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.
The is all from the video 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.”