In February, PBS Film debuted the film Slavery By Another Name based upon the 2009 Pulizer Prize winning book by Douglas Blackmon, with the subtitle The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans From The Civil War to World War II.
The PBS website further explains the project:
Slavery by Another Name challenges one of our country’s most cherished assumptions: the belief that slavery ended with Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. The documentary recounts how in the years following the Civil War, insidious new forms of forced labor emerged in the American South, keeping hundreds of thousands of African Americans in bondage, trapping them in a brutal system that would persist until the onset of World War II.
Based on Blackmon’s research, Slavery by Another Name spans eight decades, from 1865 to 1945, revealing the interlocking forces in both the South and the North that enabled this “neoslavery” to begin and persist. Using archival photographs and dramatic re-enactments filmed on location in Alabama and Georgia, it tells the forgotten stories of both victims and perpetrators of neoslavery and includes interviews with their descendants living today.
Many people we heard from during the highly-publicised firing of John Derbyshire for racist comments, supported Derbyshire because they believed he was saying what everyone else was thinking: That Black men are violent. They misuse and misunderstand statistics about Black-on-Black violence and believe that these statistics somehow prove that white people are in danger from Black people. For me, these comments were shocking. I have been, in a way, nestled in a warm cocoon (as one of my haters accused me of being), believing that racism was dying out. I was rudely awakened by recent issues such as the Trayvon Martin tragedy and the reaction to John Derbyshire’s firing. I knew about our history, but I didn’t truly understand the racism that is still very much alive, very much thriving, in America today.
It’s so easy for many of us to forget what happened not very long ago, in many of our lifetimes or our parents’ lifetimes, to men and women of color in this country. We believe that slavery ended with the end of the Civil War and we go about our merry ways thinking that a Black man in this country has the same experiences and opportunities as anyone else. We forget about segregation and about everything the Jim Crow laws entailed.
As a person with no education or experience in the field of race relations, criminal justice, or even Civil Rights activism, I cannot attempt to explain how the atrocities people of color have lived through in this country connect with the way in which Black people are regarded by society in general, and by police and other institutions as a whole.
But watching a film like this, even just this short preview, it seems we must force ourselves to look at the reality of our history and make a choice to change the future.
What do you think? Did you know this post-”freedom” slavery happened?
Do you think that our country’s legacy of enslavement and racism affects even the young men and boys growing up today?
What can we do, on a day-to-day basis, to change the future?