Historians Against Slavery stands with those protesting the brutal murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, Eleanor Bumpers, and Alberta Spruill, along with the many other Black and Brown victims of police and vigilante violence in the United States, past and present. We are an organization that mobilizes historical literacy to fight contemporary slavery as well as the ongoing legacies of slavery in the U.S, including racist law enforcement regimes and mass incarceration. We assert that racial violence in the U.S. is a historical and ongoing process of anti-Blackness. As scholars of injustice and its remedies, we adhere to the tenets of Anti-Racism and declare that Black Lives Matter. We also decry the fact that ongoing White Supremacy has exposed Black and Brown citizens of the U.S. to premature death: spectacularly, from relentless state violence, and more slowly, from state-sanctioned inequity in representation, healthcare, education, housing, access, and opportunity. We stand in solidarity with those working to reimagine policing and security for all, and we understand this radical change as an urgent necessity to prevent the perpetuation of deeply rooted injustices and the resulting civil unrest.
We urge those who may struggle to understand the rage and deep sadness of protesters to study how deeply those reactions are rooted in and validated by a history that has remained obscure in this country. We offer this reading list on slavery and policing as a starting point to build historical literacy about racism and its impacts in the U.S. We remain committed to exposing ongoing connections between the relevant history and contemporary issues, with the goal of bringing an end to racism and all its institutional and individual trappings. And we express our anguish and outrage for those whose lives have been taken and harmed by racist violence from the beginning.
Black Lives Matter
Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (The New Press, 2010).
Simon Balto, Occupied Territory: Policing Black Chicago from Red Summer to Black Power (North Carolina, 2019).
Douglas Blackmon, Douglas Blackmon, Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II (Doubleday, 2008).
Robert Chase, We Are Not Slaves: State Violence, Coerced Labor and Prisoners’ Rights in Postwar America (North Carolina, 2020)
Dennis Childs, Slaves of the State: Black Incarceration from the Chain Gang to the Penitentiary (Minnesota, 2015).
Angela Davis, Are Prisons Obsolete? (Seven Stories, 2003).
Elizabeth Hinton, From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime: The Making of Mass Incarceration in America (Harvard, 2016).
Ibram X. Kendi, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America (Hachette, 2016).
Talitha L. LeFlouria, Chained in Silence: Black Women and Convict Labor in the New South (North Carolina, 2015).
Andrea Ritchie, Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color (Beacon, 2017).
Carl Suddler, Presumed Criminal: Black Youth and the Justice System in Postwar New York (NYU, 2019).