Douglas Blackmon, author of the Pulitzer-Prize-winning book Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II, will give a lecture at Mercer tonight at 7 p.m. in the auditorium of the Science and Engineering Building. The lecture, titled “A Persistent Past: Reckoning with a Troubled Racial History in the Age of Obama,” is free and open to the public.
“Blackmon’s book focuses our attention on one of the greatest human rights abuses in U.S. history, the use of legalized slavery to build the cities and industries of the New South,” said Dr. David Davis, assistant professor of English, and the event organizer. “His book makes us wonder why the history of convict leasing is not taught alongside the history of slavery.”
Blackmon is the Atlanta bureau chief of The Wall Street Journal and earned the 2009 Pulitzer for general nonfiction for Slavery by Another Name, which brings to light one of the most shameful chapters in American history — when a cynical new form of slavery was resurrected from the ashes of the Civil War and re-imposed on hundreds of thousands of African Americans until the dawn of World War II. Based on Blackmon’s research into original documents and personal narratives, the book unearths the lost stories of slaves and their descendants who journeyed into freedom after emancipation and then back into involuntary servitude. It also tells stories of courage and redemption, and the men and women who fought against the re-emergence of human labor trafficking.
“Perhaps the most discomforting aspect of his book is the realization that major corporations, some of which are still in business, and public officials were involved in the buying and selling — and beating and killing — of helpless blacks, who were often arrested on flimsy charges and given unconscionable sentences,” Dr. Davis said. “Blackmon’s research includes evidence that Macon was a center of convict leasing between Reconstruction and World War II.”
Over the past 20 years, Blackmon has written extensively about the American quandary of race, exploring the integration of schools during his childhood in a Mississippi Delta farm town, lost episodes of the Civil Rights movement, and repeatedly, the dilemma of how a contemporary society should grapple with a troubled past. Many of his stories in The Wall Street Journal have explored the interplay of wealth, corporate conduct and racial segregation.
The event is sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts, Mercer’s Southern Studies Program, Walter F. George School of Law, and the Tubman African American Museum.