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Barnes and... A Conversation with Douglas A. Blackmon

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Douglas A. Blackmon, Author - Blackmon will discuss his Pulitzer Prize winning book, "Slavery by Another Name," which examines how a form of neoslavery thrived in America long after legal abolition. Based on a vast record of original documents and personal narratives, the book unearths the lost stories of slaves and their descendants who journeyed into freedom after the Emancipation Proclamation and then back into involuntary servitude.

TRANSCRIPT

STEVE BARNES: HELLO, AGAIN, EVERYONE. THANKS FOR JOINING US. THE TELEPHONE CALL THAT EVER AUTHOR OR JOURNALIST HOPES TO RECEIVE, WHETHER THEY ADMIT IT OR NOT, CAME IN APRIL OF 2009. DOUBTLESS IT WOULD HAVE COME SOONER HAD DOUGLAS BLACKMON BORN AND EDUCATED IN ARKANSAS NOT GONE OFF WITH HIS FAMILY TO MISSISSIPPI EARLIER IN LIFE, BUT -- OH, THE TELEPHONE CALL, HE WAS AWARDED THE PULLITZER PRIZE, THE BOOK, SLAVERY BY ANY OTHER NAME, DOUG DOUGLAS, THANKS FOR TAKING TIME FOR US.

DOUGLAS BLACKMON: THANK YOU.

STEVE BARNES: SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME. EMANCIPATION PRO CLAIMATION SOUNDED GOOD BUT DIDN'T WORK.

DOUGLAS BLACKMON: DIDN'T WORK. THE END OF THE WAR, THE EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION WAS SUPPOSED TO END SLAVERY. THE SLAVERY WE ALL KNOW SOMETHING ABOUT, BUT IN REALITY, WHAT HAPPENED IN RURAL AREAS OF THE DEEP SOUTH LIKE ARKANSAS DELTA AND MISSISSIPPI DELTA, WHERE THERE HAD BEEN LARGE POPULATIONINGS OF BLACK SLAVES AT THE END OF CIVIL WAR EXPERIENCED A PERIOD OF TIME OF AUTHENTIC FREEDOM. DEPENDS ON WHERE YOU WERE FOR HOW LONG THAT LASTED. A DECADE, 20 YEARS, 25 YEARS, HALF A GENERATION PERHAPS OF AUTHENTIC FREEDOM, CITIZENSHIP, DIFFICULT LIVES, POVERTY, A LACK OF EDUCATION, BUT AUTHENTIC AMERICAN CITIZENSHIP. BUT THEN IN THIS 1880'S AND 1890S A SHADOW FELL ACROSS THE SOUTH AND CITIZENSHIP WAS PULLED AWAY AND MANY AFRICAN-AMERICANS WERE PULLED BACK INTO RAW SERVEITUDE.

STEVE BARNES: IN YOUR CAPACITY AS BUREAU CHIEF FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, WHEN DID YOU -- WELL, START WITH THAT FIRST DISPATCH THAT YOU FILED FOR THE PAPER.

