred that they were exposed to or for living in the squaller conditions that they were forced to endure? How about reparations to the settlers who were brought to America and died trying to fulfill the Homestead requirements? How about those who failed because the deck was stacked against them and all they experienced was ruin and heartache?

Think about it? Where do we start when trying to pay people for what happened to their ancestors who were people a hundred years before most of us were born? How about the Chinese you were paid half as much as what whites and blacks were paid to do the same jobs on the railroads? How about how they were rounded up and killed? How about how Americans turned a blind eye as they were being shipped into America as slave labor, as indentured servants, and into prostitution? How about the fact that they are the only racial group that the United States actually passed a law forbidding their entry into this country? 

And really, how about the Native American tribes that were relocated to Oklahoma, who died along the way? And how about the Native American lands that we took after they took it from someone else? Which group do you want to compensate? Do you want to go with the tribe that one tribe tried to kill off or the tribe that massacred the other? 

And please, don't make the mistake of feeling like all Native Americans are the same. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I was taught by a Cheyenne friend that the tribes in America spoke different languages, had separate customs, and hated each other for centuries no differently than the Germans and French have. Being neighbors for centuries didn't make them friends. Should we the American taxpayer in the 21st Century now start paying tribes that waged war upon each other, or just the ones that we waged war upon? And really, how far do you want to go back? 

Should Americans be responsible for paying reparations to people over incidents that took place before we were ever a nation? Should we pay for what the French, English, Spanish, Russians, and Mexicans did? Some narrow-minded people think all Europeans are the same. Some think we all came to America speaking the same "White Language." What most don't realize is that the Old West was a hodgepodge of people from all sorts of foreign lands, should American taxpayers pay for their conduct?

Of course, there's the issue of the Hawaiians who hate Whites in Hawaii but love the financial benefits that America provides. I'm sure they want reparations even though the Hawaiian Monarchy forbade them from owning land, voting, having a say in how they lived, or having any rights. 

I'm sure there are Hawaiians today who don't even know that the United States didn't even want Hawaii. In fact, I'm pretty sure that there are people in Hawaii who don't know that the United States didn't authorize the coup to take the islands, or that the United States threatened the people who did with war, or that two Presidents passed the issue of annexing Hawaii to others simply because they didn't want to deal with it. President Grover Cleveland was adamant about not allowing Hawaii into the Union. President Cleveland advocated for the restoration of the Queen but the Hawaiian Provisional Government rejected the idea. But then again, I'm sure those facts won't stop some people from still saying that Hawaiians need reparation from the United States.

Everyone alive in America today has never had to toil and live the lives that their ancestors did. No one alive today has experienced any of the grievances that their ancestors did over a hundred years ago. And though I think that providing reparations to people who are alive today is just a con game, if Americans want to give the ancestors of African slaves reparations then we must in all fairness also give the ancestors of European slaves reparations. 

Whether people like it or not, European slavery in the form of "child slavery" was more widespread because it lasted much longer than black slavery did in the United States. In fact, by 1906, it was estimated that almost Two Million white children were still in bondage working in factories, mines, fields, and wherever else cheap slave labor was needed. It is also a fact that White children of European ancestry were rounded up and used in every sort of business imaginable, all creating productive output using only their rudimentary skills far into the early 1940s.

The second thing that I've been asked for is the article below which I first published here in 2017. In the article below I talk about child slavery in the North during the Civil War. Since I've been asked to reprint the article, I hope you find this research interesting.

By the way, before getting into it, I want you to know that I wrote this article in response to a discussion on a thread about slavery in the 1800s, specifically the 1850s and 1860s. It seemed that some very narrow-minded people think the word "slavery" only applies to African people who were brought to the United States.

That sort of narrow-minded way of thinking disregards the fact that we now know that the vast majority of African slaves sold into slavery by their families in Africa were actually shipped to the Caribbean and South America. It also disregards the fact that in 1807, a mere 24 years after the end of America's Revolutionary War, America made the importation of African slaves into the United States illegal. Lastly, and most surprising, that way of thinking also neglects the fact, like it or not, that many other races have been slaves at one time or another.  

My blog post that seemed to upset a lot of people was about child slave labor in the North during the Civil War. Because of discussions where people are trying to turn that article into something that it was not, allow me to also say that this piece is about the hypocrisy of those in the North who were against slavery in the South -- but were not bothered by the child slave labor going on an equally large scale around them since the First Industrial Revolution in America.

So now, let's talk about the slave labor that took place in vast numbers in the North during the Civil War. We've all heard of the "Industrial Might" of the Northern states during the Civil War compared to the South's agricultural base. Let's keep in mind that the Civil War was the first truly "Industrial War" where the urbanized and factory-based Northern manufacturing took on the agriculture-focused South.

So now let's talk about the child slave labor behind that "Industrial Might" in the North. Yes, let's talk about a subject that no one seems to talk about. Let's talk about the North's use of slave labor in the form of forced child labor. Let's talk about the forced child labor that accounted for 45% to 55% of all of the labor used in the North during the Civil War. Let's talk about how almost all of the children who were used as slave labor in the Northern states were "white children" of European ancestry.

