Pulitzer Prize, General Nonfiction, 2009
In this groundbreaking historical expose, Douglas A. Blackmon brings to light one of the most shameful chapters in American history: an Age of Neoslavery that thrived from the aftermath of the Civil War through the dawn of World War II.
Using a vast record of original documents and personal narratives, Douglas A. Blackmon unearths the lost stories of slaves and their descendants who journeyed into freedom after the Emancipation Proclamation and then back into the shadow of involuntary servitude shortly thereafter.
By turns moving, sobering, and shocking, this unprecedented account reveals the stories of those who fought unsuccessfully against the re-emergence of human labor trafficking, the companies that profited most from neoslavery, and the insidious legacy of racism that reverberates today.
©2009 Douglas A. Blackmon (P)2010 Audible, Inc.
“Shocking....Eviscerates one of our schoolchildren's most basic assumptions: that slavery in America ended with the Civil War.” (The New York Times)
“The genius of Blackmon's book is that it illuminates both the real human tragedy and the profoundly corrupting nature of the Old South slavery as it transformed to establish a New South social order.” (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
I can remember Jim Crow, but some how missed this story from my history classes. Blackman has done a wonderful service to all Americans by placing the outcome of the Civil War in historical context.
Essentially, freedmen were jailed on (what we would term today) trumped charges. The authorities then leased those men (and the occasional woman) to commercial enterprises without recourse. They were, in essence Blackman suggests, expected to fulfill their "time served" under conditions not unlike they had known earlier under enslavement.
Blackman fills every chapter with stories illustrating the expriences of those held. They are all explicit and many brought tears to my eyes. There is some repetition or, rather, some of the descriptions are similar. However, the last sections of the book bring home the necessity of the narration presented before.
Blackman's writing is very good. The narration of Dennis Boutsikanis is outstanding. This is a book no American should miss.
I have read a lot of books that dealt with "forgotten chapters in history" but never have I read anything that shocked me as much as this book. I truly did not realize that slavery existed as long as it did in the South. The facts in this book are sometimes hard to believe, but if you have an interest in the Civil War (as I do), then this should be required reading. Great narration, too. I am now going to get the PBS movie made about the subject.
Fills in a missing chapter in American history dealing with slavery. We hear a lot about slavery prior to the civil war and during the civil rights movement, but not during the period between them. How did we ever let these things happen?
English Lit BA highest honors UC Berkeley, 1974. Listening to books for pleasure or education is fun and it separates good writing from bad.
The story of how the US let itself and its African-American people down after Reconstruction and Emancipation is more nasty and bitter than the Civil War itself. All the Civil War ended up doing was preventing the spread of slavery to the new territories and states. Once the US Army left, the racist White Supremacist southerners found clever new ways of re-instituting their hateful practice of getting cheap labor, and their sadistic jollies at the same time.
I am conservative as they come, but if anybody tells you that Affirmative Action or Reparations are wrong, I will hereafter reply that they are a blunt instrument, but not half so blunt as those which beat upon the backs of the Grandfathers, and Great-Grandfathers of my African-American fellows.
An old broad that enjoys books of all types. Would rather read than write reviews though. I know what I like, and won't be bothered by crap.
This was an eye opening experience for me. While I have always thought that the South treated blacks differently than other parts of the United States, I never dreamed it was worse than ever for them until after World War II. I am not saying it was only in the Southern United States as people are racist all over and a lot of other states made it impossible for blacks to feel safe in those areas. What this book does is document the so called convict workers and how the majority of convicts were blacks and treated much differently than whites for similar crimes. For example a white man found riding the rails was sentenced to 10 days labor while a black man would be sentenced to 2 years or more for the same offence.
This was a money making venture for sheriffs and judges in the South. They would arrest black men for not having any money in their pockets thus being "vagrants" and fine them 20 dollars. Then they would tell these men that their only hope would be to let this white man pay their fine and then they could work it off. The white man (usually the sheriff or judge themselves) would sell their contracts for these men to a mine or farm or factory and the black men would be indentured to these men until they were no longer useful or died. In a lot of ways it was worse than slavery as the whites who worked these blacks had no care for their welfare as there were always more convicts to get.
Corporations like US Steel and banks like Wachovia were owners of some of these endeavors. The United States Federal courts looked away for the most part as it was "out of their jurisdiction". Teddy Roosevelt tried to change things with very little luck. Woodrow Wilson made things worse by creating segregation in the Washington DC area during his term in office. J. Edgar Hoover couldn't be bothered to help the negro. FDR realized that if America didn't do something positive for the Blacks, Germany and Japan would use that as propaganda against America and finally instructed the Justice department to prosecute at the highest level of the law any person or corporation using this feudal servitude method in the United States.
This book should be required reading for anyone who enjoys history. I mentioned just a few ways this keeping the black man back was done. There are many more documented in this book.
The narration by Dennis Boutsikaris was wonderfully done.
Highly recommend this, and have done so many times since
Learning about overlooked real events, research in the minutest detail, and conveyed in an engaging way through the lives of principal individuals.
Very direct and well paced; never gets in the way of the narrative, only enhances it. Authoritative without sounding pedantic.
The South will never be the same.
The story is a book of passion and discovery by a well respected, objective, obsessively dedicated,
Audible obsessed lifelong learner.
Tells the story of corruption and greed that fueled the extension of slavery up to the time of World War II. Corrupt public officials had their pockets lined by unethical business men itch the chattel of men and women caught in trumped up charges and forced to work against their will. Severe corporal punishment was the norm and death and despair flourished. This is a implication of post slavery seldom discussed but that explains so much of the rac dynamics that exist I. The south to this day.
New twist on US slave history. Mostly focused on AL and GA post Civil War slavery.
The information presented here is powerful, moving, and not well enough known. I would have liked more perspective about things such as the total number of black vs. white convicts, the total black population in areas under discussion, and so on. Still, the story is well told and hard to forget. The reader is okay, though he has a number of vocal ticks that increasingly grate (esp. a sort of Clintonesque yawn/purr, the sound equivalent of tilting your head). Also, someone should have prevented his comic pronunciation of Dubois (which he reads like Blanche Dubois) and Tuskegee.
I expected this book to rehash the well-known civil rights abuses that took place between the abolition of slavery and the Civil Rights Movements a hundred years later, but in fact it did so much more than that: it taught me things about US history and slave history in the US which I had never known.
It's a terrible, intimate portrait of one family and the economic and political situation which encompassed them in a whirlwind of oppression. Set against the backdrop of their lives and struggles, the book meticulously documents how slavery continued "underground" after emancipation on a vast, all-encompassing scale through the various machinations of the US legal and corporate systems, protected at every level under the broad umbrella of "progress", how the North turned a blind eye, and on and on.
At its heart this is a very important, overlooked part of American history whose legacy continues through the present day; it was this post-bellum period which sowed the seeds of contemporary race politics and relations in the US more even than slavery itself. It created a blueprint for future generations of white men for how they can keep men (especially) of color on their knees even beyond the Civil Rights Movement, with full protection of the the legal system and corporate America. This is the post-emancipation history we never learned in school.
Although not intended as such, this book is an excellent prequel to The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, which views the mass incarceration of black men as an extension of Jim Crow laws in modern "color-blind" America.
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