DOUGLAS BLACKMON: I WAS ALWAYS INTERESTED AND RAISED FROM THE TIME I WAS A KID THROUGH ALL MICROPHONE SCHOOLING, I HAD A BIG INTEREST IN RACE. ABOUT HOW THE AMERICAN SOUTH HAD PROCESSED THE PAST FROM THE WAY OTHER SOCIETIES WITH GREAT DIFFICULT CRIMES, REALLY, IN THEIR PAST, HOW DIFFERENTLY THOSE THINGS HAD BEEN PROCESSED IN OTHER PLACES THAN IT WAS IN THE WORLD I GREW UP IN, SORT OF CONFEDERATE FLAG-WAVING WORLD OF MY CHILDHOOD. I WAS ALWAYS INTERESTED IN THAT. I WAS FOLLOWING THE SURVIVORS OF -- SURVIVEING GERMAN CORPG -- CORPORATIONS WELL THE -- THE PEOPLE WHO HAD DONE THE ENSLAVING WERE DEAD BY THE COMPANIES WERE ALIVE. SO YOU HAD OLD, DYING AWAY SURVIVORS OF THE HOLE CAWS BRINGING LAWSUITS AND ACHIEVING SUCCESS IN TERMS OF MORALS, MORAL CONCERN ABOUT THOSE CLAIMS THAT PEOPLE HAD THOUGHTED THAT GONE AWAY. SO I BEGAN TO WONDER WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF WE LOOKED AT THE ROLE OF BUSINESS AND COMMERCE IN SOME OF THE TERRIBLE THINGS THAT HAPPENED IN THE AMERICAN PAST, IF WE LOOKED AT AMERICAN COMPANIES THROUGH THE SAME LENS WE WERE INSISTING ON GERMAN COMPANIES, WHAT WOULD WE SEE. OVER TIME, THAT LET ME TO THE DISCOVERY OF AN EPISODE IN WHICH U.S. STEEL CORPORATION, A GREAT AMERICAN COMPANY BASED IN PITTSBURGH, A NORTHERN COMPANY, NOT A SOUTHERN COMPANY, OWNED COAL MINES IN ALABAMA IN WHICH SHOWDZ OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN -- THOUSANDS OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN MEN WERE ENSLAVEED. MEN WHO HAD DONE NOTHING TO BE IMPRISONED AND WERE HELD UNDER HORRIBLE CIRCUMSTANCES, AND 30 TO 40% OF THEM DIED BEFORE THEY SAW FREEDOM AGAIN. THESE AWFUL SCENES OF AMERICAN DEATH CAMPS OPERATEED BY AMERICAN CORPORATIONS. SO I WROTE A STORY ABOUT THAT, THAT PARTICULAR EPISODE IN THE WALL STREET JOURNAL IN 2001. AFTER THAT I WAS ENCOURAGED TO WRITE MORE AND STARTED WORKING ON THE BOOK AND CAME TO REALIZE I WAS LOOKING AT SOMETHING THAT WAS A MUCH BROADER, MUCH MORE PROFOUND REEXAMINEATION OF THIS PERIOD OF AMERICAN HISTORY IN A WAY OF, I THINK, BEING MUCH MORE HONEST ABOUT THE TOTALITY OF WHAT WAS REALLY DONE TO AFRICAN-AMERICANS IN THAT PERIOD OF TIME.

STEVE BARNES: CIVIL WAR IS OVER, A NEW SOUTH IS PROCLAIMED AND TO SOME DEGREE IT WAS, BECAUSE SOUTH -- SOLELY A AGRERAIRIAN CULTURE, INDUSTRIALIZEATION CAME, THERE WAS STEEL MINING, RAILROADS, OTHER INDUSTRY, AND THEREIN, NO PUN INTENDED, THERE WAS THE FORGE OF THE NEW FORM OF ENSLAVEMENT.

DOUGLAS BLACKMON: WHAT WAS INTERESTING IN THAT PERIOD OF TIME, WAS NUMBER ONE, EVEN THOUGH THE BEGINNINGS OF THE INDUSTRIAL PERIOD OF THE NEW SOUTH WAS UNDERWAY, THE REALITY WAS AT THE END OF THE CIVIL WART SOUTHERN ECONOMY AND WHITE SOUTHERNERS, SPECIFICALLY, WERE ADDICTED TO SLAVE RIRKS ECONOMICALLY ADDICTED TO SLAVERY. WHITE FARMERS KNEW WHEN AND HOW TO PLANT COTTON, BUT THEY COULD NOT PRODUCE COTTON ON THE SCALE THAT THE SOUTHERN ECONOMY DEMANDED IT AND THE NATIONAL ECONOMY DEMANDED IT WITHOUT ACCESS TO MILLIONS OF SAVES. THAT'S NOT A SURPRISE. IF YOU REMOVED THE INTERNAL COME W.OMBUSTION, NO ONE WOULD KNOW WHAT TO DO. THAT WAS THE CASE BACK THEN. WHITE SOUTHERNERS COULDN'T FIGURE OUT HOW TO ENTER INTO FREE AND OPEN LABOR ARRANGEMENTS WITH THE MILLIONS OF BLACK LABORERS NECESSARY FOR THE SOUTHERN ECONOMY. THAT CREATED A TREMENDOUS ECONOMIC COME PULL -- COMPULSION TO FORCE BLACKS INTO SLAVERY. THEN THE WHITE SOUTH WAS IN TERROR OF BLACK POLITICAL INVOLVEMENT. THEN YOU HAD MANY PLACES IN THE SOUTH WHERE THERE WAS BLACK MAJORITIES AND THERE WAS A TREMENDOUS POLITICAL NEED AS WELL TO FORCE BLACKS OUT OF THE POLITICAL SYSTEM. SO THOSE TWO IMPERATIVES CAME TOGETHER WHERE REINSTITUTING SLAVERY, NEOSLAVERY, BECAME A MECHANISM FOR RESTARTING THE SOUTHERN AND NATIONAL ECONOMY, BUT ALSO THE MOST POWERFUL WEAPON FOR CRUSHING THE BLACK POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC ASPIRATION.

