author: Douglas A. Blackmon
average rating: 4.20
book published: 2008
read at: 2010/06/19
date added: 2010/06/29
shelves: economics, history, non-fiction
The author makes a pretty good case that slavery in the southern US didn’t really end until WWII…in lots of gruesome detail about the laws and practices that came into place as Reconstruction fell apart. In short, the practice of fines being paid through labor, followed by the chain gang, in which white sheriffs and judges convicted (mostly) men on tiny/ludicrous charges, then made money by essentially selling them to plantation and mine owners.
He even makes the argument that post-Civil War slavery was more brutal, because the workers were disposable.
It’s loosely structured around the generations of a family of central Alabama, which lends a much-needed narrative focus. Otherwise, it’s too easy for it to be simply a catalog of horror, which it’s got plenty of that as well.
The implication, I think, is that slavery isn’t something "so long ago" that it can be dismissed as irrelevant. Secondly, that tension between black communities and law enforcement comes from a deep historical place.
Only three stars because it’s so freaking long, but if you’ve got the time and the stamina I definitely recommend it.