Photo: WPDE

South Carolina Case Shows That Slavery Isn’t Over

The next time you hear some dumbass talking about how racism isn’t really relevant in our society, or that slavery is over, or that speaking positively about the Civil War is just honoring their “heritage,” tell them about Bobby Paul Edwards.

Bobby Paul Edwards has been indicted by a federal grand jury for forced labor, which is a euphemism for slavery. It’s a felony and, if he’s convicted, he faces up to 20 years behind bars.

Edwards is the manager J&J Cafeteria, which is owned by his brother, Ernest. It’s a restaurant in Conway, South Carolina. where for more than 23 years, Christopher Smith, a mentally disabled black man, worked as a buffet cook. Smith had to be rescued by state social workers after complaints about his treatment were filed.

Prosecutors allege that from September 2009 to October of 2014, when Bobby Edwards served as the manager, he “used force, threats of force, physical restraint and coercion” to get Smith to cook. He would routinely force Smith to work 18-hour shifts, seven days week, often with few (if any) breaks. Smith did not receive benefits or vacation time, and made less than $4,000 a year. He lived in a squalid apartment behind the restaurant that Edwards owned.

After investigators looked into complaints, Smith was removed from the situation and he filed a lawsuit against Edwards and the restaurant. According to the Post and Courier, the lawsuit alleges that Smith was assaulted with “a frying pan, burned with grease-covered tongs and beaten with butcher knives, belt buckles and fists while being called the N-word repeatedly.”

Not only is Edwards now facing federal charges for violating Smith’s civil rights, he’s also facing state charges for second-degree assault and battery. Edwards was in court this morning and plead not guilty to the charges. A judge ordered that he be held without bail.

“Our client is very appreciative of the efforts put forth by the U.S. government in its investigation,” said David Aylor, one of Smith’s attorney, “and he believes that ultimately, justice will be served.”

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