Douglas A. Blackmon is the author of “Slavery by Another Name” and is the executive producer for the documentary based off of the book . He was in Oswego Thursday, February 12, as part of the Race-Place-Being series, to give a lecture on the documentary.
The documentary talks about the era during and after the post-Civil War reconstruction period in which southern states attempted to re-enslave free African-American’s in prison work camps and through peonage (unpaid service in place of a debt). Both students and the public had the opportunity to view the film Wednesday night before Blackmon’s visit.
The trailer can be viewed below.
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The acclaimed author and journalist used his time with the audience to discuss the disparity he saw between the lives of black people and white people while growing up in rural Mississippi.
“It was clear that the world was a lot harder if you were black than if you were white,” Blackmon said in an interview before his lecture. “I was in the first class of children in Mississippi to begin the first day of first grade (with) black kids and white kids together in a public school.”
He added that many of the white families at that time had pulled their children from the public schools and transferred them to all white private schools. This, along with other conflicts he saw arising from the civil rights movement, is what lead him to dig so deeply into the history of the treatment of African Americans after slavery ended; his book reveals this may not have been as long ago as many people think.
After Blackmon’s speech, members of the audience were encouraged to ask questions and engage in a discussion with him on what they had heard.
The topics included Michael Brown and the events in Ferguson over the summer, affirmative action (and legacy admission to universities), and the relationship between the re-enslavement of African Americans in the early-1900s and the modern incarceration rates of black males.
Regarding Ferguson, Blackmon said that he was tired of the media attention because he did not think they were asking the right questions of the situation.
“Why do we live in a society that keeps creating that circumstance?” he said (that of an unarmed, young black man being killed by a police officer).
After the discussion, Blackmon was presented a commemorative plaque by Dr. Jerald Woolfork, who he grew up with in Mississippi. He then stuck around and spoke individually with students and other audience members.
The documentary is available to view in its entirety.