Slavery By Another Name

Each chapter is identified below, including its length (in pages and audio narration), a short summary, and suggested themes to help guide the creation of your presentation.

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Chapter 1:The Wedding (25 pg, 1 hr 5 min)

Summary: The years following the Civil War saw the South grappling with the enormous changes brought about by the war itself, the post-war violence that accompanied social disturbance and racial reorganization, and the ruined economy that had to be rebuilt. Through the lives of Henry and Mary Cottinhan, we see the origins of both the old system of slavery, and the new system that replaces it after the Civil War.

Themes:

  • Destruction and transformation
  • The role and impact of post-war violence in shaping new social orders
  • How differing perspectives on devastating events impacts how a community, culture, or region understands its past
  • Emancipation: its meaning and legacy


Chapter 2: An Industrial Slavery (18 pg, 47 min)

Summary: How, in the years leading up to the Civil War, the south began to industrialize, with factories springing up around new cities like Birmingham. That those early factories were driven by slave labor provided a blueprint for southern industrialists after the war, who sought a new source of slaves through the prison systems.

Themes:

  • Mining as a driver of the economy
  • The role of iron and steel in the American economy
  • Human capital in the 2nd and 3rd (or 4th?) Industrial Revolution
  • Who is best fit to work?


Chapter 3: Slavery’s Increase (25 pg, 1 hr 3 min)

Summary: How the convict leasing system developed throughout the South, the role sheriffs played in the process, and the advantages that the system afforded whites at all levels of law enforcement.

Themes:

  • The role that police, sheriffs, and other law enforcement play in society
  • So called “trivial crimes” and what they tell us about a society (i.e. who is targeted, what the purpose behind the statute is, etc.)
  • Incarceration rates - then and now
  • The 14th Amendment - Then and now


Chapter 4: Green Cottinham’s World (29 pg, 1 hr 15 min)

[4A pp 84-93; 4B pp 94-113]

Summary: The economic and social realities of the South are explored in depth, with particular emphasis on how industrialization was driving the South toward recovery and the important role that convict leasing played in that drive.

Themes:

  • Poverty and race
  • Push and pull factors in internal migrations
  • Moments where racial equality is possible, but not fully realized
  • The role of white allies in supporting minority groups
  • Who votes and their impact on the political system


Chapter 5: The Slave Farm of John Pace (37 pg, 1 hr 32 min)

[5A pp 117-133; 5B pp 133-154]

Summary: How Black Americans were ensnared into the convict leasing system and how that system was used to support the agricultural sector of the south (both small and large farms) in a manner that was similar to, be also decidedly different from, that of Antebellum slavery.

Themes:

  • The South as an agricultural production center in America
  • Who worked (or works) the fields in the South
  • The conditions that agricultural workers in the United States work in
  • How slaves were acquired - then and now


Chapter 6: Slavery in Not a Crime (25 pg, 1 hr 2 min)

Summary: At the down of the 20th century a public awareness of the new slavery system in the South emerged and was challenged by federal investigators, especially by the administration under Theodore Roosevelt. White southerners maintained that their practices were not slavery and that, even if slavery did exist, that the federal government had no right to meddle in an issue that should be dealt with by local or state law enforcement.

Themes:

  • The role and operations of federal investigations
  • Black leaders’ perceptions of the goals, issues, and priorities of Black Americans
  • Benign racism and how it shapes society
  • Segregation in schools
  • How the rest of the world views race relations in America


Chapter 7: The Indictments (35 pg, 1 hr 23 min)

[7A pp 181-194; 7B pp 194-216]

Summary: This chapter follows federal prosecutors as they seek a series of indictments in a handful of peonage cases in Georgia and Alabama in 1903. We see how the courts worked in the South at the time, and how racism blurred the lines between justice and injustice within the legal system as a whole.

Themes:

  • How American courts view and respond to racism
  • The role of language in defining race and power
  • Justifications given for forced labor, and what they tell us about a society
  • The use of violence to keep people from testifying at trials


Chapter 8: A Summer of Trials, 1903 (15 pg, 37 min)

Summary: The trial of prominent white southerners shines a bright light on the new system of slavery that emerged in the south after the Civil War, but also underscores the limitations of the justice system in resolving this problem.

Themes:

  • How American courts view and respond to peonage
  • How society, in different regions of America, respond to external threats
  • How individuals with power respond when they recognize an injustice
  • The economic benefits of slavery


Chapter 9: A River of Anger (12 pg, 31 min)

Summary: In the wake of the prominent peonage trials in 1903, the attitudes of white southerners hardens toward Blacks, resulting in increased violence throughout the region.

Themes:

  • When and why murder or other acts of violence go uninvestigated by law enforcement
  • How science is used to support social or political objectives
  • Violence as a means of asserting social control
  • The impact of large scale social experiments
  • How race, or other differences are depicted in literature


Chapter 10: Disapprobation of God (23 pg, 56 min)

Summary: As local judges and prosecutors worked to redeem a sense of southern honor, in the wake of th 1903 mistrials, the federal government, weary from revelations of fraud in southern courts and disgusted by the regular bouts of violence directed toward Blacks across the South, slowly turned their eye from the continued existence of convict slavery, allowing the institution to flourish.

