Synopses & Reviews
In this groundbreaking historical exposé, Douglas A. Blackmon brings to light one of the most shameful chapters in American history—an “Age of Neoslavery” that thrived from the aftermath of the Civil War through the dawn of World War II.
Under laws enacted specifically to intimidate blacks, tens of thousands of African Americans were arbitrarily arrested, hit with outrageous fines, and charged for the costs of their own arrests. With no means to pay these ostensible “debts,” prisoners were sold as forced laborers to coal mines, lumber camps, brickyards, railroads, quarries, and farm plantations. Thousands of other African Americans were simply seized by southern landowners and compelled into years of involuntary servitude. Government officials leased falsely imprisoned blacks to small-town entrepreneurs, provincial farmers, and dozens of corporations—including U.S. Steel—looking for cheap and abundant labor. Armies of “free” black men labored without compensation, were repeatedly bought and sold, and were forced through beatings and physical torture to do the bidding of white masters for decades after the official abolition of American slavery.
The neoslavery system exploited legal loopholes and federal policies that discouraged prosecution of whites for continuing to hold black workers against their wills. As it poured millions of dollars into southern government treasuries, the new slavery also became a key instrument in the terrorization of African Americans seeking full participation in the U.S. political system.
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 systems final demise in the 1940s, partly due to fears of enemy propaganda about American racial abuse at the beginning of World War II.
Slavery by Another Name is a moving, sobering account of a little-known crime against African Americans, and the insidious legacy of racism that reverberates today.
"Wall Street Journal bureau chief Blackmon gives a groundbreaking and disturbing account of a sordid chapter in American history the lease (essentially the sale) of convicts to 'commercial interests' between the end of the 19th century and well into the 20th. Usually, the criminal offense was loosely defined vagrancy or even 'changing employers without permission.' The initial sentence was brutal enough; the actual penalty, 'reserved almost exclusively for black men,' was a form of slavery in one of 'hundreds of forced labor camps' operated 'by state and county governments, large corporations, small time entrepreneurs and provincial farmers.' Into this history, Blackmon weaves the story of Green Cottenham, who was 'charged with riding a freight train without a ticket,' in 1908 and was sentenced to 'three months of hard labor for Tennessee Coal, Iron & Railroad,' a subsidiary of U.S. Steel. Cottenham's sentence was extended an additional three months and six days because he was unable to pay fines then leveraged on criminals. Blackmon's book reveals in devastating detail the legal and commercial forces that created this neoslavery along with deeply moving and totally appalling personal testimonies of survivors. 'Every incident in this book is true,' he writes; one wishes it were not so." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
andldquo;Ethan Michaeliand#39;s The Defender
is a rich, majestic, sweeping history, both of a newspaper and of a people. In these pages, Michaeli captures the degradation and exhilaration of black America in the twentieth century, and driving this story are a handful of men and women infused with incredible courage and a deep faith in journalismand#39;s power to seek justice.andrdquo;
andmdash;Alex Kotlowitz, author of There Are No Children Here.
andldquo;In the spring of 1905 Robert Abbott sat at a card table squeezed into a corner of a realtorandrsquo;s office on Chicagoandrsquo;s South Side to put together the first issue of a newspaper he called The Defender. In the 110 years since it has more than lived up to its name, its pages filled with searing reports of racial injustice and fierce editorials in support of its readersandrsquo; rights.and#160; Now Ethan Michaeli has recreated The Defenderandrsquo;s remarkable historyandmdash;and reminded us of the power of the press at its courageous best.andrdquo;
andmdash;Kevin Boyle, author of the National Book Award-winning Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights and Murder in the Jazz Age
andldquo;This is a major work of American historyandmdash;the compelling and richly-researched story of the legendary newspaper and the astonishing collection of history-makers whose lives are forever intertwined.andrdquo;
andmdash;Jonathan Alter, author of The Center Holds: Obama and his Enemies
andldquo;Here, at long last, is the story that needed to be told.and#160; Inand#160;The Defender, Ethan Michaeli has laid out the power and importance of a fearless newspaper in the struggle for black equality. Meticulously researched, engagingly written, Michaeliand#39;s landmark history of this storied institution, which has served at key moments as lens, interpreter, catalyst or voice for blacksandrsquo; full citizenship rights, will become an essential resource in African American cultural and political studies.andrdquo;
andmdash;Carol Anderson, Professor of African American Studies at Emory University, author of White Rage
andldquo;The story of the Chicago Defender is one of the great untold stories of black America andminus; if not the great story. At every crucial juncture, from the northern migration, to Pullman strikes to civil rights right up to Barack Obama, the Defender was there chronicling, advocating and building an entire civic, political and intellectual universe. It is remarkable to me that this book wasnandrsquo;t written until now and an absolute god-send that Ethan Michaeli has stepped in to fill the void.andrdquo;
