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The Hidden History of Slavery in California

Slavery By Another Name

Today it’s the site of a federal courthouse in Los Angeles. But in the mid-19th century, a stretch of Main Street in downtown Los Angeles was a flourishing slave market. Native Californians were sold in auctions there from about 1850 to 1870—thanks to a state law nefariously called the Act for the Government and Protection of Indians.

Act for the Government and Protection of Indians.

The Act made it legal for whites to enslave Native people who were charged with “loitering” or public drinking. At the time, local ranchers and vineyard owners paid their Native Californian workers with alcohol, a practice that in turn encouraged public intoxication. Local lawmen regularly conducted sweeps, arresting Native people. On Mondays, employers seeking cheap labor came to the auction and paid the bail of men and women who had been arrested under the Act. The accused Native workers were then forced to work until their debt was paid. These auctions reflect the widespread discrimination and violence against Native Californians, who could not become citizens, vote, or testify in court. Between 1850 and 1870, their population in Los Angeles fell from 3,693 to 219 people. Over the years, Native groups have protested for justice at the former auction site. California Book of Statues, 1850

Chapter 133: Act for the Government and Protection of Indians:

Any person having or herafter obtaining a minor Indian, male or female, from the parents or relations of such Indian minor, and wishing to keep it, such person shall go before a Justice of the Peace in his Township... California Book of Statues, 1850 Link Here Page Link

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