Dir. Ava DuVernay
If you’ve haven’t seen this yet, you need to.
It’s really important to know that trespassing and vagrancy laws in the US were more or less made up entirely for this purpose. Until we hit on the idea of rent-a-prisoners as replacements for slave labor, it wasn’t illegal to just hang out in public not doing anything, or wander through someone’s yard on your way somewhere else, or to camp on public land.
The very first known enslaved black person in the US was an indentured immigrant named John Punch. We know his name. Indentured labor at the time was either a financial arrangement people either entered into willingly or was a sentence for a crime. Punch and two white men were laborers who attempted to flee their service and were caught. The two white dudes had their sentence extended by one year. Punch was sentenced to a life of servitude.
It started with prison and it’s come back to prison. It’s still prison. This is still happening. It’s not over.
If this picture doesn’t make you want to vomit I don’t know what to do with you.