STEVE BARNES: AUGMENTING THIS WAS THE FEAR FOR WHITE SOUTHERN WOMANHOOD.

DOUGLAS BLACKMON: SURE, EXACTLY. THERE WAS A TREMENDOUS FEAR, ALMOST A PARANOIA, ABOUT THE POSSIBILITY OF THE INTERMIXING OF BLACKS AND WHITES, SEXUALLY RACIALLY, OF COURSE. THEY OF THAT IS -- THE IRONY IS THAT BLACKS AND WHITES WERE SO PROFOUNDLY MIXED, IT WAS A PROFOUND IDEA. THIS FEAR OF BLACKS AND WHITES WAS PROFOUND AND IRRATIONAL BUT ONE OF THE MOST INSENDERY ASPECT OF WHAT SHOULD BE THE PROPER ROLE OF BLACKS IN AMERICAN LIFE.

STEVE BARNES: CENTRAL TO -- I DON'T KNOW IF IT'S CENTRAL, BUT A KEY TO THE ESTABLISHMENT AND THE MAINTENANCE OF THIS WAS THE SIMPLE CHARGE OF VAGRANCY.

DOUGLAS BLACKMON: IN EVERY SOUTHERN STATE -- STILL A CRIME IN MOST STATES ON THE BOOKS, BUT IT WAS A CRIME EVERYWHERE IN THE SOUTH IN THE EARLY 20TH CENTURY NOT TO BE ABLE TO PROVE AT ANY GIVEN MAN, A MAN, THAT HE WAS EMPLOYED. IN AN ERA IN WHICH THERE WERE NO PAY STUBS BY AND LARGE, EVERYONE WAS PAID IN CASH, AND LABOR ARRANGEMENTS WERE INFORMAL TYPICALLY, IT WAS IMPOSSIBLE FOR ANY, PARTICULARLY A FARM LABOR, FARM WORKER TO PROVE THEY WERE EMPLOYED. UNLESS THERE WAS A WHITE MAN THAT WAS WILLING TO STEP FORWARD AND SAY THAT'S MY MAN, THAT'S MY WORKER. SO WITHOUT THIS PROTECTION, THIS AUTHORITY EXTENDED DOWN FROM A LAND OWNER AND EMPLOYER, THEN EVERY LABORER WAS VULNERABLE FOR BEING ARRESTED FOR VAGRANCY. THOSE STATUTES AND OTHERS PASSED IN THE SAME PERIOD OF TIME THAT CREATED SIMILAR LEGAL JEOPARDIES SUCH AS WALKING ALONG A RAILROAD LINE, OR GETTING ON A FREIGHT TRAIN WITHOUT A TICKET AS MANY LABORERS WOULD DO DURING THAT TIME. OR ATTEMPTING TO SEEK EMPLOYMENT FROM ANOTHER LAND OWNER WITHOUT PERMISSION FROM THE LAND OWNER WHERE YOU ALREADY WORKED, THAT WAS A CRIME IN ARKANSAS IN 1910 AND IN MISSISSIPPI AND EVERY OTHER SOUTHERN STATE. ALL OF THESE MISDEMEANOR CRIMINAL OFFENSES WERE WRITTEN AND PASSED BY THE SOUTHERN LEGISLATURES WITHOUT SAYING THEY WOULD ONLY BE APPLIED TO AFRICAN-AMERICANS, BUT BY AND LARGE THEY WERE ONLY APPLIED TO AFRICAN-AMERICANS. THE SPECIFIC PURPOSE OF THOSE LAWS WAS TO MAKE IT NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE FOR A BLACK MAN TO LIVE ANYWHERE IN THE RURAL SOUTH AND NOT BE IN CONSTANT JEOPARDY OF ARREST ON ALMOST ANY BASIS. AND ONCE ARRESTED WOULD FIND HIMSELF SOLD INTO LABOR EITHER IN A COAL MINE OR PLANTATION FARM OR ANY OTHER NUMBER OF HUNDREDS OF FORCED LABOR CAMPS THAT POPPED UP ALL OVER THE SOUTH.

