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Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II
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In this groundbreaking historical expose, 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.

Using a vast record of original documents and personal narratives, Douglas A. Blackmon 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 shortly thereafter. By turns moving, sobering, and shocking, this unprecedented account reveals the stories of those who fought unsuccessfully against the re-emergence of human labor trafficking, the companies that profited most from neoslavery, and the insidious legacy of racism that reverberates today.

Customer Reviews:

  • A Great Work of History-Most Highly Recommended
    "Slavery By Another Name"is an eye opening expose into post-Reconstruction industrial slavery in which the Southern legal system, Northern industrialists, and members of the South White ruling class all conspired, either explicitly or implicitly, to reinslave southern blacks. While Blackmon primarily focuses upon slavery in the coal mines and steel mills surrounding Birmingham Alabama, he also touches upon agricultural slavery.According to Blackmon's study the modus operandi for reinstatement is the false prosecution of black Americans (primarily males)for vague crimes such as vagrancy, speaking too loud, and nonpayment of non-extant debts. The gracefulness of Blackmon's writing style as well as the thoroughness of his research make the story especially compelling. In sum, this is one of the best works on post-Reconstruction southern African-American history ever written and deserves to be read and reread by anyone even remotely interested in this subject. ...more info
  • Powerful and disturbing - a must read.
    As an historian, I have long been aware that slavery did not end the evils perpetrated on black people in this country, but I never realized the full extent. Although this book is at times repetitious and disjointed, it is a powerful narrative of a period in American history arguably more disturbing than ante bellum slavery. It's as though all the humane slave masters have been replaced by Simon Legrees and Bull Connors. The complicity of corporate America and the emergence of industrial slavery make the situation even more problematic. This book needs to be read by all who want to fully understand the ramifications of history on race relations in this country and should be required reading in high school and college classrooms....more info
  • A landmark chronology of an important era in American Negro history
    Douglas Blackmon has created a classic historical book covering the "dark ages" in American Negro history, namely the period from Reconstruction to the start of World War II. The estimate of the length of this period may vary, but I put it at approximately 75 years, during which Negro slave labor was still actively building fortunes for many companies internationally known as key members of institutional America. This book should be on the coffee table or desk in the home of every African American family in America....more info
  • Excellent & Informative Read
    I first saw the author on PBS discussing this book and it really peaked my interest. Once I started reading "Slavery by Another Name," I could not put it down. There are so many interesting facts and heart wrenching pictures. Living here in Alabama, surrounded by many of the counties where forced slavery continued, was quite an eye opener. The fact that Black Americans continued to be enslaved and tortured way into the 1950's is a sad saga in American history and something that has never been talked about until now. I found some of the informantion redundant, but overall this is an excellent book....more info
  • jmbopinion
    Excellent book. Convincingly explains why the black population did not progress in any meaningful way after the abolition of slavery. ...more info
  • A very well done history.
    This history is a superbly done book on a dark period of American History that has been ignored far too long. It covers in horrifying detail the system of mostly black convict labor that provided the manpower for the south's 19th century industry, and resulted in the subjugation of blacks after the civil war until the 1950's. It's a must read book on a very dark period of American history...more info
  • Excellent-Truth-Painful
    The truth is painful and hard to hear and read. I would recommend this book to everyone who ain't afraid of the truth. The Prison Industrial Complex is an extention of the convict lease system that purposely re-enslaved black men for private profit. It is still very much a part of the system. ...more info
  • The New Slavery Today
    When I met recently with a community group helping low-income people with defense of criminal charges, I was struck by the similarity between what criminal defendants today face with the "slavery by another name" described in this book. The author describes how from 1863 to 1945 African Americans in the South were re-enslaved by collusion between local courts (justices of the peace), law enforcement, and business. The local sheriff would snare young African American males, and they'd face trumped up criminal charges with their "fines" being paid by local businessmen who were permitted virtually to re-enslave the men who were supposedly working off their fines. Today, those who have funds and are on probation pay off their fines, so their probation can end. But those who lack funds, a high proportion of whom are minority men, cannot pay off their fines and therefore face lengthened probation. While on probation, if they make a slip, unlike those who paid off the fines, they may find themselves consigned to privately run jails/prisons. The book discussed how convicts in the post Civil War period found themselves contracted out as workers. The parallels between that and present private prisons contracting out the labor of prisoners is undeniable....more info
  • A portion of american history which lies hidden
    Not all of american history is pleasant. But it should be made known in order to strengthen our understanding of what contributed to the development of this great nation. Slavery By Another Name opens a part of america's history, though unpleasant,is history nevertheless, and should not remain hidden.

