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Publisher's Summary

Bloomsbury presents The Second by Carol Anderson, PhD

From the New York Times best-selling author of White Rage, an unflinching, critical new look at the Second Amendment - and how it has been engineered to deny the rights of African Americans since its inception.

In The Second, historian and award-winning author Carol Anderson powerfully illuminates the history and impact of the Second Amendment, how it was designed and how it has consistently been constructed to keep African Americans powerless and vulnerable. The Second is neither a 'pro-gun' nor an 'anti-gun' book; the lens is the citizenship rights and human rights of African Americans.

From the 17th century, when it was encoded into law that the enslaved could not own, carry or use a firearm whatsoever, until today, with measures to expand and curtail gun ownership aimed disproportionately at the African-American population, the right to bear arms has been consistently used as a weapon to keep African Americans powerless - revealing that armed or unarmed, Blackness, it would seem, is the threat that must be neutralized and punished.

Throughout American history to the 21st century, regardless of the laws, court decisions and changing political environment, the Second has consistently meant this: that the second a Black person exercises this right, the second they pick up a gun to protect themselves (or the second that they don’t), their life - as surely as Philando Castile’s, Tamir Rice’s, Alton Sterling’s - may be snatched away in that single, fatal second. Through compelling historical narrative merging into the unfolding events of today, Anderson’s penetrating investigation shows that the Second Amendment is not about guns but about anti-Blackness, shedding shocking new light on another dimension of racism in America.

©2021 Carol Anderson, PhD (P)2021 Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

Critic Reviews

"The second amendment, as Carol Anderson deftly establishes here, was written in the blood of enslaved Black people. Our stalemated gun rights debates have focused on the idea that the second amendment preserves liberty rather than its historic role in denying it. This book does a great deal to change the parameters of that conversation." (Jelani Cobb, New Yorker staff writer, author of The Substance of Hope)

"In this extraordinarily important book, Dr Anderson shows that the Second Amendment was designed, and has always been implemented, to enable white Americans to dominate their Black neighbors. In her trademark engaging and unflinching prose, Dr Anderson traces America’s racist history of gun laws from the 1639 Virginia colony’s prohibition on Africans carrying guns to the recent police murders of Breonna Taylor and Emantic Bradford, Jr., showing how calls for ‘law and order’ have concentrated guns in the hands of white people while defining Black gun ownership as a threat to society. Anderson’s deft scholarship convincingly places the right to use force at the center of American citizenship, and warns that the Second Amendment, as it is currently exercised, guarantees that Black Americans will never be equal." (Heather Cox Richardson, author of How the South Won the Civil War)

"Carol Anderson brings her brilliant analytical framing to one of our most pressing issues: the proliferation of guns and the epidemic of American gun violence. She reveals the racial hypocrisy inherent in Second Amendment defenses of gun rights. The Second is a must-read for students of American history." (Natasha Trethewey, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, former US Poet Laureate, author of Memorial Drive)

What listeners say about The Second

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  • Overall
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Great Book

Anderson does an excellent job of explaining the history of race and the second amendment in a way that is informative and interesting and not overly academic.

If you're not angry after reading this, you are part of the problem.

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Loved this book

Well researched - historical outcomes weaved with historical facts - to teach us the truths we learned about the Second are vastly different for blacks and whites. .

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The history of the the right to a standing militia transmuted into the right to own

This was an interesting and well documented history of US gun policy from before independence until now. The idea that it was aimed at suppression of African Americans is documented, but ignores the genocide of indigenous people who were systematically exterminated under the same gun laws and US military policy.

I own guns and enjoy shooting but as one returning Afghan sniper quipped, I used the weapons I did as part of my mission. I don’t go deer hunting with an assault weapon any more than I would use my hunting rifle while serving. That we can possess weapons does have credible arguments, though the constitution does not preclude limiting what weapons civilians can have.

This is a worthwhile book to read both for the cultural aspects and historical background of gun rights.

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The truth of how the 2nd is steeped in racism

Very interesting. The book contains much information surrounding the history of the second amendment. It explains a lot that can be tied to the racism that still exists today.

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I learned so much from this book

The book is an incredibly well written book recounting the events that shaped the second in regards to black history. Anyone should read it who wants to know more about black history in respect to a “valued” American “right.” I was saddened by the events that have happened, angered by the response to them and ashamed that I didn’t look deeper into it before now but most of all I’m glad that I read the book to help me understand this modern day issue from a viewpoint other than the white washed one taught in schools. It’s definitely worth listening to.

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Amazing !

Absolutely riveting! This is the most informative and wonderfully done book. It should absolutely B required reading in high school, college, law school! Bless you Carol Anderson!

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Must Read - National Dialogue on Gun Reform

This is an excellent book to generate needed dialogue regarding the Second Ammendment. As we strive for a more perfect union, we must confront the ugly history of our past to embrace the glorious hope of our future.

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A honest history behind the 2nd amendment.

While short this book cuts straight to the point. With factual evidence it is clear that the purpose on the 2nd amendment was to control the black population. With Anti-Black laws codified into this country you see it is no accident that guns are used in defense of RWS. This has been the case since the 1680's when the first law forbade Blacks from having firearms.

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A gut punch to American exceptionalism

The Second is a no holes barred look at the dual history of gun rights for White Americans and a profound lack of parity with Black Americans in particular. The book covers over 400 years of American history that is rarely taught about racial fear influencing American Law and Politics.

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very detailed well told history

well told history about events that are frequently left out of history classes. thank you for this Dr. Anderson!