Show 255: Slavery By Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black People in America from the Civil War to World War II

Audio here!

Sunsara Taylor will speak with Douglas Blackmon about “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 … and those who fought unsuccessfully against the re-emergence of human labor trafficking,” as she uncovers the material basis which allowed such to occur (as opposed to some sense of divine working out of things or natural inferiority), and how the psychological burden of not having material explanations for this persisting inequality has had consequences right up to today.

A passage from “Slavery by any other Name“:

“The reactions of African Americans (to Blackmon’s WSJ article on corporate forced labor of blacks after slavery ended) were altogether different (than whites which … ‘on the whole reacted with somber praise for a sober documentation of a forgotten crime against African Americans’). Repeatedly, they described how the article lifted a terrible burden, that the story had in some way — partly because of its sobriety and presence on the front page of the nation’s most conservative daily newspaper — supplied an answer or part of one to a question so unnerving few dared ask it aloud: If not racial inferiority, what explained the inexplicably labored advance of African Americans in U.S. society in the century between the Civil War and the civil rights movement of the 1960s? The amorphous rhetoric of the struggle against segregation, the thin cinematic imagery of the Ku Klux Klan bogeymen, even the horrifying still visuals of lynching, had never been a sufficient answer to these African Americans for one hundred years of seemingly docile submission by four million slaves freed in 1863 and their tens of millions of descendents. How had so large a population of Americans disappeared into a largely unrecorded oblivion of poverty and obscurity? They longed for a convincing explanation. I began to realize that beneath that query lay a haunting worry within those readers that there might be no answer, that African Americans perhaps were simply damned by fate or by unworthiness. For many black readers, the account of how a form of American slavery persisted into the twentieth century, embraced by the U.S. economic system and abided at all levels of government, offered a concrete answer to that fear for the first time.”


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