Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Slavery By Another Name

I recently finished reading New York Times best seller and 2009 Pulitzer Prize winning Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II by Arkansas-born Wall Street Journal writer Douglas A. Blackmon. I've clicked links to a film version of the book as well as several summaries and reviews below.

The story is the story of blacks in the American south after the Civil War. Blackmon argues that slavery - involuntary servitude and the harsh life it entailed - did not end until World War II. It simply took another form. That form was in a system he outlines in great detail called "convict leasing."

What struck me at the end of the book was several things. First, how there are people I know who were alive in the 1940s and experienced or remember what Blackmon calls "neo-slavery." I know families - parents, sons and daughters - of those who experienced neo-slavery. It is not that slavery was something that went back to 1865 and no living person can remember it; slavery goes back to 1942 and many remember and lived it. Second, I came away understanding an underlying suspicion by many in the black community regarding the laws of the land. The laws are supposed to protect the people. All of the people. Yet, this books reminds us, often in brutal narratives hard to get through, how the laws of the land failed a whole group of people in our land again and again. Since we are dealing with something that ended only 70 years ago, the lingering distrust will take more intentional work and time to dissipate. And finally, the book left me longing for a vision of God to take root in the hearts of all people. I hope to see humans when I look at anyone - real people with hopes and fears, loves and struggles, and families and friends. Anything less than that puts up walls between people and, in its worst forms, makes others somehow less than in our eyes. God calls for something greater of us. God calls us to see humans who somehow in all of our brokenness and tarnished ways, bear his image in us.

Watch the film adaptation of the book

YouTube interview with Blackmon

Blackmon's own website

Wikipedia information on the book

Sermon by Pastor Norm Hatter on being like Christ with others