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Posted by on Jun 6, 2008 in At TMV | 2 comments

Slavery By Another Name

Matthew Yglesias comments on Douglas Blackmon’s book, Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II:

…what’s really striking about the subject is that despite how central the story of racial conflict is to the story of America, and despite how well-known certain key episodes in that history are, the shocking story that Blackmon has to tell here is virtually unknown.

I assume that this kind of thing forms part of the basis of black-white gaps in perception in the United States. The white version of American history certainly admits to the existence of racial oppression, but it’s a very optimistic “up from slavery” story where the key figures are the heroes and the key episodes are the ones in which the good guys lost. But for fifty-five or sixty years following the collapse of the Confederacy, the cause of racial equality suffered nothing but setbacks.

I’ll be reading the book.

I’m reminded that just last night friends told me I missed a re-airing of the documentary Bansihed. It, too, tells a story that has been expurgated from our official narrative. A hundred years ago white residents forced thousands of black families to flee their homes in communities across the U.S. And those towns remain almost entirely white today.

This an interview with the film’s director includes his quite interesting take on reparations:

Documentation comes from nearly a decade of painstaking research in archives and census records by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Elliot Jaspin. His evidence is irrefutable and contained in his book, Buried in the Bitter Waters. The term he chooses to use for what took place is “racial cleansing.” In this podcast of a lecture he gave at the University of Chicago from April 2007 he explains that when he worked at Cox newspapers’ Atlanta Journal Constitution they refused to allow it. He believes that until we face the brutal truth of it we won’t get past it.

Now in this context I have to wonder if I don’t wish those guys in Tampa well with their big-ol’ Confederate flag. Let them push that history right out in front of the giant Super Bowl audience so we can all keep on learning more and more about that ignoble part of our history. Maybe then we’ll do something about it. And move on.

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