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The Militant, 7 September 1946

Evelyn Atwood

Rich Planter Holds Five in Slavery

From The Militant, Vol. X No. 36, 7 September 1946, p. 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Roswell Pierce Biggers, wealthy Georgia planter and horse and mule trader, was arrested on August 27, by the FBI charged with holding five Negroes in peonage. This arrest has thrown light on how the cheap, swindling “white supremacy” scum carry on a racket for getting Negroes to slave on their farms without pay.

Biggers, who was released on $4,000 bail, was specifically charged with “unlawfully causing Booker T. Johnson to be arrested and returned to a condition of peonage” about May 30. The Justice Department in Washington admitted that four other Negroes were involved in this one case.

First, this wealthy white chiseler had his victims arrested on trumped-up charges of “obtaining money under false pretense.” They were thrown into the Rockdale County Jail at Conyers, Georgia. Then they were turned over to Biggers to “work out their fines” by slaving without pay on his 1,000-acre corn and cotton farm, 20 miles from Atlanta.

Past Record

Biggers’ record in this infamous slave traffic goes back to 1916, when he was indicted on similar charges. At that time, his hearing resulted in a “mistrial” and he was freed.

In recent years he has stepped up this profitable racket. Justice of Peace J.H. Pirkle. who could not remember how many of Biggers’ “hands” were involved, recalled several cases from time to time over a year’s period. He said Biggers had “several” Negro families on his farm. He said Biggers seldom left his victims in jail longer than a day. Then they were returned to his farm in peonage.

This same Justice of Peace declared that this racket is not at all unusual “in this part of the country.” Many wealthy farm owners do the same thing.”

The trumped-up charges used by Biggers, that the Negroes obtained money under, false pretenses, derives from a 1903 Georgia “cheat and swindle” statute. Thia law holds that “any person who shall contract to perform services of any kind with intent to procure money and not to perform the services contracted for, shall be deemed a common cheat and swindler and punished as for a misdemeanor.” The U.S. Supreme Court over four years ago declared this law a violation of the anti-slavery clause of the Constitution and declared it unconstitutional.

Vile Rackets

But the real cheats and swindlers, the wealthy white scum of Georgia, still use this statute to enslave the Negro farm hands. Of course they try to cover it up. Reporters at Conyers were not permitted to examine Rockdale County records to see what legal actions Biggers took against the Negroes which made them peons.

Lust for gain is at the root of the savage treatment of the Negro by the white ruling class in the South. This is shown clearly by the peonage racket. Several of the recent lynchings, for instance, involved attempts of white plantation owners to get out of paying debts they owed Negro farm-hands and sharecroppers by murdering them.

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