andmdash;Chris Hayes, author of Twilight of the Elites, host of MSNBCandrsquo;s andldquo;All In with Chris Hayes.andrdquo;
andldquo;Ethan Michaeliandrsquo;s compelling book represents socialand#160;history at its finest. The Defender explores Americaandrsquo;s long struggle with raceand#160;through the unique lens of an essential and underappreciated Chicago newspaper at the center of it all.andrdquo;
andmdash;David Maraniss, author of the forthcoming Once in a Great City: A Detroit Story
and#160;andldquo;For more than a century, the South Side of Chicago has been a hub of African-American history, and throughout the years, that saga has been told through the pages of the Chicago Defender newspaper.and#160; In this compelling book, Ethan Michaeli shares the story of the Defender and the essential role it has played in Chicagoand#39;s black community and beyond.andrdquo;andmdash;David Axelrod, author of Believer: My Forty Years in Politics
andquot;With meticulous attention to detail and in immensely readable prose, Ethan Michaeli, who once worked for the paper, tells The Chicago Defenderand#39;s story and, through it, that of African Americans in the twentieth century. It is a masterful work that goes a long way toward explaining why we are where we are now.andquot;
andmdash;Jessica B.Harris, Professor of English, Queens College/ CUNY and author of High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey From Africa to America
andldquo;Just as the Defender has broken important journalistic ground time and again in itsand#39; storied history, author Ethan Michaeli is an original and intrepid force in Chicago media, having devoted his life to elevating and celebrating the silenced voices of Chicagoand#39;s public housing projects. Michaeli on the Defender is an unbeatable combination.andrdquo;
andmdash;Dave Isay, founder of StoryCorps, author of Listening is an Act of Love
andldquo;The Defender is the kind of superb nonfiction you donandrsquo;t see much anymoreandmdash;a big, fluidly written, marvelously researched story about fascinating people who shaped American culture. Ethan Michaeli has written a book that is as important as it is compulsively readable.andrdquo;
andmdash;Jonathan Eig, author of The Birth of the Pill
In this groundbreaking book, Douglas A. Blackmon brings to light one of the most shameful chapters in American history. From the late 1870s through the mid-twentieth century, under laws enacted specifically to intimidate blacks, thousands of African American men were arbitrarily arrested, hit with outrageous fines, and charged for room and board in state and county jails. With no means to pay these “debts,” prisoners were required to work them off. Thousands of other African Americans were simply seized by landowners and forced into unpaid labor. In an iniquitous system, governments leased wrongly imprisoned blacks to small-town entrepreneurs, provincial farmers, and large corporations—including U.S. Steel—looking for cheap and abundant labor. In factories, mines, lumber camps, quarries, and on farms throughout the South, armies of "free" black men labored without compensation, were repeatedly bought and sold, and forced through extreme physical coercion to do the bidding of white masters. Revenues from neo-slavery poured into Southern state treasuries. The system was finally ended only in the 1940s, partly due to fears of enemy propaganda about American racial abuse at the beginning of World War II.
Based on a vast record of original documents and personal narratives, SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME is a moving, sobering account of a little-known crime against African Americans, and the insidious legacy of white racism that reverberates today.
Blackmon brings to light one of the most shameful chapters in American history, the late 1870s through the 1940s when thousands of African-American men were arbitrarily arrested, hit with fines, charged for room and board in state and county jails, and then forced to work off the debt as unpaid laborers.
Veteran reporter Ethan Michaeli tells the story of Chicagoandrsquo;s iconic black newspaper, the family and the journalists who made it great, and the hidden history of black America in the twentieth century.
andldquo;The story of the Chicago Defender is the story of race in the twentieth century.andrdquo;and#160; andmdash; Alex Kotlowitz, author of There Are No Children Here
Giving voice to the voiceless, the Chicago Defender had a reach and influence extending far beyond Chicago. The newspaper and the family behind it condemned Jim Crow, catalyzed the Great Migration, fostered the integration of the U.S. armed forces in the wake of World War II, and laid the groundwork for the civil rights movement. Over the years, the Defenderandrsquo;s staff included an unparalleled collection of writers, intellectuals, and activists: Ida B. Wells, Langston Hughes, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Jesse Jackson were among the better-known bylines, but there were hundreds of less celebrated reporters at the paper who braved lynch mobs and policemenandrsquo;s clubs to get their stories.
Through the depth of his research, veteran reporter Ethan Michaeli constructs a revelatory narrative of race in America. The Defender sheds unprecedented light on an entire civic, political, and intellectual universe whose legacy reverberates well into the twenty-first century.
About the Author
ETHAN MICHAELIandnbsp;is an award-winning author, publisher, and journalist with twenty years of experience in Chicagoandrsquo;s inner city. He was a copyeditor and investigative reporter at the Chicago Defender from 1991andndash;1996.