Since I began my blog in 2014, just before publication of my novel Gideon’s Children, I have argued that the foremost problem facing our Criminal Justice System, mirroring American society as a whole, is the issue of race.
Because this serious problem has its origin centuries before our country was colonized and then transformed into the United States, for those who seek to fully understand the long, tragic history of racism, I highly recommend reading From Slavery to Freedom, A History of African Americans by the eminent historian John Hope Franklin, and his distinguished co-author, Alfred Moss, Jr.
Meticulously researched by Franklin and Moss, this highly readable book begins by presenting a broad view of early African empires, Ghana, Mali, and Songhay, dating back to before the Middle Ages. In fascinating detail, the reader is presented with societies that were remarkably sophisticated, with a sharp focus on their political, economic, and social systems, as well as art and music.
After this foundation is carefully laid, the authors then sweep forward to The Slave Trade and the New World, followed by Colonial Slavery, thus providing a vivid portrait of the roots of racism and the problem that has haunted America ever since their development. No detail is spared in depicting the tragic irony involved as the founders of the colonies, and thereafter the United States, idealized freedom and democracy, while simultaneously permitting the abominable institution of slavery to exist and flourish.
Building upon this base, eras are then explored, depicting the role of Blacks from the New Republic to Manifest Destiny, to Slavery and Intersectional Strife, to the Civil War, then followed by Reconstruction and Economic Adjustment. And adding to a well-rounded narrative that incorporates opposite viewpoints, from white supremacy to abolitionist philosophy, along with governing political, economic, social, and religious factors, the authors further spice their comprehensive story-line with Eyewitness Accounts from a cross-section of individuals who lived during the various times.
In the last third of this monumental work, the authors offer a vivid picture of the enormity of African Americans’ struggle to survive and become full citizens, from the latter part of the 1860s through the turn of the century and World War I, then continuing from the 1920s through the Great Depression and World War II, and further from the post war through the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s to the turn of the Twenty-first century.
Each era is explored thoroughly from a political, economic, social, and religious perspective, with chapters also devoted to cultural revolutions such as The Harlem Renaissance.
I began by recommending From Slavery to Freedom to those who seek to fully understand the long, tragic history of racism. I feel compelled to add that everyone would benefit from reading it. For while those of us living today are not to blame for slavery and the racism underlying it, I would argue that we are responsible for eliminating the cancer of racism in our country and in our world, and working steadfastly as individuals and through our political, social, economic, and cultural institutions to create a just society for all members.