Alabama Law Allowing Forced Labor Struck Down

1911

In Bailey v. Alabama the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down an Alabama law that allowed landowners to force farmers to work off their debts or face criminal charges and possible prison sentences. A number of sharecroppers (farmers who rented the land they farmed) had fallen behind in their payments to the land owners and challenged the law as a violation of the 13th Amendment. The Court agrees that this is involuntary servitude because the farmers are prevented from seeking other employment and thereby finding alternatives to paying the debt.