It has been pretty well documented recently that, during slavery and into the 20th Century, black babies were used as alligator bait in North and Central Florida.
A guy in Sanford, near Orlando, told this story to a researcher. He said he had heard it from his grandfather.
The slaves who had babies, they would steal the babies during the course of the day, sometimes when their mothers weren't watching... Some would be infants, some would be a year old; he said some would be toddlers. He said they would grab these children and take them down to the swamp and leave them in pens like little chicken coops.
They would go down there at night, take these babies and... tie them up, put a rope around their neck and around their torso, around here, and tie it tight.
They'd be screaming... What they were doing would help them to chum the water. He said when they would throw the babies in tied to this rope, he said in a matter of minutes, he said, the alligators were on them. He said the alligator would clamp his jaws on that child. As a matter of fact, once he clamped on them he was really swallowed. He said you couldn't see anything but the rope! Some would be infants, some would be a year old, toddlers, some would be infants.
These quotes are all from the video embedded below, which was posted on reunionblackfamily.com. There is more proof, though, according the blog Abagond. Time magazine in 1923 reported the practice had taken place in Chipley, Florida, but the town denied it as "a silly lie, false and absurd."
And there is an account of it in Copper Sun, a 2006 book by Sharon Draper. Moreover, according to Abagond, "alligator bait" was a term used in Harlem in the early part of the century to refer to black children from Florida.
A blog from Ferris State University implies the practice contnued into the 20th Century. In 1908, the Washington Times reported that a keeper at the New York Zoological Garden had baited "alligators with pickaninnies," and on September 21, 1923, the Oakland Tribune reported, "Pickaninny bait lures voracious gator to death... and mother gets her baby back in perfect condition. And $2."
Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.