STEVE BARNES: AND YOU WERE ABLE TO DOCUMENT THIS, THIS IS NOT A COINCIDENCE -- IN SOME CASES IT WAS IN DEBATE. THE PURPOSE OF THE STATUTES WAS TO ENSURE A STEADY SUPPLY OF, TO PUT IT MILDLY, CHEAP LABOR. GLOIG.

DOUGLAS BLACKMON: EXACTLY. TO CREATE A STEADY, MASSIVE SUPPLY OF CHEAP LABOR THAT WOULD OPERATE IN THE SAME WAY IT OPERATED DURING SLAVERY, EXCEPT THAT MOST OF THE WOMEN WERE REMOVED FROM THE PICTURE AND THERE WAS NO LONGER ANY -- THERE WERE NO OLDER WORKERS INVOLVED IN ALL THIS. THIS WAS ABOUT IDENTIFYING YOUNG, STRONG AFRICAN-AMERICAN MEN FORCING THEM INTO HARD LABOR AND WORKING THEM IN A WAY FAR MORE RUTHLESS THAN HAD BEEN THE CASE MANY THE OLD SLAVERY. IN MANY LABOR CAMP THAT IS POPPED UP ALL OVER THE PLACE, THERE WAS NO CARE OR CONCERN WHATSOEVER ABOUT WHETHER THESE MEN WOULD SURVIVE FOR MORE THAN A YEAR OR TWO OR THREE YEARS, BECAUSE UNLIKE THE CIVIL WAR IN WHICH SLAVES WERE EXTREMELY VALUABLE ASSETS TO THE WHITE MEN WHO PURCHASED THEM, THERE WAS SOME INCENTIVE TO PRESERVE THEIR LIVES AND CREATE A FAMILY STRUCTURE THAT THEY LIVED IN. BUT IN THIS NEW SLAVERY THAT CAME AFTER THE CIVIL WAR, THERE WAS NONE OF THAT. THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF MEN WERE LITERALLY WORKED TO DEATH BECAUSE AS SOON AS ONE MAN DIED, YOU WOULD SIMPLEY GO TO THE COUNTY JAIL AND BUY TWO OR THREE MORE FOR ALMOST NOTHING.

STEVE BARNES: IN FACT, YOU INCLUDED, YOURSELF LED YOU TO CONCLUDE IN THE FIRST THIRD OF THE 20TH CENTURY, AN ENORMOUS PERCENTAGE OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN MEN, PARTICLE IN THE SOUTH, WERE ESSENTIALLY CHATTAL, PROPERTY?

DOUGLAS BLACKMON: THERE WERE HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN MEN BY THE 1930S IN THE FIRST THREE DECADES OF THE 20TH CENTURY, THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO DOUBT THERE WERE HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN MEN WHO FOR AT LEAST SOME PERIOD OF TIME HAD BEEN FORCED BACK INTO THIS COMPLETELY INVOLUNTARY S.ERVITUDE, BY THE COURT SYSTEM OR MEN WHO HAD NOT CREATED ANY MEANINGFUL CRIME, HAD CREATED TRIVIAL MISDEMEANORS OR NO CRIME AT ALL. IN FACT, THERE WERE OBVIOUSLY HUNDREDS IF NOT THOUSANDS, I SUSPECT, MANY, MANY THOUSANDS OF LITERAL KIDNAPPINGS WHERE AN AFRICAN-AMERICAN MAN WALKING DOWN A COUNTRY ROAD IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE WOULD BE SNATCHED BY THRUG -- THUGS GRABBING BLACK MEN TO BE LABORERS CREATING A TURN TRUMPED UP CHARGE OF VAGRANCY OR GOING TO A LAND OWNER AND SELLING THEM FOR 40, 50 OR $75 A HEAD. IT WAS A CASE IN ATLANTA, FOR INSTANCE, THERE WAS A HUGE BRICK FACTORY ON THE OUTSKIRTS OF THE CITY AND MILLIONS OF BRICKS WERE MADE EVERY WEEK IN THIS FACTORY ON THE EDGE OF THE CITY. ALL THE WORKERS IN THAT PLANT, ALL OF THEM WERE ENSLAVEED AFRICAN-AMERICAN MEN AND WHITE MEN ON SUNDAY AFTERNOON COULD COME TO THE BRICK YARD AND SAY THEY WANTED TO PURCHASE A NEGRO. THE GUARDS WOULD BRING THEM OUT, LINE THEM UP LIKE A HORSE SALE AND WHITE MEN WOULD CIRCLE AROUND AND INSPECT THEM OR BRING A BLACK WORKER THEY WANTED TO TRADE AND BARGAIN FOR THE PURCHASE AND SELL OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN AMERICAN. IN THE 20TH CENTURY.

