Atlanta Magazine, April 2008
“A terrific journalist and gifted writer, Blackmon is fearless in going wherever the research leads him. At times, the onslaught of details is almost dizzying, but that’s a minor quibble with a supremely brave and focused book.”
By Teresa Weaver
SOUTHERN HISTORY CONTAINS INFINITE dark corners and deep hiding places. Douglas A. Blackmon, longtime Atlanta bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal, excavates a particularly well-buried chapter of our past in Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II (Doubleday, $29.95). The end of Reconstruction ushered in an age of “neoslavery,” Blackmon reveals, as some corporations, landowners, and government officials conspired to arrest black people on arbitrary charges and lease them out–essentially selling them–into years of involuntary servitude. Blackmon pulls no punches as he identifies major corporations and illustrious families that prospered from this forced labor until the mid-twentieth century.
“These events explain more about the current state of American life, black and white, than the antebellum slavery that preceded,” he writes.
A terrific journalist and gifted writer, Blackmon is fearless in going wherever the research leads him. At times, the onslaught of details is almost dizzying, but that’s a minor quibble with a supremely brave and focused book.
In recent years, German corporations that relied on Jewish slave labor during World War II and Swiss bankers who robbed Holocaust victims of their fortunes have faced tough questions about what they owe the descendants of the people they wronged. In raising those same questions about prominent families in Atlanta, Birmingham, and beyond, Blackmon has probably wrecked any chance of being invited to join a country club. But he’s brought to light another sickening reminder of the insidious nature of prejudice.