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Douglas A. Blackmon is the Atlanta Bureau Chief of the Wall Street Journal.

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A much better book than this on the same topic is David Oshinsky's "Worse Than Slavery". This book here gives too many repetitive and unimportant official-type details without conveying the spirit of the time; Oshinsky's book gets deeper into the spirit of Jim Crow by delving into the real life of particular institutions like Parchman Prison, and using a much wider range of sources, particularly prison work songs.
fji65hj7 | 34 andra recensioner | May 14, 2023 |
Well-written, well-researched, and absolutely history of many Black Americans in the South between the Civil War and World War II.
tloeffler | 34 andra recensioner | Mar 18, 2023 |
I majored in history in college, but I studied very little American history. My understanding of the post-Reconstruction period from high school history was somewhat hazy. I did understand that after 1876, white Southerners systematically disenfranchised and oppressed African-Americans. I wasn't under any delusion that black people were at any fault for their situation in the US and in the South in particular. I knew that black people had lost any land they gained (but not how) and that landlords had abused tenants. I knew about companies that ensured their workers were always in debt to them.

What I didn't know was that the South had effectively rebuilt slavery, but didn't call it that--through its system of convict and contract labor. Blackmon grimly recounts the establishment and entrenchment of the system. Charges were trumped up against African-Americans, they were always convicted, and either they'd be sentenced to labor (and contracted out) or an employer would pay the fine (which the person would never have) and in return acquire them as labor. Forced labor was not simply a consequence of committing a crime; white leaders sought out black men and manufactured charges against them in order to ensure a constant supply of low cost labor for farms and mines.

This was accompanied by a systematic disenfranchisement and oppression of black Southerners, ensuring they would have no political power to resist the new slavery. It criminalized unemployment amongst African-Americans. When the Federal government attempted to take action against the most egregious offenses, and began to discover how widespread the system was, the white South rose up and demanded that the North stay out of interfering in its way of life. Southern lawyers relied on hyper-technical legal strategies to ensure that the federal government was unable to prosecute anyone for slavery, arguing that it was not technically illegal. Eventually, the government gave up. Northerners were not entirely innocent here; they too began to accept the new "scientific racism" and accepted that "good" blacks were subservient, while those who agitated for their rights were "bad." Northern companies accepted the use of slave labor in the South, even directly as when US Steel bought an Alabama coal company and did nothing to change its use of slave labor.

Only during WWII, driven by fears of enemy propaganda, did President Roosevelt instruct the federal government to begin prosecuting cases of peonage and slavery. Changes in the federal legal code were not made until after the war. The system's death knell was a combination of government action and economic change: modern farming and mining relied less on raw strength.

Blackmon insists on telling not just the horrors of slavery, but recounting the justifications and racism of those who practiced and justified it. This is an essential read. He correctly links our history--and our denial and ignorance of it--to the modern day. In order to progress as a nation, we must understand and acknowledge that history.
… (mer)
arosoff | 34 andra recensioner | Jul 11, 2021 |
Blackmon starts the book by saying it is the story of Green Cottingham, but it is a lot more than that and overly dense with information.
bookwyrmm | 34 andra recensioner | Apr 27, 2021 |



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