The American Civil War did not resolve the issue. The 13th Amendment to the US Constitution, ratified at the end of the war, did not completely abolish slavery:
“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted (emphasis added), shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
But the exception has provided a loophole in the law that has devastated generations of African Americans. In the words of W.E.B. Dubois,
“The slave went free; stood a brief moment in the sun; then moved back again toward slavery.”
The leasing of convicts, many of them ex-slaves, to private entrepreneurs began in the immediate post-war years and and continued into the 20th century. Prison reformers shut down convict leasing over a hundred years ago but the continuing practice of forced labor inside America’s behemoth prison system today is proof that the cancer has not been cured.