Douglas Blackmon does an impressive work and good research as a reporter. He has asked questions that would make anyone raises their eyebrows over the money making methods that the whites used by exploiting slavery and the black right. He shows a lot of parallelism between the British and American Imperial interests and the German police during WWII. He also asks if the business community will look at the US corporations with the same disgust as they did with the German companies and the Swiss banks.
He starts off by writing about how the winners write history and how the Holocaust was not only a disgusting event in which Germans and other Europeans killed many Jews but it was also a planned robbery. Many people are enforced with different ideas since childhood and therefore they are blinded by them, which do not help them to see autocracies like this in societies. Douglas then moves on to focus on the corporate policies in the post-civil war period that relied on black labor force to achieve all their targets and goals. This was actually the main idea which inspired him to write about this topic which was mainly missed by other authors and no one even talked about the corporate side of slavery for a very long time.
His story is more about the blacks but essentially his story revolves around the life of Green Cottonham a young African American man. What is so intriguing and shocking about the whole event is that the historical record of this individual is very scarce, which just shows how the black individuals were treated and handled that time. According to Douglas Cottonham’s journey of deprivation of his rights, needs, voice, and urges is what the true crux of this story is. There were not many records of his life by Douglas does extensive research to dig out his story.
No records point to Cottonham’s precise birth date but he was born in the late 19th century to 2 incarcerated slaves. In the year 1908, Alabama State Penitentiary archive shows that he was arrested on the charges of vagrancy, which essentially means that he was roaming free without a master. Although it sounds something very strange and horrible, this was something that was followed at that time and the African Americans were robbed off any freedom that they had that time.
The state of Alabama then sent a notice to the Penitentiary facilities to rent the African American who were arrested on no clear charges. All of them were then sent to the US coal mines where they used to work for the US Steel Corporation where a lot of them worked till they died. Cottenham shared the same fate.
This was a new form of slavery and Douglas terms it ‘Industrial Slavery’. This kind of slavery robbed off people of their will and their way of life. Slowly different in a different kind of aspects industries took the place of fields and manual work and the slaves were put to work there and most of them died there working.
The Thirteenth Amendment released all slaves from the lashes of their masters, many southerners found new tricks so that their political, economic and social freedom can be restricted. The southerners through the governing body decided to deviate from the law and keep these African Americans as obedient as slaves. For them sending them to jail was a perfect reason that they need some kind of social education. This exploitation was happening on a large scale as the blacks were detained for any good reason at all and they were constantly being starved to death on plantations, coal mines, factories, and many more places. Surprisingly, the evidence of this behavior can be found anywhere in the records quite easily. The behavior that the African American was subjected to was simply unethical and inhumane even at that time. Take, for example, the former governor of Georgia who accumulated a lot of money through this unethical program. This is just one of the many examples already there in historical records.
Some laws which restricted freedom of the blacks:
· Employment was required for the Negroes. Violators faced vagrancy charges.
· Negroes could not assemble without the presence of a white person
· Public facilities were segregated for the white and blacks.
· Every Negro is required to be in service of some white person or former owner who shall be responsible for that Negro.
Eugene Reese was one of the very few people at that time who tried to put the responsible parties behind a bar and was the one who orchestrated this whole process. Under the Federal laws, he had the rights to do so but his actions did not change much because the kind of policies that he brought was not at all popular at that time. Not giving the African American their rights was perfectly okay with anyone at that time and hence his prosecution was left empty-handed.
These policies and ideologies regarding the black American had put a lot of strain between different communities at the height of the Second World War, right when the country had to unite. And therefore the policies and issues related to racial segregation loosened a lot during that time. This was more because of the military action and mobilization. However, in 1948 upon a lot of pressure, Harry Truman signed an executive order and federal officials closed down the last labor camp after that.
There were some key lessons that Douglas Blackmon wants to give away with this book. The first is that he thinks that no apology or pardon would solve the job. It is very important that the people first acknowledge that the blacks were used for a personal agenda. This will then help to put their personal differences aside and create a society in which everyone will be equal. Secondly, if the world continues in which people judge each other on color, then it will only help more to spread sorrow and conflicts. Building a better place and a country requires the people are no longer discriminated based on color, place, nationality, political background and or religion. Thirdly, everyone should understand life as a basic human right to live as anyone pleases.