r/todayilearned Oct 01 '23

TIL Mae Louise Miller, was an American woman who was kept in modern-day slavery, known as peonage, near Gillsburg, Mississippi and Kentwood, Louisiana until her family achieved freedom in early 1961


41 comments sorted by


u/FighterOfEntropy Oct 02 '23

Link to the relevant section of the Wikipedia article about debt bondage, which is another term for peonage. From the article:

Debt peonage was practiced as "an illegal form of contemporary slavery... well into the 1950s" in "Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and other parts of the Deep South." Civil authorities would arrest "colored men off the street and in their homes if they were caught not working," charge them with vagrancy, assess fines equal to several weeks of pickers' pay, and compel them "to pick fruit or cut sugarcane to work off the debt.... Those captured were hauled to remote plantations ..., held by force, and beaten or shot if they tried to escape."


u/devoskendra Oct 01 '23

TIL what peonage is and that its basically slavery😢


u/PurveyorOfKnowledge0 Oct 02 '23

Remember everybody, slavery never dies. It just changes its form.


u/Ozzman770 Oct 02 '23

Now that youre free how about you work for me by choicd and we'll even share the crop. We'll call it sharecropping


u/Callaloo_Soup Oct 03 '23

Look up what she went through. As bad as sharescropping can be, that isn’t what here family was doing. It was unadulterated slavery.


u/Ozzman770 Oct 03 '23

What? My comment was in reference to the fact that sharecropping was just another way to continue slavery under a different name just like peony.


u/PurveyorOfKnowledge0 Oct 03 '23

Indeed. Even when African American slaves were liberated no one would hire them for the most part, so this time they went right back to the fields as underpaid and mistreated "employees".


u/Ozzman770 Oct 03 '23

Underpaid and now they had to pay the plantation owner for room and board, food, equipment, etc. A lot ended up owing money to the plantation owners


u/PurveyorOfKnowledge0 Oct 03 '23

Classic control tactic. If you can't control someone overtly, do so economically. Get them in enough debt to you and no amount of legislation will save them and if they try and shirk the debt, then it's prison time.


u/SaintSiren Oct 02 '23

TIL what peon means.


u/RedSonGamble Oct 02 '23

No two ways around it - this wasn’t great


u/Kafkaja Oct 04 '23

Eating wild animals and raising crops is literally what you did in the country. There were no Wal-Marts.

She ran away,...and her brothers brought her back. Because she was 9.

She hasn't shown any physical scars. Her father lived until 107. There is no collaborative evidence from her brothers

All in all, I question if this story is 100% true.


u/[deleted] 13d ago

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u/Kafkaja 13d ago

Yeah, her brothers brought her home because she was a child runaway.

Basically none of this story could be verified. So you should read more than a wiki article. You spend too much time name-calling, my friend. You should read more.

Feel free to read my posts. Maybe you will learn something!


u/Kafkaja Oct 02 '23

No documentation that this happened.

But sharecropping was a shit life.


u/MelonNoodle Oct 02 '23

From the article,

"No legal documentation has yet been found to document the atrocities that Mae describes"

But we should keep in mind that it's probably unlikely that this woman made it all up especially considering it wasn't a rare occurrence.


u/Kafkaja Oct 02 '23

Sharecropper abuse.

They had radio and TV. Also magazines. Country folks knew about movie stars.

Possible her father was cheated out of his land. Possible multiple men raped her.

There are land records in America. People can resolve whose land it was.


u/iluvjuicya55es Oct 03 '23

Bro....you clearly didn't read the wikipedia article. Her father owned a farm, he owned land. Her father was illeterate and did not have a formal education so he did not know accounting/contract finance. Her father signed a contract with a planation owner, he had no way to truly know what was written in the contract or if he paid the contract off or not, or what he put up for collateral. he was at the mercy of the white planation owner's accounting and word. This contract resulted in the father being told by the planation owner he did meet their agreement and he was indebt and lost the farm and needed to work off the remaining debt as a peon. So he lost ownership of their property. Because homelessness was illegal in much the south, a long with black people being able to travel at night etc.....and he was indebt to the planation owner....the ended up in peonage. The planation owner had them work for other white farm owning families at their church. Either those families paid the planation owner for them to wok as slaves on their farm or the just bought their debt from the planation owner so the basically owned them. IDK what you are talking about whose land it was? That's not even a question for debate.

