“Jarvious Cotton cannot vote. Like his father, grandfather, great- grandfather, and great-great-grandfather, he has been denied the right to participate in our electoral democracy.”
So begins The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander’s groundbreaking look at the systematic mass incarceration of African Americans for more than 150 years.
We frequently hear versions of this question: “Slavery ended so long ago; why are we still talking about it?” As Alexander explains, the thirteenth amendment did abolish chattel slavery in the United States. But it also left open the possibility for involuntary servitude as punishment for a crime. She then lays out a detailed and incredibly-researched look at how that 13th amendment loophole established a framework for using mass incarceration to continue to deny equal rights and protections for African Americans.
We first read The New Jim Crow years ago, before we started production of our feature documentary I’m Not Racist… Am I?. But this is the type of book worth coming back to again, and again. There are also now more discussion and teaching guides to go along with the book and, of course, Ava Duvernay’s incredible documentary 13th.
So, as we’ve grown our team this year, we decided now was a good time to re-read. We hope you’ll join us – particularly if you’re looking to expand your understanding of the specific and concrete ways American racism plays out today. This is one of the way to address the “mind gap” in our path toward racial literacy.
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