    Every american would benifit from the knowledge of this history by reading the above entitled book and gain a greater appreciation of the struggles and suffering endured by some to bring about growth and development of this nation state called americaSlavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II...more info
  • Such a Revelation!
    It's unbelievable that these conditions existed in America so recently. I was born in 1932, so this was still prevelant during my lifetime. Never had I heard of this misuse and abuse of the black man after slavery...and that it continued so long. My father was born in 1889, and left Texas in 1920; we knew he left "under cover of darkness" as he had "displeased" a white man--but I never knew of the urgency surrounding his leaving until I read this book.

    This is slow reading for me. Not that the book isn't gripping and enlightening, but I must take breaks from the realities in the book.

    I have purchased three copies--one as an e-reader, one for the "coffee table" and one for a gift. I highly recommend this book....more info
  • Why did it take so long?
    I hope Mr. Blackmon's book sells well. He has documented a piece of history of which too many of us were unaware. I pretty much agree with the other five-star reviews, so I won't echo them in mine.

    Born in New York City in 1930 and raised there, as a child I accompanied my parents on annual trips to back country Georgia to visit my father's racist, redneck family. I saw first hand the discrimination and humiliation of the Jim Crow South as well as the abject poverty of the sharecropper system. I remember seeing the stripe-suited chain gangs along the roads and my parents explaining that those men were "jailbirds." However, I was totally ignorant of the conditions of slavery in the mines and of how African-Americans were "convicted" and sold.

    I'm probably not qualified to judge the quality of the author's research, but the quantity was certainly impressive. Therefore, I was quite surprised that a reporter for the Wall Street Journal would mistakenly attribute (on page 111) "a more perfect union" to the Declaration of Independence. If Mr. Blackmon reads these reviews, I hope he will accept that small bit of constructive criticism in the spirit in which it was written as I truly appreciate and applaud his important work.
    ...more info
  • Slavery by another Name
    Just started the book,but understand now why progress is so slow.The black americans have had the government standing on their backs since day one.If you have any evidence of African blood you need to know your limitations....more info
  • Crucial, mind-blowing book on the costs of the the failure of Reconstruction
    As a former grad school history student interested in how Reconstruction and the failure of Radical Reconstruction failed black people and led to years of racial violence and labor oppression (full disclosure: I'm white, born in Britain, lived in the US for nineteen years) this book was very interesting. I can't say the findings he makes are shocking, but the extent of Blackmon's research make the conclusions all the more credible and puts in sharp relief the extent and depth of racism which existed in the South, from the time of the Emancipation Proclamation until World War Two. In addition, his thorough research has documented how black people were, by virtue of the racism which so pervaded Southern life, at the mercy of the most basic local laws.

    That this book could be written is an indictment of the pervasiveness of racism. Although there are instances of decent white people attempting to stem the tide of racism which seemed to dominate every aspect of southern life, by and large, the efforts were completely inadequate to address such a pervasive, all-encompassing set of beliefs.

    Blackmon has assembled a detailed, damning, catalog of crimes committed from the time of the end of Reconstruction through the beginning of the Second World War. The particular area he examines is the ability of large mining and industrial concerns in the South to bundle large numbers of black men into debt peonage in the South, almost without exception, simply on account of their violation of flimsy vagrancy laws created to penalize black men after the passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments. The legal powers of clerks of the court and sheriffs, in addition to the poisonous, universal racism of the South, ensured that the arrest and conviction process was almost without exception, a foregone conclusion.

    The sources that Blackmon has found and applied are not controversial. They are county records, municipal records, census documents, and business records, some prior academic historical works, and the rare primary account of some of these crimes. By these documents, he has re-created, in multiple instances, legal process by which black men were held in virtual slavery. That in itself is the most damning indictment. Whites were so widely invested in this legal framework that the meager efforts to bring it down were damned by the burden of heavy layers of southern resentment toward perceived interlopers, by Southern belief that Yankees had no business regulating what southern whites claimed to believe was a unique relationship among black and white folks, and by, even more essentially, the economic benefits accrued by the system of debt peonage which the subjugation of black people facilitated.


