N Anderson County, S. C., there has been going on for a long time a private convict slavery system, whereby Negroes were caught, confined in private stockades, and made to work for rich cotton magnates. This system was brought to light by the recent killing of Will Hull, who, according to the Chicago Tribune, "had been seized on a trumped-up charge, and illegally committed to the stockade. . . . Hull protested against his incarceration. He asked for a fair trial, and his reward was a blow with a club. Not content with his lot, the Negro planned escape, to get back to his wife and children. In the quiet of the night, with the chains still binding his legs, he stole forth. But the guards had orders to watch him. As Hull was going away, a bullet from a fifty-four caliber rifle bored its way into his brain, and he fell dead. Newell, the guard who had fired the shot, was arrested, and sent to court. Other guards went to his rescue, a story of self-defense was put up in court, and in five minutes the jury said the man was not guilty. But, in the death of Hull, the story came out. A rasping charge from Judge Bennet followed, and the grand jury, armed with full power to summon leaders and seize papers, went to work to investigate, and found the condition of affairs more horrible than was ever dreamed."   

"On these big farms, where thousands of bales of cotton were raised, enormous revenues rolled into the coffers of the managers. Of the twenty-five Negroes released [when the case was in court], not one had been held for an infraction of the law. The systems were privately operated. . . . Back in the mountain section, away from the world, these places held hundreds of ignorant Negroes who had been stolen from their families to make fortunes for white men who occupied high positions in the social work of the county and State."   

These private prisoners were clothed in the striped garments of the usual State convict type, and all that the owners had to pay for the services of these poor wretches was their wretched food and the convict-clothes used as a blind to the public. After the hard day's work the negro men were driven to a pen, locked up, and guarded, being aroused the next morning before daylight. The grand jury reported at Anderson, S.C., the 7th inst., and "in a presentment which pictured the horrors of the bondage system, returned indictments against four of the leading citizens of Anderson, and a score of guards. So pleased was Judge Bennet, who first demanded an investigation, that he declared he was profoundly grateful to a jury which had the backbone to break up an iniquitious system of slavery, which was showing a tendency to spread throughout the State. The jury showed in its report that Negroes had been bought and sol; that they had been seized on the highway and kidnapped and sent to prison pens, where they were bound and shackled, and warned that death would follow any effort to escape. When the jury began its investigations and summoned Negroes, evidence could not be secured, because the former slaves claimed that they would be killed if they opened their mouths. The grand jury so far as it could has wiped out of existence the convict lease system, under the shroud of which these private slave dens were allowed to thrive.   

"The jury gave an account of the visits to the stockades. At a place managed by Julius Miller [this was only one of many such places] evidence was produced to show that runners had been paid to go out and seize Negroes; and one man, Warren Sloan, was sent in for more than a year, because he owed a debt of ten dollars. When a neighbor offered to pay the fine, the dealer declared that he would not part with his Negro for one thousand dollars. At Miller's place the Negroes were flogged to the point of insensibility, and bound with chains." Those indicted by the grand jury will be bound over for trial in June. The next thing will be to punish them. It is doubtful whether this will be possible, as the slaveholders are wealthy. "Proof was secured to show that the system of slavery was more binding than the slavery system in operation throughout the South before the proclamation of Abraham Lincoln." 

March 26, 1901 ATJ, ARSH 200-201.