Just finished reading “Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of African-Americans from the Civil War to World War II” by Douglas A. Blackmon. This book demolishes one of the biggest misconceptions of American history – that slavery came to an end in 1865 at the end of the Civil War. In actuality, it lasted until the dawn of World War II.
This book was a real eye-opener. I learned a lot, and I was sometimes shocked by how brutal and systematic the new slavery was. While the author does discuss the oppression black sharecroppers endured, the main focus is on the convict-leasing system in the South and how tens of thousands of blacks were rounded up for petty crimes or no crimes at all, and forced to labor on farms and also in mines where many would die from disease, exhaustion, or the brutality of their supervisors. Besides this, there was also rampant sexual slavery of black women(this deserves its own book).
In many ways the neoslavery was often worse than antebellum slavery since their masters – who didn’t own them for life and could easily replace them – had little incentive to keep them healthy. Some of the stories rival what happened in Nazi death camps. The author goes into great detail concerning which individuals and companies benefited from the neoslavery and the loopholes they exploited to get away with it.
Early efforts at putting an end to the neoslavery either by the federal government or outraged locals were almost always futile. The federal government finally put a stop to it during World War II because they feared the German and Japanese governments would use the existence of neoslavery in their propaganda broadcasts, which they did.
Even after the Civil Rights movement, racism and discrimination are still with us and much still needs to be done, especially when it comes to law enforcement. Falsely believing that slavery ended in 1865 is a huge impediment to racial healing and understanding.