    There were occasional efforts to address the debt peonage which had been re-established in the South. A New York paper's expose of the conditions at one business prompted a federal investigation in 1903 which ultimately led to the trial of several men who had engaged in debt peonage. Only one conviction, however, was secured. The judge in the case, a Judge Jones, seemed a very decent man. However, ultimately, it is clear that he could not bring himself to confront the full breadth of the system of debt peonage, once he realized the extent of the system. He would not criminalize the myriad ways in which the tentacles of debt peonage facilitated the great wealth which was accumulating in the South. The judge was lobbied and threatened by many who felt their way of life and their legal standing was under threat if a thorough examination of the workings of the labor system in the South was undertaken.

    Blackmon does not set out to offer justifications or suggest that there is some broader concern which we, as modern readers cannot see. It seems clear that this business system disgusts Blackmon to his core. That said, he does not blink, thankfully, from reporting the darkest secrets of the economic system in the South during the late 1800s and early 1900s. It is truly painful, painful reading for nearly anyone who believes in the best ideals of the United States. But we must confront this dreadful history if we are to realize the idealistic ideals which our Founders claimed to aim for.

    Blackmon's book, as mentioned, is painstakingly researched. He spared no expense and left no stone unturned in order to tell this story. He does not need to make giant leaps of faith or extrapolations to reach conclusions which can be debated by critics, talking heads, and the like. The book is so well-documented that most claims are supported by the primary documents. If you want to learn something about the system of forced labor and debt peonage in the South, or believe that with the passage of the Emancipation Proclamation, that the history of America for black people entered a completely different chapter. This book will surely be a touchstone for historians interested in race relations and labor history in the South during the post-bellum period and for laypeople (it is, tonally and in terms of language, easily accessible) for a long, long time. This book is just that good, just that important, and just that powerful....more info
  • The Horror of Horrors
    I Just finished Slavery by Another Name. I had known about the black code for several years, but not the selling of free black people. I hate the Al Sharptons of the world or black people that defend criminals that blame their crime on racism. They disrespect all these ghosts of the past that suffered at the hands of brutal savage souls.

    But one thing has changed for me: Although I never called anyone in my life a nigger, I thought it. After reading your book, I will never allow that thought to come to the surface again.

    That photo of the man tied up on the ground felt his short life of suffering would have no meaning, but he was wrong, after 100 years we look at him and feel his pain and are influenced by his image forever. I wish I could embrace him and give him the love and respect every creature deserves.
    ...more info
  • Why Racism Still Thrives
    I only acknowledge this book simply because it was in an e-mail regarding "Pulitzer Prize" winners. I don't even have to read a page to know that this is nothing but black racist garbage. I'll just state a few FACTS:

    America was made great by white European Christians

    Africans themselves who rounded up, massacred, and sold eachother are just as responsible for the slave trade as the Dutch and Portuguese

    To many this will sound crazy, but blacks aren't the only ones to have ever been enslaved

    Today's black Americans can be thankful for the slave trade because otherwise they would be in Africa, a land which still has yet to progress from constant civil war, legitimate use of the term genocide, mindless disease spreading, and everyday consumption of coagulated blood and milk

    Having lived in a DC suburb my entire life I can confirm that the majority of Americans are completely enslaved, no matter the color. They are slaves of anti-American sentiment resulting in anti-American governmental policies which took root predominently during and after and Civil War, which was nothing but an assault on the Constitution. We are slaves of fear, of the belief that everything is okay, of self-servance, of the government. The worst part is they choose to keep their minds narrow and not think for themselves, which is what God wants.

    It's a shame that God has been removed from this once great country, and that never in my life will I even get to see a true America. By the way, Africa is a mostly muslim land, which by the way, is not a faith, is in no way harmoneous, and is simply a work of Satan. Look at history, Islam has proven to be nothing but bad. Ever hear of the Crusades?

    I could go on and on stating fact after fact that would rattle many a pathetic mentality of those who might read this, but there are things I need to do.