Themes:

  • The role of the press in exposing injustice
  • How symbolic judgments, within the courts, perpetuate or alleviate injustice
  • The use of fraud to perpetuate social, racial, or economic inequalities
  • How the executive branch (i.e., the President) responds to injustice


Chapter 11: Slavery Affirmed (7 pg, 18 min)

Summary: In response to the rising racial animosity toward blacks in the South, W.E.B. DuBois and other black leaders work to expose the realities of life for southern blacks in clear, academic language. In contrast, literature by Thomas Dixon celebrates white southern pride and demonizes blacks as heathens. This contrast plays out in the foreground while convict labor continues to gradually expand.

Themes:

  • How art is used to depict or promulgate social, political, or economic inequalities and other problems
  • Literature as an agent of social change
  • The role of academics (i.e., researchers and professors) in revealing ad addressing social ills


Chapter 12: New South Rising (19 pg, 46 min)

Summary: As white southern politicians and industrial magnates twisted court ruling to support, rather than demolish, the new system of slavery, the economic gains brought by industrialization helped to return the south to a region of economic prominence and prosperity, built on the labor of black convict laborers.

Themes:

  • How court decisions can be interpreted to support, rather than reverse, social injustice
  • The symbolism of past relics (statues, tombs, buildings, etc.); with regards to both cultural heritage and social injustice
  • How architecture reflects aspects of power and race, as well as social and political priorities
  • How, when, and why the right to vote is denied to a people


Chapter 13: The Arrest of Green Cottinham (10 pg, 25 min)

Summary: The story of Green Cottinham’s arrest, conviction, and sentencing to work in the Pratt Mines..

Themes:

  • Scapegoating; who is targeted and why
  • Graft and fraud in the prison system
  • What rights laborers, especially prison laborers have, and how those rights are (or should be) protected
  • The treatment and rights of prisoners


Chapter 14: Anatomy of a Slave Mine (13 pg, 32 min)

Summary: The reader is taken into the harsh realities of life in Slope No.12, which Green Cottinham and others like him endured until they could endure no longer.

Themes:

  • The environmental effects of mining
  • Working conditions inside mines
  • Education within prisons
  • Prison death rates, and what they tell us about a society


Chapter 15: Everywhere Was Death (13 pg, 32 min)

Summary: As the world descends into war (e.g., WWI) racial violence against black Americans raises to levels that whites around the country can no longer ignore, leading to increased pressure on corporations who are engaged in production in the South to reconsider their priorities and push back against convict leasing.

Themes:

  • How race consciousness forms
  • Race riots
  • Lynchings
  • The extent to which corporations should recognize and act against social ills connected to their practices


Chapter 16: Atlanta, The South’s Finest City (32 pg, 1 hr 16 min)

[16A pp 338-352; 16B pp 352-370]

Summary: In the wake of WWI and the beginnings of the Great Migration, white southerners are increasingly forced to contend with negative attention on the new forms of slavery being perpetuated through the prison system. As they increasingly attempt to be seen as leaders in American society, southern politicians begin efforts to unravel and bury the system of convict labor.

Themes:

  • Slave trading - then and now
  • What makes us accept social change?
  • What is the role of the NAACP in advancing equality within America?
  • How movies reflect racial or social inequities or injustice
  • What is the role of the federal government in confronting racial injustice?


Chapter 17: Freedom (11 pg, 27 min)

Summary: As WWII break out, and the need for labor increases throughout the nation, the final vestiges of convict leasing are unraveled and the Great Migration, picking up from where it started during WWI, reorients the nature of race in American social and political life, laying the foundations for the Civil Rights movements that arise after the war.

Themes:

  • How do pivotal moments in history (e.g., Pearl Harbor, 9/11. etc.) trigger broader social changes
  • Should corporations be held accountable for crimes they, or companies they have acquired, committed in the past?
  • What are the most effective interventions for confronting injustice?


Epilogue (20 pg, 51 min)

Summary: Blackmon leads the reader back to the grave of Green Cottinham to consider the legacy of the prison industrial complex, the impact this story has had on Black Americans, and the family connections he discovered as a result of writing this story.

Themes:

  • Giving voice to the voiceless
  • The legacy of slavery
  • How corporations recognize and preserve their past


Themes applicable to (almost) any chapter

Throughout the book there are a variety of themes that could relate across chapters. If none of the themes identified for a chapter above are compelling, you may consider these themes as well, for potential guidance in constructing your handout and presentation.

Themes:

  • The 13th Amendment, and what is has meant at various times in history
  • The criminalization of Black Americans
  • The impact of white nationalism on American social, economic, and political structures
  • Vagrancy, how it is defined and used at different points in American history
  • How slavery has changed over the centuries (e.g., before the civil war, in the Jim Crow eras, and today)
  • The conditions, rights, and punishments enacted against prisoners and prison laborers