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Back To SlaveryDonald Henderson, president of the United Cannery, Agricultural, Packing, and Allied Workers, C.I.O., has asked the Federal Bureau of Investigation to investigate and take action in the case of a "slave" notice which appeared in the Yanceyville, (N.C.) Caswell Messenger. The notice read:
"Notice: I forbid anyone to hire or harbor Herman Miles, colored, during the year 1939. -- A. P. Dobbs, Route 1, Yanceyville."
Said Mr. Henderson: "This seems to me to involve violations of civil rights so atrocious that I am calling it to your attention in the hope that the F.B.I. can investigate and take some action. It seems that this procedure is based upon an archaic statute, yet on the books, although declared unconstitutional, and maybe several times, as smacking of peonage or slavery and abridging the liberties of human beings."
The advertisement first came to notice through being quoted by the Chapel Hill Weekly, published in the home town of the University of North Carolina.
"To satisfy my curiosity," wrote the editor of the Chapel Hill Weekly, "I wrote to a friend of mine in Yanceyville, who frequents the county offices and the law courts and knows almost about everything that goes on in Caswell County and asked him what it meant.
"He replied that such advertisements are still employed to 'put the fear of God into Negroes and ignorant white folks.'
"Many of our magistrates still hold it is 'good law' and zealously support its use in upholding contentions of landlords, who resent any dissatisfactions on the part of tenants to whom they have advanced as much as 50 cents for rations. Few landlords will risk incurring the wrath of some Christian, Democratic freeholder by hiring his hand after he warned us not to. As long as folks don't know the statute is unconstitutional it can be made to serve its intended purpose. The Caswell legislator who would try to take that law off the books would lose many votes."
It would appear that the advertisement in the Caswell Messenger certainly is specific enough for the G-Men to take action through its civil liberties division as this would appear to be an open and shut case of peonage. It if weren't for publication of this, it would be difficult to conceive, however, that such a condition existed in so liberal a state as North Carolina.
The editor of the progressive Chapel Hill Weekly deserves credit for bringing this condition to light and for his research as does the president of the UCPAW for filing the formal complaint with the F.B.I. It remains now for the G-Men to get busy and give us some action on the matter as it is definitely at variance with federal laws. If such a matter is allowed to remain winked at, then we're not so far removed from slavery as we think we are.
"Back To Slavery," The New York Age (NY, NY), 20 Jan 1940, Sat, Page 12.
The Herman Miles mentioned may be the person born 1918 in Caswell County, NC, and died in 1964. He is the son of Moses Miles and Willie Ann Richmond Miles. In 1957, he married Ruth Iona Tate.
The A. P. "Dobbs" mentioned probably is Arthur Pinnix Dabbs (1891-1961).
Caswell County Board of Commissioners (2 November 1959): Left-to-right: Arthur Delbert Swann (1907-1985); Arthur Pinnix Dabbs (born c. 1891); William Wallace Pointer (1909-1965); James Worsham White (1919-2000); and Clyde Banks Rogers (1900-1980).
See: The Heritage of Caswell County, North Carolina, Jeannine D. Whitlow, Editor (1985) at 94-95 (Article #25 "James White Arnold Family" by Donna Coleman Little).