The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II
This has been the most difficult book review I have yet to write. I have amended and deleted and written and rewritten pieces and parts and all of this review.
After reading Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson and then The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, I found myself reading Slavery By Another Name by Douglas A. Blackmon.
A web of tragic circumstances of my country’s history, both past and current, has held my interest in each and all three of these books. I wanted to know more. I am so saddened that this country could have been so inhumane to its own citizens. How could I be so naive and not know that this kind of history had gone on long past the Civil War? Yes, I am naive, but I have a heart that cares so was drawn into wanting to know what happened to the Black Americans who had won their freedom through the Civil War, through the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
This book, of almost 500 pages, is a powerful read. It is well written and referenced to the hilt. Mr. Blackmon did his homework. It is about “industrial slavery,” “Black Codes,” “convict laborers,” “peonage,” “debt peonage,” “forced labor,” and so much more. Rather than go into all that this book is, as I first intended, I will leave you to decide whether you want to know more about a rather large and terrible chunk of history of the United States that has basically been hidden, not taught in history classes, nor exposed so thoroughly as Mr. Blackmon does.
It, indeed, was “slavery” under a different name.
Douglas Blackmon’s words say more than all that I have deleted that were my own words:
“As a Wall Street Journal reporter, Mr. Blackmon wrote a piece ‘asking a provocative question: What would be revealed if American corporations were examined through the same sharp lens of historical confrontation as the one then being trained on German corporations that relied on Jewish slave labor during World War II and the Swiss banks that robbed victims of the Holocaust of their fortunes?’ This story described the post-Civil War corporate use of forced black labor in the South. It received more response than any other piece he had written which led to the writing of this book.”
“In the book’s epilogue, Blackmon argues for the importance of acknowledging this history of forced labor:
‘the evidence moldering in county courthouses and the National Archives compels us to confront this extinguished past, to recognize the terrible contours of the record, to teach our children the truth of a terror that pervaded much of American life, to celebrate its end, to lift any shame on those who could not evade it. This book is not a call for financial reparations. Instead, I hope it is a formidable plea for a resurrection and fundamental reinterpretation of a tortured chapter in the collective American past.'”
I thank you, Mr. Blackmon. Your book was tough to read, but this chapter in history gave me even more compassion towards my fellow human beings who just happen to have darker skin than I have.
I am so sorry that people of my skin color did this and other horrific things to you, my Black sisters and brothers.
The Slavery by Another Name documentary was broadcast in February 2012. The entire film can be watched online @ http://www.pbs.org/tpt/slavery-by-another-name/watch/
Douglas A. Blackmon is co-executive producer of the acclaimed PBS documentary of the same name. His is also the executive producer and host of American Forum, a public affairs program produced at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center and aired weekly on more than 250 PBS affiliates across the U.S.
He was the longtime chief of The Wall Street Journal’s Atlanta bureau and the paper’s Senior National Correspondent until 2012, when he joined the faculty of the University of Virginia and became a contributing editor at the Washington Post.
Prior to his work at The Wall Street Journal, Blackmon was a reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution where he covered race and politics in Atlanta until 1995. Earlier, he was a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat in 1986-1987, and co-owner and managing editor of the Daily Record from 1987 to 1989, both in Little Rock, Ark.
Raised in Leland, Miss., Blackmon penned his first newspaper story for the weekly Leland Progress at the age of 12. (He became drawn into the racial issues of the South through this article.) He received his degree in English from Hendrix College in Conway, Ark. He lives in downtown Atlanta and Charlottesville, Va.
- ISBN-13: 9780385722704
- Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
- Publication date: 01/13/2009
- Pages: 496
- Product dimensions: 7.98(w) x 5.12(h) x 1.03(d
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