The New Jim Crow

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There are now two different versions of African-American history. The first is the inspiring story of slaves who were given their freedom after the Civil War. The second is the tale of a harsher reality in which black Americans have moved from slavery through a series of lesser racial caste systems over the last 150 years. Many of America’s young black men are ensnared in the second story.

The lives of these young men are controlled by what author Michelle Alexander describes as “the new Jim Crow.” The old Jim Crow was a series of laws that limited the freedom of black people after emancipation. When the Jim Crow era ended with the civil rights victories of the 1960s, Alexander says, a new, more colorblind system emerged, based on law-and-order politics, that leads millions of young black men to drop out of school and end up in prison. Along the way, they are denied literacy skills, a family life, a job and full citizenship in the United States.

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