I bought my first real gun in Florida when I was 12 years old. A beautiful Smith & Wesson 38. Got it in a flea market somewhere on Highway 441. Owned that gun for about 30 minutes until my Uncle Nat took it away from me and probably hocked it the next day. He was right. What the hell was a twelve-year old kid doing walking around with a gun?
This purchase began a life-long addiction to guns which continues to this day. Or at least until yesterday, when I walked into Dave’s Gun Shop and bought aStar Model 30M, a heavy, all-steel pistol that holds 15 rounds. Why did I buy the gun? Because I wanted to buy a gun. Why does my wife buy shoes? Because she likes shoes.
If I were a typical gun guy, I would tell you that I bought this gun because it’s good for self-defense. I don’t often, if ever, carry a gun. Guns are lying around the house but none are close enough to be grabbed up if an intruder were to suddenly burst through the door, but I know that owning a gun makes me safer, which is why I bought the gun.
Actually, that’s not true. I didn’t go into a gun shop yesterday because I was thinking about my personal safety. I didn’t walk up to the counter, take one look at that Star pistol and decide that this gun would protect me from crime. I certainly didn’t for one second imagine that buying that gun would somehow make me ‘free.’ I bought the gun because …
It was 153 years ago this month that President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, as the nation approached its third year of its bloody civil war.
Lincoln’s proclamation declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.”
What if they weren’t?
What if for the next 80 years, or more, slavery, by another name, still existed?
What if your high school history teacher got it all wrong?
I love history. Always have.
In large part I owe that to being fortunate enough to have a terrific American and World History teacher in high school – Charles Badura – World War II hero – twice a POW – though he never talked about his experiences.
First year I taught full-time was at Lansing Catholic Central and as luck (or not) would have it, I was told I’d be teaching a world history course. I managed to stay a chapter or two ahead of the students.
But I digress.
Back to the book I am reading. I always appreciate learning something new about history or perhaps a slightly different take or point of view. But this interview took me down a path I never expected.
My wife Penny bought me an Amazon.com gift certificate for my birthday the past November and I used it to purchase a Kindle Fire. For several years I’ve had a Kindle app on my laptop but never really used it. Oh, I ordered and downloaded books from Amazon but most I just never got around to reading. Likely the ones I did I can review here another time.
Turns out I love the Kindle.
Best gift Penny ever helped me give to myself.
There’s this one book I’m reading now though I want to tell you about: “Bill Moyers Journal: The Conversation Continues” – It is a series of interviews – transcripts actually- from Moyers PBS series – a number of which Penny and I watched on our local public broadcasting channel.
Fascinating people and interviews – each its own chapter – Jon Stewart on politics and media to Michael Pollan on food, “The Wire” creator David Simon on the mean streets of our cities, James Cone and Shelby Steele on race in the age of Obama, Robert Bly and Nikki Giovanni on the power of poetry, Barbara Ehrenreich on the hard times of working Americans, and Karen Armstrong on faith and compassion – and one of the most remarkable “chapters” was an interview with reporter/author Douglas Blackmon.
Here’s summaries of the Moyer’s Interview with Blackmon; a summary of Blackmon’s book and finally the documentary.
It’s not an exaggeration to say I was amazed what I thought I knew about slavery, the Civil War, the Reconstruction, the Southern version of the Industrial Revolution and even the first half of the 20th century and the modern Civil Rights Movement.
After watching and reading and watching… boy oh boy, I got almost all of it all wrong.
Watch the Interview –
Bill Moyers interviews Douglas Blackmon, the Atlanta bureau chief of the WALL STREET JOURNAL, about his latest book, SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME, which looks at an “age of neoslavery” that thrived from the aftermath of the Civil War through the dawn of World War II.
Watch the Documentary –
Slavery by Another Name “resets” our national clock with a singular astonishing fact: Slavery in America didn’t end 150 years ago, with Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation. Based on Douglas A. Blackmon’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, the film illuminates how in the years following the Civil War, insidious new forms of forced labor emerged in the American South, persisting until the onset of World War II.
The film, shot on location in both Birmingham and Atlanta, is built on Blackmon’s extensive research, as well as interviews with scholars and experts about this historic period. It also incorporates interviews with people living today, including several African American “descendants” of victims of forced labor who discovered their connection to this history after reading Blackmon’s book.
Read the Book –
Slavery by Another Name:
The Re-Enslavement of Black People in America from the Civil War to World War II
In this groundbreaking historical expose, Douglas A. Blackmon 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.
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 Corp.—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 which discouraged prosecution of whites for continuing to hold black workers against their will. 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.
And finally, if you like a bit more information about Moyers’ book – here’s a link…http://billmoyers.com/books/
I hope you will join me in getting it right since it’s one step toward understanding how the whole country got it all so wrong and hopefully learning from the experience by watching and reading.
Finally, today is an important day in history too. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., minister, activist, humanitarian, and leader in the African-American Civil Rights movement was born January 18, 1929. Had an assassin’s bullet ended his life in 1968, he’d have turned 87 this year. I had a number of relatives who lived past 87 probably you do too.
I know what you may be saying to yourself… and you’re right… I’ve given readers an awful lot to think about – today especially – but I think it’s long past time we got history right. We owe that much to ourselves as a nation and especially so in terms of truly honoring Dr. King’s memory.
As the slogan on my blog says – “Read, Share, Discuss, Learn”… please do.
Source for my weekly online newspaper column: Monday Moanin’: Your high school history teacher got it all wrong |
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- Jeff Salisbury