It worked like this. A black person is accused of an infraction of the law (either real or imagined). In some states not having a job was against the law. Vagrancy was a crime in many states. You could not take employment unless you had a statement from your previous employer saying you were free to go.
Lets say you were picked up on a vagrancy charge. You go before a magistrate and are found guilty. You can be both sentenced to jail and fined. In most cases those accused had no money. Your fine was converted into additional jail time. Counties would then lease prisoners to plantation owners, railroads, mines, anybody needing cheap labor. Those who leased the prisoners were responsible for their incarceration. Mortality rates among leased convicts was high, from 25 to 45 percent per year. Prisoner abuse was rampant. Many prisoners were guilty of no crime. All it would take is an accusation against a black and they were swept up in the system.
Blacks were treated in this manner in the South from roughly 1877, when federal troops were withdrawn from the South with the end of Reconstruction until approximately 1942 and the U.S. entry into World War II.
Back to church this morning, Gail and I played the "special music" as it is called. We played "Paso Doble Noble" by Catherine Rollins. It is a Spanish piece which reminds the hearer of bull fights.
Tonight I started reading Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker. This is the book we will be discussing at the next meeting of the Methodist Book Club.