SPECIAL FOR THE AJT//
Douglas A. Blackmon, the Pulitzer-Prize winning author of “Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II” and co-executive producer of the acclaimed PBS documentary of the same name, was recently at Yeshiva Atlanta to speak with students about his work.
“We were so excited that Mr. Blackmon agreed to speak with our students,” said Rabbi Reuven Travis, who teaches two sections of American history at Yeshiva Atlanta. “My classes watched his documentary as part of our lessons on Reconstruction and the years leading up to advent of the Civil Rights movement. The students were both moved by the power of the stories in the documentary and shocked by the extreme injustices perpetrated against African-Americans during this era.”
In his presentation, Blackmon discussed how whites throughout the South, by denying freedom through arrests on trumped-up charges, exploited the labor of black men for profits in farming, mining and other industrial endeavors. Blackmon’s exposition also touched upon gang labor and the failure of the Justice Department to prosecute violations of the rights of black men for decades after the Civil War and continuing through World War II.
Then, after his presentation, Mr. Blackmon spoke with a number of YA students for another 45 minutes. During the question-and-answer period, Eden Farber (Class of 2015) asked:
“Do you think the reason there was re-enslavement was because the African-Americans were ill-equipped to deal with freedom, or because the whites were ill-equipped to deal with equality?”
In his response, Blackmon enthusiastically noted that “it’s a great visit when you get a question you have never heard before, and I’ve never heard that before!”
Finally, before Blackmon departed, he shared with head of Yeshiva Atlanta Dr. Paul Oberman that he was usually leery of speaking to high school students because of the challenging nature of his book and documentary. His visit to Yeshiva, however, was the exception to the rule, as “this was the best high school audience” he had ever had.