Saturday, June 7, 2008

Book To Check Out: Slavery by Another Name

Matthew Yglesias at The Atlantic recommends Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II by Douglas Blackmon. At the book's website you can find more information about Blackmon, an exerpt from the book, and an interactive map and media.
...what's really striking about the subject is that despite how central the story of racial conflict is to the story of America, and despite how well-known certain key episodes in that history are, the shocking story that Blackmon has to tell here is virtually unknown.
I assume that this kind of thing forms part of the basis of black-white gaps in perception in the United States. The white version of American history certainly admits to the existence of racial oppression, but it's a very optimistic "up from slavery" story where the key figures are the heroes and the key episodes are the ones in which the good guys lost. But for fifty-five or sixty years following the collapse of the Confederacy, the cause of racial equality suffered nothing but setbacks. African-Americans are no doubt largely ignorant of these obscure episodes in a formal sense, but since it's literally part of their family background the history of backsliding and abandonment is going to color the black community's perception of progress made thus far.
It's one thing to recognize that America once tolerated great injustices and then put a stop to them. It's another thing entirely to recognize that the injustices came back and the whole period in which they did so has been expurgated from our official narrative.
The history that we don't seem to teach about in schools. From
In 2000, the National Association of Black Journalists recognized Blackmon’s stories revealing the secret role of J.P. Morgan & Co. during the 1960s in funneling funds between a wealthy northern white supremacist and segregationists fighting the Civil Rights Movement in the South. A year later, he revealed in the Journal how U.S. Steel Corp. relied on forced black laborers in Alabama coal mines in the early 20th century, an article which led to his first book, Slavery By Another Name, which broadly examines how a form of neoslavery thrived in the U.S. long after legal abolition.

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