Louisiana voters failed to pass a constitutional amendment during the November election that would have eliminated slavery and forced indentured servitude in the state—leaving many Black voters confused and embarrassed.
According to an NBC News report, many voters—including some Black voters—voted against the amendment because it lacked clarity.
Rep. Edmond Jordan who has long championed causes to improve the lives of Black people in the state allowed a late addendum to the bill which said that the part of the constitution that “prohibited slavery and involuntary servitude” did not “apply to the otherwise lawful administration of criminal justice.”
The addendum caused confusion for many voters due to the lack of clarity.
Are they trying to trick us into voting for slavery?” John Miles, a 41-year-old Black truck driver in Monroe, asked NBC News. “Why would they make it so confusing?”
The amendment failed with 61% of voters saying no.
Louisiana uses slave labor at its prisons—including Angola which is named after a former plantation. According to the report, inmates at the prison earn between 2 cents and 20 cents an hour with many working in the fields on crops like sugarcane, corn, soybeans, and even cotton.
Black inmates make up 74% of the Angola prison population.
“And that’s why this bill was important,” Todd L. Sterling, owner of Alpha Media and Public Relations told NBC, “Of course, I voted for the bill because it’s long past the time we eliminate any possibility of what’s going on at Angola. That should have been a slam dunk. But now we’re the only state that has something like on the books… And that’s embarrassing.”
“It’s embarrassing. It’s terrible,” Robert Diggs, an attorney in Atlanta who hails from Lafayette, Louisiana, said. “I don’t see how there can be an excuse for confusing language on a bill, especially one as important as this. This needs to be corrected as soon as possible because slavery in any form of indentured servitude should not be legal anywhere in this country and much less than the world.”