    The point is that this book does nothing but incite more racial tension, and is based on lack of free thought and the childish mentality black America has been so happy to emulate.

    Peace All,
    A Free Thinking, True Blooded American...more info
  • slavery by another name
    This is a difficult book to read, not complicated or disorientating, but psychologically unnerving. It points out how this Nation of America has not lived up to the phase "A more perfect union" or Lincoln's Gettysburg address. I don't think I could travel to the south without a sense of disgust. As a companion, I also read about Rhode Island's DeWolf family and between the two, I feel much is being missed in school about the true America....more info
  • Slavery By Another Name
    Slavery By Another Name is a must read for every African American in search of answers about their past. It is a well reaserched book that answers a lot of questions about the seeming inability of African Americans to progress in this wealthy society. It is an important and eye opening work....more info
  • slavery by Another Name
    Excellent update to history that is rarely known. Should be in every school and public library....more info
  • Good History but Still lacking!
    I found this book to be very interesting but lacking in that there was no context provided for the problem. The author contends that in the period after the Civil War blacks were Re-Enslaved. He does a commendable job of showing how the black community was systematically stripped of its rights and abandoned by the government after the Civil War. He also does an exemplary job showing how abuses in the criminal justice system of the south allowed for blacks to be sentenced to virtual slavery.

    Where the book fails though is in showing that this was an re-enslavement of civil war blacks. It ignores the wholesale black migration of blacks to the north in the years before and during WWI which would contradict the statements that blacks could be arrested for any crime an officer saw fit. The author ignores whites sentenced to similar terms in jail and conditions which was wide spread in the south. Worst of all, the book lacks any context. We are lead to believe that because it happened in these places, it happened everywhere.

    A good book, just not a great one! ...more info
  • Outstanding!
    This is a painful but necessary read. It puts meat on the skeletal knowledge we have of the Jim Crow era and illustrates just how nasty the southern half of the US was... explaining a lot about some of the current backwardness there as well.
    ...more info
  • The shame of it all
    Several weeks ago, I listened as Douglas A. Blackmon spoke in an interview on Bill Moyer's Journal (PBS). I sat there in disbelief as he spoke about the research he had done to produce this incredible book: Slavery by Another Name. I say incredible because I have just finished reading a work that has certainly impacted my thinking. Although I live in the South now (if Miami Beach is really the South), I was born in the North and taught high school English there. So my knowledge (well, lack thereof) of slavery is sketchy at best. What bothers me, after having read this work with its depth of research and fine writing, is simply this: why have we allowed ourselves to be so ill-informed about the sins of our fathers? Unfortunately we are still a racist nation. Just look at what the racists are doing to vilify Barack Obama! Thank you, Mr. Blackmon. You have made a very valuable contribution to American history. To bad so few will have given themselves an opportunity to read this book. ...more info
  • Another Missing Chapter in American History


    Who won the Civil War?

    Introduction

    According to the subtext of this book, the answer depends on what is meant by the question. If you mean militarily, then of course there is no question but that the North won the war. However, if you mean who won the hearts, minds and souls of white America, then it is equally clear from the evidence that unfolded over the next one hundred years, that the winner was the South.

    It matters little that each side had different goals and more importantly different pretexts to disguise its goals. In retrospect, and from any angle, this book's focus on "forced labor" proves that the result are all the same: For the North, "ending slavery" was just a pretext to gain control over the lucrative cotton markets and gain hegemony over the South, and do so at the time cotton drove the international economy in the same way that oil drives it today. However, it was the South that kept its eye on the ball. Unlike the North, the South was un-conflicted about the full meaning and importance of slavery: Southerners knew at a deep level that slavery was not only the lynch pen of the Southern way of life, it was the existential process that defined what it meant to be a white man in America, period.

    Thus, if the war was about the existential existence of white maleness, then clearly this book, and the unfolding of the next 100 years of American history that it describes, proves that the South won the Civil War. Because this author makes it as clear as the sun is in the sky, that since the South's victory, wherever the South goes, the North is sure and soon to follow. It is this story, so skillfully buried within the subtext of this book that makes it such an important contribution to American history.