No one talks about who worked in the factories in the North. No one talks about the huge percentage of child labor that took place in those factories. No one talks about how the North used child slave labor before, during, and after the Civil War. No one talks about how the emancipation of children did not come about until decades after slaves in the South experienced emancipation.

Let's point to the fact that young children routinely worked in the United States legally for many years before and after we became a nation. Some have indicated that black slave labor in the South does not compare to child slave labor in the North because the children were not property as the blacks were. Though that was the reality of black slaves, when looking at how children in the factories and mines were treated, one has to ask if the children were treated the same or worse than property?

Children were enslaved, they were separated from their families, they were certainly exposed to serious hazards and health risks, and they were left to fend for themselves. Child labor abuses were plentiful during the Industrial Revolution from 1820 to 1870. But it did not end in 1870. It continued for another 60 years.

Industrialization attracted workers and their families. Many relocated from farms and rural areas to cities to do factory work. In factories and mines, children were actually preferred by businesses because owners saw children as more manageable, a lot cheaper, and unwilling to strike.

Our children worked in mines, manufacturing plants, factories of all sorts, textile plants, and agriculture in various ways, including harvests and canneries all over the North. And yes, they were newsboys, peddlers, messengers, and bootblacks. The lucky ones swept the trash and filth from city streets, stood for hours on street corners pushing newspapers, and delivered messages for pennies. Others worked in the mines and coughed up coal dust all through a 10 to 12-hour shift in the heat of the dark. Others sweat to the point of passing out while tending factory furnaces.

Overall, child laborers were the sons and daughters of poor parents, and of course, recent immigrants depended on their children’s measly wages to survive. They were the children of industry and large cities in the North during the Civil War. What black slaves were to the South, child slaves were to the North.

The fact is forms of child labor, including indentured servitude and child slavery, have existed throughout our history. It actually predates our independence. Some were lucky and were treated easier than others. Others were treated as property.

Fact is, we can trace child slave labor back to before the United States was founded in 1776. It's true. There was child slave labor in the 18th century. From farms to factories, young children were used as laborers.

As British colonies, long before our independence, English laws allowed children to work in everything from farms to manufacturing. By 1833, when the British outlawed black slaves, child slavery in the form of indentured servants and forced child labor was commonplace in England.

Of course, American colonial laws modeled their laws after British laws. So yes, similarly American laws forced many children into workhouses, factories, and mines. In fact, those laws allowed for orphan boys to be placed into apprenticeships in trades. Orphan girls were sent into homes to do domestic work, work in laundries, and of course, work in sweatshops.

After we broke away from England, American industry kept up the practice and sought out children to use in all sorts of manufacturing facilities throughout the former colonies. Child labor served Alexander Hamilton's vision of America. He saw child labor as providing increased labor to support industry.

According to his vision, when Alexander Hamilton was Secretary of the Treasury, he actually stated in a 1791 report on manufacturing that "children who would otherwise be idle could become a source of cheap labor."

Around the same time, a national newsweekly printed their opinion stating that "factory work was not for able-bodied men, but rather better done by little girls from six to twelve years old."

Besides advertisements seeking children from the ages of 8 to 12 to work in a cotton mill in the North, it's said that by 1820 children made up more than 40 percent of the mill employees in at least three New England states. So while it is said that the manufacturing industry that grew following the Civil War required children as young as 8 years old, we should recognize that forced child labor in factories, retail stores, on the streets, on farms, in mines, and elsewhere, took place long before the Civil War.

This was so much the case that in 1842, a few Northern states began to limit a child’s workday. Massachusetts lowered a child’s workday from 14 hours to 10 hours, but most laws were not enforced. And Massachusetts was not the only state to use forced child labor, child slavery in the industrial North during the Civil War.

It is a fact that women and children dominated pre-Civil War manufacturing in the North. It is a fact that the number of children used in the North actually increased during the Civil War because of the need for everything from uniforms to shoes and belts, hats, and hardware. Yes, the beans, bullets, and bandages that keep an Army functioning.

So please make no mistake about it. While the South had black slavery that they considered property, the North had child slavery that they considered property. In the North, children replaced the need for adults as many Northern men were pressed into service in the Union Army.

And while the North was afraid of the influx of freed slaves fleeing the South, Northerners, in fact, re-enslaved many freed slave children just as they did the children of immigrants during the Civil War. It's true as the children of freed slaves in the North were treated the same as other children in that they worked 10, 12, or 14 hours a day and six days a week. And while those children were, in essence, re-enslaved through forced labor and apprenticeship agreements, they were bound to companies no differently than they were to their slave masters in the South.

In 1870, the first U.S. census report on child labor numbers accounted for 750,000 workers under the age of 13. These figures came mostly from the Northern states. These numbers did not include children who worked for their families or on farms.

