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he lack of empathy in some people will never stop surprising humanity just how far they will cross any sort of boundaries just go gain something. One such person is Georgia Tann who is one of the most notorious child traffickers in modern history. From 1924 to 1950, Georgia kidnapped over 5,000 children and sold them to various people who would either use them as servants around the house or for hard labor. For that period of time, Georgia played a character that looked innocent and in love with children, the exact person who everyone would put at the end list of suspects for all the kidnapped children at the time.

How does a person end up doing something like this? Let’s go back and have a look at her younger self for an answer.

Taking children away from their parents from a young age

Georgia Tann was born in 1891 in Philadelphia, Mississippi, in a loving and modest family. Her parents worked to offer her the best chance at a good life whilst offering her affection, so there is nothing within her childhood to explain her behavior later on in life.

Since her teenage years, Georgia dreamed of becoming a judge just like her father who didn’t approve of this as he felt the career is too harsh for her. Therefore she followed a career as a social worker, specializing in the care of mistreated children.

Her first job was at a child center where everything started. She saw that there were many poor families around that could not afford to care for their children so they would convince the parents to sell their children or even give them away to the child center where they would be taken care of. Georgia would then sell the children on the black market and after report that they had run away from the center.

Tennessee Children’s Home Society 1930
Tennessee Children’s Home Society 1930 (Source: Benjamin Hooks Library Archive)

After a few months, she was caught and fired from her position. Her father as a judge had many connections and helped her find another job in Memphis. In 1924 she was hired as an executive secretary at a foster home named “Tennessee Children’s Home Society”.

The corruption of adoption within America

June Allyson plays with her daughter Pamela Allyson Powell, 1949
June Allyson plays with her daughter Pamela Allyson Powell, 1949. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

As soon as she got the job she started her dirty business once again but this time taking more care so she would not be caught. As she was now working in a foster home it was much easier for her to obtain and sell children without raising any suspicions.

In 1929 she became the director of the foster home, giving her full control of everything going on there and corrupting the whole system with a long list of unethical businesses. In the same year, the worst economical crash in America took place, this meant that many people fell below the poverty line, pushing them even more towards selling their children, even for $1…

The reason many parents were selling or giving away their children was to offer them a better life, hopefully in a better family if the adoption centers did their job. It is not just Georgia that created corruption within adoption centers around America, but many other people who saw potential for making money, especially with the high demand on the black market for children to be used as slaves.

Besides this, there were some other buyers on the black market who simply wanted kids and those were celebrities. Many celebrities paid Georgia top dollar for children, including the famous actress Joan Crawford who bought twins Cathy and Cindy from Georgia in 1947.

In a book entitled The Baby Thief: The Untold Story of Georgia Tann, Baby Seller Who Corrupted Adoption written by Barbara Bisantz Raymond mentions that some of the children sold by Georgia, were directly sold to pedophiles with her knowing exactly the type of people she was selling to and not caring about the traumas that would be lived by those children.

Georgia Tann had no limits

You can imagine that even with all this the influx of children coming into the foster home wasn’t always high, so desperate times called for Georgia Tann and her desperation for money. You would think that kidnapping children from schools, churches, or even from the streets are bad, but Georgia did something unthinkable.

You can imagine that Georgian wasn’t the only one in this dirty business, she had many people in from medics to judges, lawyers, and social workers who were interested in the good money from this business. When she became really desperate she would have medics and nurses lie to mothers that they just gave birth to a dead child when the child was perfectly healthy. The child would be taken and sold straight away with a new name, making the odds of their parents ever finding the truth almost impossible.

If you still think that there was no other boundary she could pass, well you are wrong. Georgia went as far as advertising the kidnapped children in the local newspaper as gifts for Christmas which anyone could purchase.

Children from Tennessee Children’s Home Society being advertised in the local newspaper from Memphis
Children from Tennessee Children’s Home Society being advertised in the local newspaper from Memphis (Source: Pinterest)

Now do not think that they were advertised for sale. This would be a post that would attract parents to adopt children and when approached with the paperwork, Georgia would include non-existing taxes as the price for the children. The cost of an “adoption” varied, but on average it was around $750 (with inflation that would be $12,000 today)

From 1924 to 1950 Georgia Tann made over one million dollars from selling children (if we apply inflation that would be 11 million dollars today). She corrupted so many people that it was difficult for her to be accused even by her parents who knew exactly what was going on. The whole of Memphis was on her paycheck, that is why we should not just blame her, but everyone who was on it as they knew exactly where those children were ending up.

On the hunt to lock up Georgia Tann

Georgia Tann at 53
Georgia Tann at 53 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Georgia was making so much money that she would have most of the judges and lawyers on her paycheck so that parents that were revolted were not able to touch her.

In 1949 the governor of Tennesse Jim Nance McCord asked lawyer Rober L. Taylor and judge Camille Kelley to look into Georgia Tann’s case due to the high number of complaints and many cases of kidnapping within Tennesse. What McCord didn’t know was that Camille was on Georgia’s paycheck.

Although judge Camille Kelley tried to stop Taylor from visiting the foster home he went anyway. Taylor discovered Georgia’s dirty business and the reason why she wasn’t caught for so many years the minute he stepped through the door. During the later 1930s early 1940s, Georgia started to sell children around the whole of America, especially in California and New York.

Georgia was really good as she was covering up all her traces by removing the records of the sold children from any archive. In 1950 with the help of Gordon Browning (the new governor of Tennessee) Taylor managed to compile all the evidence needed to put Georgia behind bars for life. In September 1950 he accused Georgia in a public conference, however, on the 12th of September 1950, Georgia Tann died of cancer at the age of 59.

They never found the necessary evidence to catch Georgia in time, but at least death stopped her. A huge investigation started around the whole of America within every foster care home which tried to end the corruption in the adoption of children and close down the black market for children.

Even to this day, child trafficking is still a big problem within the world because of people just like Georgia Tann who only care about the money and would literally sell innocent souls at any price.

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