STEVE BARNES: SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME?

DOUGLAS BLACKMON: EXACTLY.

STEVE BARNES: OFTEN AUTHORS NEED A FLESH IN BLOOD CHARACTER WHEN ATTACKING THIS TYPE OF THING. YOU FOUND ONE IN GREEN COTTON HAMM.

DOUGLAS BLACKMON: HE WAS BORN TO PARENTS WHO HAD BEEN ENSLAVED BEFORE THE CIVIL WAR. THEY MARRIED IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE CIVIL WAR. I SUSPECT THEY HAD KNOWN EACH OTHER IN SLAVERY. THEY LIVED IN ALABAMA IN THIS PERIOD OF TIME IN WHICH THERE WAS AUTHENTIC FREEDOM FOR AFRICAN-AMERICANS. IN FACT, THE AFRICAN BORN SLAVES THE GRANDFATHER OF GREEN, AND A GROUP OF OTHER FORMER SLAVE FROM ONE  PLANTATION LIVED NEAR EACH OTHER, ACQUIRED PROPERTY, PARTICIPATED IN THE POLITICAL ELECTIONS AND MADE SOME ECONOMIC PROGRESS THOUGH HAD VERY DIFFICULT LIVES, NONETHELESS THEY WERE FREE, AMERICAN CITIZENS. THEY WERE EXPERIENCING THE BEGINNINGS OF THE TUPTS OF BEING AN AMERICAN -- OPPORTUNITIES OF BEING AN AMERICAN IN THAT TIME. GREEN WAS BORN IN THE 1880S JUST AS THAT PERIOD OF REAL FREEDOM WAS COMING TO AN END. AS HE ROSE TO ADULTHOOD IN THE 1890S AND AT THE BEGINNING OF THE 20TH CENTURY, ALL OF THESE TERRIBLE, TERRIBLE MECHANISMS OF REENSLAVEMENT WERE COMING DOWN ACROSS BLACK LIVES. SO BY THE TIME HE'S A YOUNG MAN AFTER THE TURN OF THE CENTURY, THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF AFRICAN-AMERICANS HAD BEEN RETURNED TO THE STATE OF NEOSLAVERY. THERE WERE NO AFRICAN-AMERICANS VOTING ANYWHERE FROM THE SOUTH, THEY HAD BEEN DISPOSSESSED OF ALL ASPECT OF CITIZENSHIP BY THAT TIME. WHAT FEW SCHOOLS AND EDUCATIONAL SYSTEMS AIMED AT AFRICAN-AMERICANS HAD EXISTED PREVIOUSLY HAD LARGE LARGELY BEEN DESTROYED OR DEGRADED TO THE STATUS THEY REMAINED IN THROUGH THE 1950S AND GREEN BECOMES AN ADULT IN THAT PERIOD OF TIME. HE IS ARRESTED IN THE SPRING OF 1908 OUTSIDE A TRAIN STATION IN A LITTLE TOWN IN ALABAMA DURING A SWEEP IN WHICH THE COUNTY SHERIFF AND DEPUTYIES WERE, AS THEY ROUTINELY DO WHEN THE COAL MINES IN BIRMINGHAM NEEDED MORE WORKERS, THEY WOULD ROUND UP AN ALLOTMENT OF YOUNG MEN, CHARGE THEM WITH THINGS LIKE PETTY THEFT, RARELY -- EVENING IN CASES -- EVEN IN CASES IT WAS RARE THAT OFFENSES OCCURRED, GREEN WAS ARRESTED IN THAT MEARN AND SENT -- MANNER AND THRUST INTO THIS AWFUL CIRCUMSTANCE WHERE HE WAS FORCED TO LABOR UNDER THE WHIP. HE HAD TO REMOVE FOUR TONS OF COAL FROM THE MINE EVERY DAY OR BE PUNISHED WITH A WHIP, IN THE MORNING AT NIGHT, WORKING IN STANDING WATER, ABSOLUTELY UNBELIEVABLE CONDITIONS, STARVEATION, LACK OF CLOTHING, NO MEDICAL CARE AND BECAME ILL AND DIED THERE FIVE MONTHS LATER UNDER ABSOLUTELY OR HORRIBLE CIRCUMSTANCES.

