Thanks again for the tremendous reception for the book
I’ve heard from dozens of readers in response to the broadcasts on C-Span of one my presentations about Slavery by Another Name. It’s tremendous that so many people are ready and even anxious for a more candid discussion about these terrible events in U.S. history in the early 20th century.
As I’ve traveled, discussing the book and meeting readers, a stream of African-Americans have related to me how the book made them reassess their own family histories–and the stories of ancestors or acquaintances. Like Phillip Johnson, and so many others on the blog, an African-American woman who talked to me after a speech in Atlanta today, a letter from Virginia that just arrived–so many people tell me they were uncertain about, or never believed, accounts passed down by forebears which seemed to suggest that families were still being held as neo-slaves in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. Then they read the book and realize that in fact the old stories are very likely to be true–that thousands of people were living in a state of involuntary servitude well into the lives of millions of Americans who are still alive today.
The discussions I’ve been had over the weeks since the book appeared have been powerful and moving. And with all due respect, they have forcefully contradicted the assertions of a few readers and posters on this blog that it is a mistake to bring forth these terrible aspects of our past.
The reality is that again and again I have experienced marvelously honest conversations in which African-Americans often appeared slightly astonished that whites in the room were able to discuss this past without defensiveness or anger, and in which whites found it remarkable that their black counterparts weren’t hammering them with historic crimes, but expressing thanks that it was finally being honestly discussed.
All of these things convince me that America has arrived at a remarkable moment, when a frank and full accounting of the past is possible for the first time, without the reciminations and denial that have characterized so much of our national discourse on race in the past. It has been thrilling to see that conversation unfold in so many venues over the past two months. Thank you all for being part of it.
(By the way, I’ll soon be updating the calendar of events for the rest of the summer. I’ll be in Washington D.C. at some point in July, back again on Oct. 5; National Black Arts Festival in Atlanta in late July; in New York during September; Universty of Virginia in late October; and several more. Details coming soon.)