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Publisher's Summary

From journalist and New York Times best-selling author Charles Blow comes a powerful manifesto and call to action for Black Americans to amass political power and fight white supremacy.

Race, as we have come to understand it, is a fiction; but, racism, as we have come to live it, is a fact. The point here is not to impose a new racial hierarchy, but to remove an existing one. After centuries of waiting for White majorities to overturn white supremacy, it seems to me that it has fallen to Black people to do it themselves. 

Acclaimed columnist and author Charles Blow never wanted to write a “race book.” But as violence against Black people - both physical and psychological - seemed only to increase in recent years, culminating in the historic pandemic and protests of the summer of 2020, he felt compelled to write a new story for Black Americans. He envisioned a succinct, counterintuitive, and impassioned corrective to the myths that have for too long governed our thinking about race and geography in America. Drawing on both political observations and personal experience as a Black son of the South, Charles set out to offer a call to action by which Black people can finally achieve equality, on their own terms. 

So what will it take to make lasting change when small steps have so frequently failed? It’s going to take an unprecedented shift in power. The Devil You Know is a groundbreaking manifesto, proposing nothing short of the most audacious power play by Black people in the history of this country. This book is a grand exhortation to generations of a people, offering a road map to true and lasting freedom.

©2021 Charles M. Blow (P)2021 HarperCollins Publishers

What listeners say about The Devil You Know

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A radical plan for Black liberation

Recent waves of anti-racist literature have done much to educate the public at large about the evils of White supremacy and the tenacious and deadly fact of systemic racism. Still, far less has been said of a concrete and visionary action plan designed to bring about the kind of lasting economic, social and political equity eluding the United States from the time of its founding.

In THE DEVIL YOU KNOW, Blow rises to the occasion, offering up a most radical plan for Black liberation. Blow calls on Black Americans to embark on a "reverse Great Migration," to move, en masse, away from big destination cities such as New York and Chicago (among others), and into the Southern municipalities that so many Black Americans once called home. A return back to regions once teeming with unbroken generations of vibrant Black communities, ones shaped by Black culture and Black pride - before inhabitants were forced to abandon their hometowns, either in search of work up North – or else as refugees of White terrorism.

Blow's call-to-action is practical as much as it is audacious. Chapter-by-chapter, Blow illustrates how organized Black populations hold the power to systematically target regions throughout the Southern United States for relocation – a demographic shift that, as it were, is already underway – so that they may “fan out like jewels along a necklace” to achieve the population density required for true political power.

But, one might ask, does this suggestion represent an wholesale abandonment of cross-racial equity building? In Blow’s vision, exactly what-in-the-Robin-Diangelo is a White Ally to do?

There may in fact be a clear answer to that question, but Blow does not waste a minute hashing it out. Instead, he highlights the insidious danger of overreliance on White allyship as a means to the socio-political change required to put an end (finally) to the promise of early death that hangs every day over the heads of Black Americans – a fact determined more than anything else, by race.

In particular, Blow expresses healthy skepticism for the zeal of multi-racial mass protests newly popularized in 2020, in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. Protests in which Black Americans exercise a form of “direct democracy” in their right to assemble, side-by-side with White liberal allies who, once the protest is over, retreat back to the comforts of their lives, wearing “$80 yoga pants, carrying their lattes.”

In this way, Blow’s argument flies in the face of more popular and palatable sentiments of coalition building and “coming together” across racial lines as a viable means to change. Instead, Blow draws a Mason-Dixon sized line of demarcation between two forms of democracy to be pursued by Black Americans: that of the “direct democracy” exercised in large public protests, and that of “representative democracy,” in which Black people access the means to self-determination by filling seats in political office. That is, filling local government and the House and Senate alike, with Black people, by Black people, who will work on behalf of Black people.

Blow takes great care to clarify: this is not about creating Black domination. Rather, it is about upending White domination. It is about the pursuit of true, long-term, structural equity –something possible only through representative democracy.

Blow’s words read with a tender urgency, and they are directed right to Black Americans –a kind of, hand-over-the-author’s-heart, extended to his people, seeming to say, “let’s get moving”.

He invites Black Americans to see the South as the origin of their collective social and political identity – a birthright of sorts. To recall its warmth, and to return to it - together.

Blow reminds his readers, Black Americans have done this before, “produced collective action”. The time has arrived to do it again.

“The only thing Black people have to do is come home.”

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Important and Challenging

Blow makes compelling arguments worthy of consideration. I appreciate his positions and understand his motivations. I would strongly urge any who are drawn to this book to read the work of Isabel Wilkerson first. In particular, The Warmth of Other Suns. Blow references the work at least twice but a full pre-reading provides much needed context.

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Powerful, Revelatory, Compelling!

FINALLY! Mr. Blow craftily lays out his argument, offers compelling documentation , examples, and interviews! You cannot read this book and just put it down. You have to do something! I started a Bookclub to discuss our next steps. You are compelled to make this happen and if you’re already in the south as I am, you MUST get the word out and make re-migration to the south a reality!

3 people found this helpful

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I needed to hear this message!

What a deep and powerful inventory of what was , to what can be! Wow!

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Awesome and empowering!

I do enjoyed this book. I will read it again when I feel a need for a lift from the chaos we live today. It has definitely given me reason to pause and consider my plans of where I should retire as I approach that time in my life. Thank you!

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different take on a old subject

loved it brought back talks I had with my mother ,grandmother and great grandmother.What I should do and don't at the same time "Education is the key "to every issue in that time frame.

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Lauded Literature

This is a must read piece of literary genius. It is well researched and written.

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Read this book

I have followed Charles in The NY Times and on social media for a number of years. I have always found his insights very clear and resonant with truth. This is no different. His presentation of the idea of a reverse migration has a lot of salient points. I really enjoyed this book.

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Beautifully written, compelling ideas, eye-opening

It was a really quick read on Audible. Very powerful argumebt and straightforward solution to what has been an impossible problem for hundreds of years. This is the first book I have seen that addresses the Black situation in White Supremacist America that is realistic, provides reason to hope, and has a practical plan. Brilliant! I will buy the paper book.

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Thought provoking

Some history I didn't know. Some statistics I didn't know. Some experiences I didn't know. Wrapped up in a grand plan. Glad I came across this.

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  • G. Michael Conde
  • 03-10-21

Great listen

Loved it...excellent commentary on back america's plight and active plan to manifest our destiny.

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  • Ben Cooper
  • 01-31-21

Excellent and thought provoking

Important, interesting, well writing and argued. I can’t call it a joy to read because the content is uncomfortable, but it’s the kind of discomfort that inspires action and consideration.

Absolutely recommend this book.