    The Book

    This is a masterful and scholarly story about the re-enslavement of blacks, as that process began in the aftermath of the Civil War. It took place when "Reconstruction" was willingly dismantled by the ruling North-South coalition of the day, codified in the compromise of 1876, which ended in the election of Rutherford B. Hayes. As blacks (and any real chance for a true democratic America) were thrown under the bus, "Reconstruction" ended. Northern soldiers left blacks to their own devices, and a conscious period of southern lawlessness and violence ensued. Southern Rebels renamed this period of violence and lawlessness "the Redemption."

    This very thoughtful and carefully written manuscript is told through the rigors of the author's own prodigious research, which includes many private and previously undisturbed records, research that is seen through the life and lineage of one black man, named Green Cottingham. Green serves as the historical prototype and "stand-in" for tens of thousands of anonymous Blacks who did not manage to survive the forced labor camps. Like many of them, Green too was arrested on "trumped up" charges of vagrancy at the tender age of 14 and spent the rest of his youth and a great deal of his adulthood in a new kind of "existential slavery" called "forced labor" work camps run by the likes of the infamous U.S. Steel Company, in and around the environs of Birmingham, Alabama.

    During the "Redemption," "forced labor" became the organizing concept upon which the "new Slavery" was built. It appeared in several guises, for instance, as debt peonage, sharecropping, indentured or contract servitude, forced work camps, and prison release farms, as well as ordinary prisons, among others -- all forms that were clearly (after the enactment of the Thirteenth Amendment) both illicit and illegal.

    But since various forms of forced labor continued to serve the immediate needs of a fearful and prostrate South, and no one cared, forced labor became the de facto, legal standard and status of the black condition in the South. Through it, Blacks effectively were returned to slavery during a time when (just as had been the case during the Civil War), southerners had no choice but to become dependent on Blacks for running their farms, helping to build railroads and transportation systems, and fueling the factories that ran the war, and re-establishing the industrial energy and might of the South. In short, the very existence of the southern way of life depended critically on both black skills and black labor -all at a time and in a region very much "cash strapped" due to losses during the Civil War.

    The prototype, which greased the wheels of the "forced labor" stratagem was the collusion between big Northern corporations, such as U.S. Steel, and corrupt Southern municipal officials such as local town judges, sheriffs and others, who together saw it as their patriotic duty to deny and bar Negroes from exercising their newly won freedoms. And, to the extent possible, to eliminate them in every area of life from being potential competitors of the white race generally, and the white working class in particular. And of course, the sons of the Confederacy also hoped that by hook-or-crook, they would somehow prevent their previous chattel from ever gaining dominion over them. In the end, the goal of the Civil war: was to be able to return to the idyllic era of having the free skills, services and labor provided by blacks that had been throughout the period of legal slavery, all but a birth right to the landed gentry.

    What is most interesting about the author's research is that it reveals in its subtext, an underlying pattern at the core of all organized white resistance in America to black advancement, a pattern that still exists today even as we prepare to elect our first Black President. This pattern is the poisonous snake coiled in the bosom of American democracy. It is one that fails to acknowledge the long-term effects of cycles after cycle of blacks being beaten-down by oppression, and the long-term psychic injury of them seeing one generation rise up only to see the next one beaten down again and again by new cycles of "improved more subtle forms of discrimination," white violence, or changes in the rules and laws so as to maintains in a steady state the mental and social apartheid that the South knew would forever keep the races apart.

    The American historical record is replete with episodes in which our leaders, whenever they were faced with a true choice between a path toward complete democracy, or complete racial repression, or some modest point in between -- such as" civil" and "paper equality, " have emphatically chosen one of the latter, but never true democracy. As is the case here; and at the writing of the Constitution; both before and after the Civil War; and at the beginning rather than at the end of WW-II, the nation that professed with such solemnity to be the greatest democracy, has always chosen to turn away from democracy if it meant full equality for its ex-slaves.

    Even today as we prepare to elect our first black President, white America has always been motivated by the need to maintain, at a minimum, white cultural hegemony over blacks, either through race-based moral, religious and political codes, or failing that, through manipulating and corrupting the legal system to maintain a racist steady state. Today as during the days of the "Redemption, there is the same uneasy racial modus vivendi between blacks and whites that has existed since 1876.
    A forerunner of today's draconian and discriminatory "crack" cocaine laws, which, when coupled with incarceration for failure to pay child support and for spousal abuse, results in a disproportionally large numbers of young single black men being swept off the streets and into the nation's jails, has its precedent in the forced labor laws cobbled together during the last days of the "Redemption" and that is so skillfully recounted here.

