Michael Lee (easy version)

In August, 2001, when he was forty-three years old, Michael Allen Lee was sent to jail for four years. He was sent to jail because he had been keeping slaves.

When he went to jail, Michael was living in Fort Pierce, a town in Florida in the south-east corner of the United States. There are a lot of grapefruit and orange farms near Fort Pierce. Michael sent his slaves to pick fruit on those farms. The owners of the farms paid Michael for the work. He was supposed to use the money to pay his slaves but, in fact, they got only a part of it.

Michael found his slaves in the city of Orlando, not far from Fort Pierce. They were living there, very poorly, in special ‘homes’ for men who had nowhere else to live. Michael told the men he found in these places that, if they came with him to Fort Pierce, their lives would be much better. Some of them believed him and went with him.

When they got to Fort Pierce the men found out that their lives were really going to be much worse there. Fifteen men had to live in a very poor house with only four bedrooms. They slept in small beds or on the floor. Some of them had to sleep in the halls. They couldn’t drink the water that came out of the taps. It was green or brown and it smelled bad. There were bugs everywhere.

They got up every morning before the sun came up. They were taken to the farm in the back of a small truck. There wasn’t much room. Some of the men had to sit on the floor.

On their way to the farm, they stopped at a small store and Michael gave each of them about $5.00US to buy their breakfast and lunch. When they got to the farm, they worked all day, until about six in the evening. There were no bathrooms for them to use on the farms. They had no way to wash their hands. They had water, but they had no cups to drink it from.

After work, Michael gave them some more money—$5.00US or less—to buy their supper. Then the men went shopping together and they cooked together. Sometimes they cooked a chicken. Sometimes they had hot dogs. Sometimes a man who Michael knew brought a wild animal to the house and cooked it for the men.

slave:
Slaves are people who belong to other people; these people are the owners of the slaves.

grapefruit:
a large, yellow fruit, similar to oranges and lemons but larger

paycheck:
a check (promise to pay) that is given to someone in payment for work

bug:
insect (an informal word)

bank account:
your ‘bank account’ contains the money you’ve put in the bank

end up:
when you ‘end up’ somewhere, that is the final point you reach after a series of experiences or events