STEVE BARNES: I NOTICE IN THE BOOK THIS IS A TECHNIQUE, YOU SIGN -- I THINK THE EARLY PART OF THE 20TH CENTURY, THE LOCAL PLANTERS, IT WAS HARVEST TIME AND THEY NEEDED WORKERS SO YOU CALLED THE SHERIFF.

DOUGLAS BLACKMON: EXACTLY. THIS WAS AN INCREDIBLY COMMON THING. I SUSPECT YOU HAVE VIEWERS WHO ARE IN THEIR 60S AND 70S THAT RECALL THIS SORT OF THING CONTINUED IN THE DELTA COUNTIES OF ARKANSAS AND MISSISSIPPI AND LOTS OF OTHER HIGH INTENSITY FARMING AREAS ALL OVER THE SOUTH RIGHT UP INTO THE 1960S IT WAS COMMON PLACE IN THE BRING AND FALL, BUT PARTICULARLY AT PICKING TIME IN COTTON COUNTIES FOR THE SPLIF -- SHERIFF TO ROUND UP EVERY AFRICAN-AMERICAN MAN THEY COULD FIND AND FORCE THEM INTO THE FIELDS. IN OUR CHILDHOOD IN THE 50S AND 60S, IT WAS STILL THE CASE BLACK SCHOOLS IN ARKANSAS AND MISSISSIPPI IN THE COTTON COUNTIES, SCHOOL WOULD CLOSE AT COTTON SHOPPING SEASON AND PICKING TIME. THAT WAS ALL A  DURING THIS PERIOD OF TIME WHERE THERE WAS NO QUESTIONING OF IDEA AT THOSE TIMES WHEN THE MOST BLACK LABORERES WERE NEEDED THE ARREST RATE WENT UP AND EVERY AFRICAN-AMERICAN WAS SUPPOSED TO BE AVAILABLE FOR THE HARVEST, WHETHER THEY WANTED TO BE OR NOT.

STEVE BARNES: FIRST OF ALL, DOUGLAS BLACKMON YOU ARE, NOT TO BE CUTE, YOU ARE NOT MAKING THIS UP. YOU'VE GOT LITERALLY DIRTY GOING THROUGH COURTHOUSE BASEMENTS ACROSS THE SOUTH AND NATIONAL ARCHIVES.

DOUGLAS BLACKMON: THAT'S RIGHT.

STEVE BARNES: WE KEPT GOOD RECORDS OF THE CRIMES.

DOUGLAS BLACKMON: WE DID. THAT'S AN INTERESTING POINT. THIS IS AN ASPECT OF THE HISTORY AT THE TIME IT WAS HAPPENING, NO ONE WAS PARTICULARLY EMBARRASSED ABOUT IT. IT'S NOT LIKE THERE WAS A COVERUP WRITTEN INTO THE RECORDS. THERE WAS AN EFFORT TO CREATE THE APPEARANCE THAT, IN FACT, HUGE NUMBERS OF PEOPLE HAD COMMITTED CRIMES BEFORE THEY WERE FORCED BACK INTO LABOR. THERE WERE TECHNICALLALITIES TO ADHERE TO, BUT NO ONE WAS EMBARRASSED ABOUT THIS.  THIS WAS CELEBRATED, POLITICALLY, IN THE LEGISLATURES. SO SOUTHERNERS WERE OPEN ABOUT THIS. AT THE SAME TIME, WHITES IN THE NORTH WHO BY THE BEGINNING OF THE 20TH CENTURY NO LONGER PARTICULARLY SUPPORTED REAL CITIZENSHIP FOR AFRICAN-AMERICANS EITHER BECAUSE THE AMERICAN STRUGGLE OVER RACE AND WHAT TO DO WITH THE FREED SLAVES AND THEIR DESCENDANTS HAD BEEN SO EXHAUSTING, BY THE TIME YOU GET TO THE BEGINNING OF THE 20TH CENTURY, ALMOST NO WHITES IN AMERICAN IN ANY SIGNIFICANT NUMBERS STILL SUPPORT REAL CITIZENSHIP FOR AFRICAN-AMERICANS. EVERYONE WAS OPEN ABOUT WHAT WAS HAPPENING DURING THIS PERIOD OF TIME, BUT IT IS SOMETHING THE HISTORIANS HAVE TENDED TO MINIMIZE OR OVERLOOK BECAUSE THESE ASSERTIONS, THESE REALITIES DEFY SUCH FUNDAMENTAL ASSETS OF AMERICAN -- SUCH AS PRESIDENT LINCOLN ENDED SLAVE RI. IN REALITY, IT DIDN'T HAPPEN QUITE THAT WAY. THERE'S BEEN A TENDENCY NOT TO SEE THE REALITY AND HUGE NATURE OF WHAT HAPPENED IN ITS FULL SCALE BECAUSE IT IS SO DISCONCERTING TO OUR VIEWS OF OURSELVES AS AMERICA.

