August 09, 2012
“No papers, no fear” is a very profound expression for all of us. As the history of this monument tells us, and the history of African Americans tells us, we had to stand up against fear, and we had to fight against not having papers. There was a moment in the south where if you didn’t have papers to show that you worked for a plantation, or you did not have 100 dollars in your pocket - back when 100 was like having 1,000 dollars – you could be arrested for vagrancy.
If you were arrested for that, under the United States constitution, you could be re-enslaved. The constitution says that there should be no involuntary servitude in the country, that means you cannot be a slave, unless you are convicted of a crime. And like this, you can be arrested and they can sell you like a slave under what they would call the ‘Convict Lease System.” So they were able to re-enslave African Americans simply because they did not have papers, or did not have money in their pockets.