Black History Month ends in a couple of days, but black history does not.  Although history is often equated with just the past, it does not stop there, does it?  History is a continuum: past, present and future. 

During slavery days in the U.S., pro-slavery folks rationalized the enslavement of blacks as necessary in order to protect them because blacks were considered too lacking in intelligence to take care of  themselves.

Wishful thinking. 

If blacks were supposed to be so lacking in intelligence, why did states bother to pass laws that forbade teaching blacks how to read? 

After all, if blacks were that lacking, they wouldn’t have been able to learn how to read, and they certainly would not be able to comprehend what they read. 

Thank goodness, blacks did (and do) defy that prejudiced adage that says: If you don’t want blacks to know something, put it in a book.

During this Black History Month, PBS aired a documentary on the book “Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II.”  The  Pulitzer Prize-winning book was published in 2008 and written by Douglas A. Blackmon, a Caucasian American who grew up in Mississippi. 

Mr. Blackmon argues that slavery in the U.S. did not end with the Civil War but persisted well into the 20th century as involuntary servitude. Wikipedia calls it “Neoslavery.”

 Neoslavery is described as “the convict lease system used by states, local governments, white farmers, and corporations after the American Civil War until World War II in the southern United States.” 

It was a system of forced labor of imprisoned black men and women. 

Black men and women were convicted of trumped up crimes such as vagrancy and assessed fines and fees they could not pay. They were then leased out to companies or individuals to work off these debts. 

Mr. Blackmon’s research focuses on the South, but the intimidation of, trumped up charges against, and incarceration of innocent black people takes place throughout the U.S. even today. 

One has only to look at the release of innocent black men that were imprisoned by the Chicago judicial system to know that “…the insidious legacy of racism…reverberates today.” 

History repeating itself. 

And, as was pointed out to me, Evanston is also not innocent of criminalizing or trumping up charges against black people, adults and teens. 

Complaints about the portrayals or labeling of blacks continue. People complain that black people are often portrayed in film as being stupid or having no moral values “by the use of profanity, physical violence, and lack of control,” and newscasts “disproportionately show African Americans under arrest, living in slums, on welfare, and in need of help from the community.” 


History repeating itself, with no end in sight.