Black Man Who Was Forced to Work Without Pay by White Boss Should Get $546,000 in Compensation, Court Rules

Bobby Paul Edwards; John Christopher Smith
Bobby Paul Edwards; John Christopher Smith
Photo: J. Reuben Long Detention Center, Screenshot: WPDE

This may be one of the most horrific stories that The Root has ever reported.

For 23 years, Bobby Paul Edwards, who owned the J&J Cafeteria in Conway, South Carolina, enslaved John Christopher Smith, an intellectually disabled Black man who Edwards beat and forced to work long hours for literally no pay.


Smith worked 18 hours a day, six days a week and was forced to live in a “cockroach-infested” apartment behind the business. Edwards’ family knew Smith was being enslaved and did nothing to try and stop it.

Whenever Smith’s family came looking for him, Edwards would lock Smith in the kitchen freezer or in another room so that his family couldn’t find him. Once, when Smith tried to escape he was caught and “hit in the head with a frying pan, burned with hot tongs, beaten with belt-buckles and called the n-word repeatedly.”

Edwards was finally caught, and in 2019 he pleaded guilty to one count of forced labor “coercing an African-American man with an intellectual disability to work extensive hours at a restaurant for no pay,” and was sentenced to 10 years in prison, the Justice Department said in a press release at the time, Insider reports.

As a part of the initial settlement, Smith was awarded $273,000 in unpaid wages and overtime compensation. Well, the Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit doubled that amount, which would be $546,000.

Insider notes “that the court said the district court did not properly account for federal labor laws when it made the decision on compensation.”

“Minimum wages and overtime compensation must be paid on a current basis as work is done, such that an employee receives the prescribed compensation without delay. When an employer fails to pay those amounts, the employee suffers losses, which includes the loss of the use of that money during the period of delay,” the court argued in its filing.

Senior Editor @ The Root, boxes outside my weight class, when they go low, you go lower.


Mr Boomman

$546,000??? For literal modern day slavery? How about no... I didn’t read where pain and suffering was included, causing even more psychological damage to this man. But then again, they don’t believe we actually endure pain and suffering. This is wild, bruh.