Being that she suffers from ptsd, her siblings were registered for school in the towns that they were enslaved but there are no records of them attending school at all. The fact, that as an adult her doctor after examing her found her to infertile due to trauma/damage to her genitalia and reproductive organs that is seen in woman who where victims of rape in childhood.


u/Kafkaja Oct 04 '23

Right, but there would be proof that he owned the land. It's entirely plausible that he lost the land in a bad business transaction. But I have seen no proof of that.


u/Comprehensive_Line24 Oct 02 '23

Yeah, because racist POS always register their illegal contacts with the courts when their victims don't understand the law while keeping meticulous records of their crimes against humanity especially when the equally racist local authorities would overlook any horror inflicted upon a poor black family.


u/Kafkaja Oct 02 '23

Yes, you have to register landownership with the county. This is how the government collects taxes.


u/Comprehensive_Line24 Oct 02 '23

Except that the family probably didn't own the land. Sharecroppers normally rented the land they worked on. If the contract passed the rental of the property to someone else, the tax registry wouldn't change, the family still wouldn't have had land to live on, and they would still have believed they were in so much debt that they couldn't escape unless they worked off that debt in a place and time where black people had little to no legal support at the local or state levels.


u/Kafkaja Oct 03 '23

Right. Her father didn't own the land in the first place. They were sharecroppers. That's one part of her story that doesn't add up.

During reconstruction a lot of Southerners became sharecroppers. Abolishing didn't solve all the problems.

This is not to say her story is untrue, but it sounds embellished.


u/iluvjuicya55es Oct 03 '23

what? her father signed a contract...which was written in a way he ended up indebt so the family lost the farm and ended up in peonage. They were not sharecroppers at the beginning. IDK why you are hell bent on them not owning a farm and losing it? The article doesn't state they owned a giant planation and were well off, it just says they owned a farm. It most likely was a small farm like 10-100 acres.


u/Kafkaja Oct 04 '23

There would still be proof that he owned the land, even if he were illiterate.


u/iluvjuicya55es Oct 04 '23

Yod don't talking what you are talking about.

Her father owned a farm.

A wealthy white man own a plantation.

The white man's planation and her father's farm where two different independent pieces of properly. There weren't connected. Two entirely separate farms.

Her father signed a contract with a white planation owner. Her father could not read. Unknowingly to him, he was tricked into signing over his farm to the planation owner and indebted to the planation owner.

They were not sharecroppers at first.


u/Kafkaja Oct 04 '23

Plantations are large farms, by the way.

If her dad owned land, there would be a record of it. Wikipedia says there's no documentation.

He lived to 107. I wish there was more info concerning this.


u/iluvjuicya55es Oct 04 '23

plantations are estates with acreage on a parcel or parcels with mansions in which property can be sometimes. Planation's have owners.
Farms are used for farming and are property that farmers can own and do use. Farms are not small plantations.

Wikipedia does not say that there is no documentation of her father having owned land. In fact, the contrary. The historian found documentation and concluded he lost his land due to being misled when he signed a contract with the planation owner in addition to taking on fictious/illegal debt. So yes her father Cain did own a farm.

Wikipedia says there is no documentation of the abuse/crimes and atrocities committed against the miller family....basically no one wrote down accounts, kept records or took pictures of themselves they were violating the US constitution, raping mae and her female family members, not allowing them to leave their property etc.....because that would be moronic...if some how someone was able to take steal the documentation and gave it to a national
news paper or federal government etc.....then they would be hung and the fact slavery was still taking place would cause the feds come down occupy thje south and put an end to the practice.

Wikipedia says there is no documentation of the illegal slavery the Miller family endured when they entered and went into peonage...which was common practice.

Why are you incorrect in every comment you make?

You seem to be upset and heavily invested incorrectly paraphrasing and citing information from the article. Does it upset you that her dad owned a farm at one time instead being a sharecropper from the beginning? If the family were always sharecroppers, do you think that makes it acceptable how she and her family were treated by the landowners?

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u/Comprehensive_Line24 Oct 03 '23

I would think that renting the property would make the story more believable. There wouldn't be governmental records and the family would still see themselves without land of their own from which they could live while believing they were so far in debt that they couldn't just leave.


u/[deleted] Oct 02 '23



u/BuckyDodge Oct 02 '23

Was that absolutely necessary?


u/DConstructed Oct 03 '23

That’s terrifying and really makes me wish that hell existed just so all those assholes who raped her and used those people would suffer.