Sisters: We Were Modern-Day Slaves

ByABC News
December 5, 2003, 11:15 AM

Dec. 20 -- As Mae Miller tells it, she spent her youth in Mississippi as a slave, "picking cotton, pulling corn, picking peas, picking butter beans, picking string beans, digging potatoes. Whatever it was, that's what you did for no money at all."

Miller and her sister Annie's tale of bondage ended in the '60s not the 1860s, when slaves officially were freed after the Civil War, but the 1960s.

Their story, which ABCNEWS has not confirmed independently, is not unheard of. Justice Department records tell of prosecutions, well into the 20th century, of whites who continued to keep blacks in "involuntary servitude," coercing them with threats on their lives, exploiting their ignorance of life and the laws beyond the plantation where they were born.

Dont Run Away Theyll Kill Us

The sisters say that's how it happened them. They were born in the 1930s and '40s into a world where their father, Cain Wall, now believed to be 105 years old, had already been forced into slave labor.

"It was so bad, I ran away" at age 9, Annie Miller told ABCNEWS' Nightline. "But they told my brother they better come get me. I ran to a place even worse than where I were. But the people told my brothers, they go, 'You better go get her.' They came [and] got me and they brought me back.

"So, I thought Dad could do something about that," she said. "You know, I told him, said, 'I'm gonna run away again.' He said, 'Baby, don't run away. They'll kill us.' So, I didn't try it no more."

The Millers' story came to light recently when Mae Miller walked into a workshop on the issue of slave reparations run by Antoinette Harrell-Miller, a genealogist.

"She said, 'I have to tell you my story. My dad is 104. He's still living. He has some stories that he can tell you when we were still held in slavery,' " Harrell-Miller recalled.