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Part 4: 1831-1865

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Modern Voices
Julie Winch on the kidnapping of children
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Q: What are the factors that you think make the African American children vulnerable to kidnappings?
Julie Winch

A: Now, this is a very vulnerable segment of the population. They are often bound out to employers who are abusive, who overwork them. What you've got is a situation where the parents assume that the child is with the employer. The employer assumes the child, if he's run away, is with the parents. So it's a while before anybody starts comparing notes. There are, of course, explanations. The children, boys in particular,[have] probably run away to sea. Maybe they have drowned in the Delaware.

It very difficult to even know where to start to track them down. I mean, any child that has been gone for a number of years, how accurate can anybody's description be of them, even their parents, when the child has grown? I mean, you are talking about children who maybe were 8 or 9 when they were taken from Philadelphia. Maybe by this time, 12 or 13. They've been out in the fields. They've been malnourished. They've been beaten about. The child that you lost at 9 or 10 is not the same as the teenager who is working on a plantation in the South. So many of these people are just never bought back.
Julie Winch
Professor of History
University of Massachusetts, Boston

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