    Immediately after the Civil War and up until about 1950, in most cities of the South, black men without jobs, could be capriciously swept off the streets and hauled into court, fined, and given lengthy jail sentences. Rules that required a prisoner to "work off his fine," meant that even light sentences often became in-determinant and thus unpredictably long ones. The same is true today, where the sentencing guidelines are used capriciously to mete out much harsher sentences to blacks than to white. For instance, in a sentencing guideline of 10 to life, evidence shows that whites overwhelmingly are released towards the lower end and blacks towards the higher end of these guidelines. As this book notes, by 1900, the South's judicial system had been completely reconfigured to make coercion of blacks comply with traditional American social rules all of which were forged in the 300 years of slavery. Today, with Obama's election as a backdrop, not much in that regard has changed.

    500 stars.


    This book is both profoundly factual, and at times, partially "un-factual," -- that is, reconstructed history. In instances where the ex-slaves could not speak for themselves, which were many, Mr. Blackmon deigns to speak for them himself. It is what can only be called "necessary historical extrapolation, in defense of the defenseless." Yet, somehow these noble stretches beyond the data do indeed conform to and confirm the same stories and results researched equally well by William B. Taylor in his "Down on Parchman Farm: The Great Prison in the Mississippi Delta," which covers the same period as this book does, but primarily from the Mississippi point of view rather than from Alabama's.

    Altogether Blackmon taps into another important, under-reported yet very dark part of American history: The period of the Southern White "Redemption," after the freedman's Bureau had closed its tents down (literally) and moved back North, leaving the ex-slaves to fend for themselves for the next 100 years.

    The most cold-blooded of the truths that he reveals is that the shaky white farms and plantations that managed to revive themselves in the aftermath of the Civil War, simply could not make it without black expertise. And here he does not mean just black manual labor, but more importantly, black farming and household management skills. As a result, of this white deficiency, and as is usual for the U.S. when it comes to race relations, the Southerners sought to re-enslave and re-colonize blacks by more novel and more interesting but equally brutal means: that is by legal and social fiat.

    In almost every instance, these tactics had a patina of legalisms pasted over them (and the author spends too much time examining them and churning them trying it seems to treat them as if they were legitimate defenses of all but indefensible practices) the overall effect was the same: that "Blacks had no legal protections whatsoever." Going through the legal motions was only a pretext for whites to continue doing what they had done during slavery and had planned to continue doing by any means necessary anyway, in order to continue "keeping blacks down" and re-enslaved.

    While the book makes it seem that these tactic and stratagems for re-enslavement occurred only due to Southern industrial and domestic exigencies, hatred and mean-spirited chicanery, the author must be reminded that the brutal "Black Code Laws" upon which many of these pernicious Southern practices were patterned, began in the North before the Civil War, and were simply grafted on to the "redeemed southern way of life" as the new "Jim Crow" laws and practices.

    I would have been much happier if the author had made an attempt to show the "all but linear (and very stable) connection" across time between the arrest and incarceration rates then -- which in Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama and Florida, constantly hovered around 25% -- and the almost exact NATIONAL rates today. This in my view (as well as that of a handful of sociologists) could not be only a mere coincident, but more likely due to deep structure social reasons and causes that did indeed grow out of America's culture of "structural racism," which inevitably, one way or another, gets mapped back to slavery.

    The reasons for incarcerations then and now, are, of course different: Then, as the author so carefully elaborates, blacks were picked up and thrown in jail on almost any pretext whatsoever - from vagrancy to stealing a can of beans. Then, it was a conscious case of "coerced labor," pure and simple. Today it is due mostly to the Draconian and unfair 100 to 1 cocaine laws, and a host of other, mostly unconscious "race related social causes." The utter stability of these percentages in themselves, represents an untold story laying dormant in the subtext of American culture, all to itself.

    Any excavation of American history this good, even with some limitations, cannot get less than five stars....more info