Douglas Blackmon in his book Slavery by Another Name extracts the grim reality of the Criminal Justice System in the United States that slavery for African Americans is still not compensated even after the Civil War terminated. Blacks particularly in the South were the target of racially-charged enactments and were forced to worse animosity without compensation that kept them marginalized and the exercise of slavery continued well until World War II. Douglas uncovers stunning evidence that the criminal justice system of the county in eight southern states arrested Blacks for misdemeanors, fined them heavily which they could not pay, and sold their labor to quarries and coal mines where labor conditions were hard. Blackmon in the introductory chapter “The Bricks We Stand On” wondered whether the county criminal justice system used the same lens for punishing Whites as the system’s perspective was for black defendants “they were slaves in all but name” (Blackmon, 2009). This chapter narrates how Green Cottenham in 1908 was arrested for vagrancy even though he was not guilty of that crime. Authorities sold him to Tennessee Coal and Iron Company where he was forced to extract coal from the earth during the day and was chained up by the company in a jam-packed shack.
That hard labor conditions and congestion caused an unknown disease among the slaves living there and they died from that disease. Those who left tried to escape the place and were burned in ovens that were commonly used for blasting coal out of the rocks. Drawing upon the story of Cottenham, Douglas tried to assert his perspective that the men who died of disease or were killed brutally while they attempted to escape were slaves, even though “they were not slaves legally” (Blackmon, 2009). Blackmon has challenged the criminal justice system because of its discriminatory attitude towards technically free men who were bounded by chains and were forced into industrial servitude without their consent. Moreover, even after the termination of the Civil War encountered physical torment and was subjected to inhumane living conditions. In conclusion, the introductory chapter “The Bricks We Stand On” emphasizes that a person’s race, color, and status in society discriminately influence the criminal justice system’s decision when punishing individuals, making an arrest, and sentencing. In my opinion, the county criminal justice system as Douglas elucidates acts lenient on the convicts when it comes to dominant race and on the other hand, punishes those not guilty of crimes due to racial and social status bias.
Blackmon, Douglas A. Slavery by another name: The re-enslavement of black Americans from the Civil War to World War II. Anchor, 2009.