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The racism and abuse that John Christopher Smith experienced for five straight years conjures cruel images of a centuries-old slavery plantation era.

Smith, a former employee of a South Carolina restaurant, was treated like a slave by his boss Bobby Paul Edwards: Smith, who is African-American, was subjected to racial epithets while Edwards, who is white, beat Smith with pot and pans, a belt, his fists and forced Smith to work more than 100 hours a week without pay. Edwards also choked and slapped Smith and, in another grossly inhumane act, Edwards burned Smith’s neck with hot tongs to make Smith work faster.

It’s a reprehensible pattern of modern-day slavery.

Edwards pleaded guilty this week to forced labor while he managed the restaurant in Conway, South Carolina between 2009 and 2014.

In a statement from the U.S. Justice Department, authorities said Smith was mentally challenged and that Edwards took advantage of Smith’s disabilities.

“Human trafficking through forced labor can happen on farms, in homes, and as today’s case shows — in public places, such as restaurants,” Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore said in a statement Tuesday.

“Edwards abused an African-American man with intellectual disabilities by coercing him to work long hours in a restaurant without pay,” Gore said. “Combating human trafficking by forced labor is one of the highest priorities of this Justice Department.”

Edwards admitted to using “violence, threats, isolation and intimidation” to force Smith to work quicker, officials said.

In an interview with a CNN affiliate, Smith said Edwards physically abused him for years and forced him to live in a room behind the restaurant. Edwards would not even allow Smith to see his family.

“I wanted to get out of there a long time ago. But I didn’t have nobody I could go to,” Smith said. ” I couldn’t go anywhere. I couldn’t see none of my family.”

Edwards’ violent actions are a stark reminder of brutal slave owners who would beat enslaved African men and women to make them work faster in the fields nearly 300 years ago. Edwards’ actions are strikingly similar.

“We are talking about enslavement here,” Abdullah Mustafa, president of the local chapter of the NAACP, told a CNN affiliate.

Smith, who is about 40 years old, is now a free man.

“This defendant abused a vulnerable victim, and today’s guilty plea holds the defendant responsible for his criminal acts,” Sherri Lydon, the United States attorney for the District of South Carolina, told reporters.

Edwards faces up to 20 years in prison when he’s sentenced, a $250,000 maximum fine, and mandatory restitution to Smith.

Twenty years in prison doesn’t quite seem long enough for Edwards and with regards to restitution, what financial price do you put on slavery?

What do you think?

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Five Years A Slave: South Carolina Man Endured Modern Day Version Of Bondage was originally published on blackamericaweb.com

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