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The Cotton Pickin' Truth: Still on the Plantation

By Brian E. Muhammad -Contributing Writer- | Last updated: Jul 13, 2010 - 10:38:51 AM

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A documentary on modern day slavery

( - Mae Louise Miller grew up in chattel slavery working from plantation to plantation for White owners in the South where her family picked cotton and she was beaten and raped repeatedly from the age of five. Her story is typical of the horrid accounts of slave life in America during the 19th century, only this saga is not from back then, it is a true story of the present.

Ms. Miller was enslaved until 1961 and there is evidence of slavery today in different parts of America's South.

Yes, slavery still exists in 2010 in Mississippi and Louisiana, says Timothy Arden Smith, who captured the story in a soon to be released documentary called “The Cotton Pickin' Truth … Still on the Plantation,” which will premiere Sept. 23 at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History in Detroit.

The film is a project of S & S Films International and produced by Mr. Smith and Tobias “Profit” Smith. The documentary was conceived after an appearance by Ms. Miller on the Warren Ballentine Radio Show and was created to bring exposure to the shocking and little talked about truth. Timothy Smith is executive producer for the nationally syndicated radio program.

“After the show I prayed a lot and my dad had been wanting to do a documentary and God told me this is the documentary he ought to do,” said Tobias Smith, who is also an independent hip hop recording artist.

The younger Smith said they reached out to Ms. Miller with their intentions, and decided doing the film was not economic-driven but was a “mission.”

In the process of interviewing Ms. Miller about her life as a 20th century slave in America, the Smiths learned from her that slavery was still being practiced in Mississippi and Louisiana today. Then the filmmakers were taken to Glendora, Miss., and Webb, Miss., where they said they saw and documented the existence of plantations.

The Smiths said the areas are isolated, deep inland from main roads and “far away from civilization,” where plantation owners do what they want.

According to the Smiths, there are many who know that slavery didn't end with the Emancipation Proclamation nearly 150 years ago. The elder Smith said talking about the documentary and pre-showings of the film revealed that a significant number of people know firsthand, based on having family members still on the plantations, or themselves growing up in slavery but choose to remain silent.

Others express disbelief and denial because of the perception of racial progress in America, such as having a Black president.

“The upper class Blacks look at it and they are shocked,” said Timothy Smith. “They feel ‘this is not going on we have a Black president.' ”

It is out of sight and out of mind for those who know slavery exists, he added.

Timothy Smith pointed out that the film gives meaning to the human experience and how most people are yet enslaved on one level or another. He cited his colleagues in the media industry who choose to focus on partying and frivolity, fearful of taking on a serious issue such as slavery in modern America.

“No matter if you are Black or White you will see yourself in the documentary,” said Mr. Smith. “You are still on the plantation.”

Along with Mae Louise Miller, the film also features commentary from activist/comedian Dick Gregory, Harvard law professor Charles Ogletree and others.

“We want to make people aware about what's going on so we can stop what's going on,” Tobias Smith said. A trailer for the film can be viewed at