For many years, not much changed in the North regarding the use of forced child labor. But after the Civil War, forced child labor abuses became a routine nationwide as more cities adopted the practice. And yes, the scams to get more children increased. For example, in New York City in the 1870s, there was a scam going around that had to do with Italians who secured employment for Italian immigrants. The scam was child slavery under the guise of apprenticeship.

The people responsible for that scam deceived Italian parents still living in Italy into willingly sending their children to America to begin an apprenticeship program. Once agreements were signed, then the children were shipped to America. At the docks, they met and were immediately forced to work in horrible conditions. As was the case throughout the North for many years, if the children failed to comply, they were beaten and starved.

This was happening so much so that in 1873, just eight years after the Civil War, the New York Times stated, "The world has given up on stealing men from the African coast, only to kidnap children from Italy."

While forced child labor was pretty much restricted to the Union during the Civil War, it became more and more commonplace throughout the nation after the war. Southerners followed the example set by Northerners and filled the openings left by freed black slaves with women and children. And yes, forced child labor and apprenticeship agreements extended to businesses in the South after the war.

It is said that freed slaves willingly exchanged the labor of their children for "training" provided by their former slave owners. So yes, after the Civil War, former black slaves, those who were freed and had children, actually forced their own children into re-enslavement. Imagine that.

Slavery comes in several different forms. Forced Marriage, Domestic Servitude, Indentured Servants, Forced Labor, Bonded Labor, Child Labor, and Sex Trafficking are all forms of slavery. As for "chattel slavery"? Chattel slavery is the "owning" of human beings as property. They are bought, sold, given, and inherited. Since slaves in this context have no personal freedom or recognized rights to decide the direction of their own lives, isn't that comparable to what they did to children until the 1930s?

The child slave market was filled by hiring others to find them and detain them. In some cases, it was from orphanages. Other times it was from a destitute family. They were lied to, held prisoner, and even kidnapped. They were sold into bondage and stolen. They had no personal freedom or recognized rights, were beaten and starved, had bounties put on their heads if they escaped from where they were housed or worked, and were in some cases shackled to machinery and given a coffee can to urinate in. To me, that's slavery. That is certainly not the life of a free person.

As for child labor laws, in 1904, Federal child labor reform laws began to take shape. But that didn't stop employers from putting children to work. In fact, by 1911, it is said that more than Two Million American children under the age of 14 were working 12 to 14 hours a day for six days a week.

And yes, well into the 1900s, children worked in unhealthful and hazardous conditions and always for what was known as slave wages. As for unhealthful and hazardous conditions, even into the 1900s, young girls continued to work in mills and garment factories. They faced the danger of losing fingers or even a foot while standing on top of machines to change bobbins. They risked being scalped alive if their hair got caught in the machinery.

As for the children younger than 10 who were forced to work in the coal mines, they were known as breaker boys. They were smothered and crushed by piles of coal. They fell down shafts. Breaker boys faced the threat of cave-ins, gas leaks, explosions, and other hazards that adult miners did. But let's be honest and talk about their slave wages. They made 10 times less than the adults they worked beside.

While black emancipation came about in 1863, it wasn't until 1938 that Federal regulations of child labor were achieved in the Fair Labor Standards Act. While it did not emancipate children completely, it limited the minimum ages of employment and hours of work for children through Federal law. But, unfortunately, such laws were violated all the time.

The point of my article had gone completely over the heads of some folks. I've never condoned or tried to downplay the suffering of black slaves in the South. I have never ever tried to defend slavery of any sort, nor would I ever. I certainly would not defend slavery anywhere. The article above is not about slavery in the South. It is about child slavery as what took place in the Industrial North during the Civil War.

Their hypocrisy is in regards to what offended them. It was selective at best. While they were rightfully offended by blacks in chains, they were hypocrites in that they should not have turned a blind eye to the child slave labor practices that were taking place around them in the North at the same time.

While no longer applied to blacks after emancipation, those labor practices were certainly applied to children until they stopped in the late 1930s and early 1940s. And the only reason it stopped was that adults needed jobs. Adults saw children as taking jobs away from adults during the Great Depression, and that's when it stopped.

As for today? Sadly, there are many types of slavery and some still taking place today are in the form of involuntary servitude, debt bondage, forced labor, and child slavery. Yes, believe it or not, though not as blatant as it once was, child slave labor is still around. 

Today, the number one source of child slave labor comes from the South of our border with Mexico. Human traffickers are running children into the United States at an alarming rate. And yes, besides being brought here as child slave labor, some of the children being smuggled into our country are being sold to sick people on this side of the border as child sex slaves. 

As horrible a fact as that is, it's a fact of life today. And frankly speaking, it should disgust any normal person. But sadly, it's not enough to disgust the Biden Administration and the Democrat Party which sees the flood of illegals coming into the United States these days as a new source of cheap labor and votes. 

If politicians in Washington D.C. had any sense of honor and dignity, any sense of wanting to make something truly better, then they'd stop children from being smuggled in. They would do something to stop it now. 

Tom Correa

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