Last night I watched a Bill Moyers interview with Douglas Blackmon, the Atlanta bureau chief of the Wall Street Journal. Blackmon's website says this about him:
Over the past 20 years, Douglas A. Blackmon has written extensively about the American quandary of race, exploring the integration of schools during his childhood in a Mississippi Delta farm town, lost episodes of the Civil Rights movement, and, repeatedly, the dilemma of how a contemporary society should grapple with a troubled past. Many of his stories in The Wall Street Journal have explored the interplay of wealth, corporate conduct and racial segregation.
Moyers interviewed Blackmon about his new book Slavery By Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II (Doubleday, 2008). Blackmon argues that slavery did not end in the United States with the 1862 Emancipation Proclamation, but rather that it continued by other means up until the 1940s. Here's a summary of the book (again from Blackmon's website):
Based on a vast record of original documents and personal narratives, Slavery By Another Name unearths 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.
It also reveals the stories of those who fought unsuccessfully against the re-emergence of human labor trafficking, the modern companies that profited most from neoslavery, and the system’s final demise in the 1940s, partly due to fears of enemy propaganda about American racial abuse at the beginning of World War II.
The interview with Blackmon was powerful and quite disturbing. It's the sort of thing that most of us don't like to think about. But without confronting this reality head-on, I really don't see how genuine racial reconciliation is possible.
Watch the Bill Moyers interview with Blackmon here.
You can also listen to Blackmon interviewed on NPR's "Talk of the Nation" here.