STEVE BARNES: YOU GOT IT AT THE ATOMIC LEVEL. YOU DIDN'T HAVE TO GO TO THE -- YOU COULD GET THE CONGRESSIONAL RECORD AND EVEN TODAY YOU COULD WINCE IF NOT WEEP AT WHAT WAS UTTERED ON THE FLOOR AT THE UNITED STATES SENATE.

DOUGLAS BLACKMON: IT'S AMAZING HOW WHITES MERPS AMERICANS -- WHITES WERE INTOLERANT OF THIS.  THE MANIFEST OF THIS IS IN COURTHOUSE AFTER COURTHOUSE. I WENT ALL ACROSS ALABAMA, GEORGIA, FLORIDA, LOOKING FOR THE ORIGINAL ARREST RECORDS, THE ORIGINAL COURT RECORDS FROM THIS PERIOD OF TIME TO TRY TO UNDERSTAND WHAT RECOMMEND HAPPENED AT THE MOST BASIC LEVEL. IT'S THERE THAT'S SO APPARENT WHAT WAS HAPPENING IN THAT PERIOD OF TIME WAS A MASSIVE CAMPAIGN OF REENSLAVEMENT.

STEVE BARNES: STATE PRISON FARMS WOULD LEASE, IT WAS RUNNING INMATES?

DOUGLAS BLACKMON: EXACTLY. PRETTY MUCH EVERY SOUTHERN STATE DID THAT AT THE STATE LEVEL. WITH THOSE SENTENCED ON FELONY CRIMES AND SENTENCEED FOR A MUSHED, THERE WAS -- MURDER, THERE WAS A HIGHER LIKELIHOOD THAT A MURDER HAD ACTUALLY HAPPENED. IN THE CASE OF THE FELONY CHARGES IN THE STATE COURT, THERE WERE THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF CONVICTS LEASED OUT TO COMPANIES AND MINES AND FARPS. THAT WAS PART OF THE -- FARMS. THAT WAS THE PART THAT HISTORIANS HAD THE MOST UNDERSTANDING AND THERE MAY HAVE BEEN ACTUAL CRIMINALS INVOLVED. THOUGH THERE EVEN THERE WERE HUGE NUMBERS OF BLACK  MEN SENT TO PRISON. WHEN YOU GO BACK AND LOOK THERE WAS LITTLE EVIDENCE THAT CRIMES OCCURRED. IN THE COUNTY JAILS THERE'S HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF INDIVIDUALS CLEARLY INCARCERATED AND SOLD AS SLAVES WHO HAD NEVER COMMITTED ANY MEANINGFUL INFRACTION OF THE LAW.

STEVE BARNES: ONE OF THE THINGS THAT GOT YOU INTERESTED WAS READING OF THE DEMANDS OF THE HEIRS OF HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS IN GERMANY. ONE OF THE ASPECTS OF THE BOOK NOW, WHAT DO SOME OF THE MAJOR AMERICAN CORPORATION THAT IS BENEFITED, CORPORATE INSTITUTIONS, SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS, THE WORD PREPARATIONS JUST SCREAMS OUT.

DOUGLAS BLACKMON: I GET ASKED ABOUT THIS ALL THE TIME. I SAY THE BOOK IS NOT AN ARGUMENT FOR OR AGAINST PREPARATIONS, BUT I BELIEVE PARTICULARLY AT A TIME LIKE THE ONE WE'RE IN NOW, WE CAN DECEIVE OURSELVES AS AMERICANS INTO BELIEVES WE KNOW EVERYTHING WE NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE PAST, BUT THE TRUTH IS WE DON'T. AND THERE'S A HUGE AMOUNT OF HISTORY, MOST DIFFICULT PARTS OF HISTORY THAT WE ARE ONLY STILL JUST LEARNING TODAY OR THAT WE'RE ONLY BEGINNING TO CONFRONT IN A MEANINGFUL WAY. SO THE BOOK REALLY CALLS FOR NOT SO MUCH A FINANCIAL RESOLUTION TO ALL OF THIS, THOUGH I WOULDN'T NECESSARILY SAY THAT WOULD BE A BAD THING IF SOMEONE COULD FIGURE OUT HOW TO DO IT, BUT IT IS AN ARGUMENT FOR THE IDEA THAT WE OWE IT TO OURSELVES AS AMERICANS TO BE HONEST ABOUT THE PAST. ONLY BY BEING HONEST ABOUT THE PAST CAN WE REALLY UNDERSTAND WHERE WE ARE NOW. OUR SOCIETY WE LIVE IN TODAY WAS PROFOUNDLY SHAPED BY THESE EVENTS. IF WE WANT TO UNDERSTAND WHITES BLACKS AND OTHERWISE, WE HAVE TO BE HONEST ABOUT HOW WE GOT TO THE PLACE WE'RE IN. THAT'S, IN MY VIEWT MOST PROFOUND STEP TOWARD ANY KIND OF REPAIR AROUND THE ISSUES. WHAT SORTS OF THINGS COME AFTER THAT IS A MORE COMPLICATED QUESTION.

STEVE BARNES: WE SHY AWAY FROM IT, DO WE NOT? WE TURN AWAY. ONE OF THE MOST POIGNANT SCENES IN THE BOOK, YOU FOUND THE SURVIVORS OF GREEN, AND IT -- IT WAS NOT SOMETHING THAT THEY COULD FACE EASILY?

DOUGLAS BLACKMON: EXACTLY. IT'S NO SURPRISE THAT WHITE SOUTHERNERS LIKE ME WOULD NOT HAVE HEARD ABOUT THESE THINGS OR THAT -- WHY WHITE AMERICANS WOULD HAVE WANTED TO FORGET THESE THINGS AFTER A FEW YEARS PASSED AND SENSEIBILITYIES CHANGE AND PEOPLE BEGAN TO REALIZE WHAT WAS GOING ON IN THE 20S AND 30S WAS NOT POVERTY BUT AN AMORAL TREATMENT OF AFRICAN-AMERICANS, IT'S NO SURPRISE WHITE SOUTHERNERS WOULDN'T WANT TO RETAIL THOSE. IT IS SURPRISING TO DISCOVER THE DEGREE TO WHICH AFRICAN-AMERICANS ALSO WANTED TO FORGET ALL THIS FOR DIFFERENT REASONS. BUT THOSE BEING THAT IT WAS SO PAINFUL, IT WAS SO HUMILIATING TO HAVE SEEN REAL FREEDOM AND HAVE IT CRUSHED. BUT IT WAS ALSO THE CASE FOR AFRICAN-AMERICANS, AS IN THE CASE OF EM OTHERS -- FOR MEN TO BE UPSET BY WHAT WAS DONE TO THEIR FAMILY, SO A CULTURE OF SILENCE GREW. ONE OF THE PURPOSES OF WRITING THE BOOK IS TO SAY WE'RE AT A POINT IN TIME IN AMERICAN LIFE WHERE WE COULD AND SHOULD TALK ABOUT THESE THINGS AND WE MUST TALK ABOUT THEM.

STEVE BARNES: SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAMET REENSLAVEMENT OF AMERICANS BLACK AMERICANS FROM THE CIVIL WAR TO WORLD WAR II. DOUGLAS BLACKMON, THANKS VERY MUCH.

DOUGLAS BLACKMON: THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

STEVE BARNES: SO YOU NEXT TIME.

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