Slavery By Another Name: Analyzing a loophole in the 13th Amendment and the emergence of Neoslavery

During their junior year, AOC students will spend the fall semester thoughtfully and carefully analyzing the novel Slavery By Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of African Americans From the Civil War to World War II, a Pulitzer Prize-winning account of the “Age of Neoslavery,” the American period following the Emancipation Proclamation in which convicts, mostly black men, were “leased” through forced labor camps operated by state and federal governments.

Written by American writer and journalist Douglas Blackmon, Slavery By Another Name continues several compelling themes that serve as modes of discussion and analysis in the junior year classroom.

These themes include the following:

  • The 13th Amendment, and what is has meant at various times in history

  • The criminalization of Black Americans

  • The impact of white nationalism on American social, economic, and political structures

  • Vagrancy, how it is defined and used at different points in American history

  • How slavery has changed over the centuries (e.g., before the civil war, in the Jim Crow eras, and today)

  • The conditions, rights, and punishments enacted against prisoners and prison laborers

As AOC juniors read through Blackmon’s Slavery By Another Name, they will play the primary role as facilitators of knowledge related to the book. For each class session that a chapter is due, an assigned student or group of students will identify a unique theme, event, or issue from the chapter, and conduct research into a contemporary parallel to the element they identified, and present an informative report on that topic. Students will deliver an oral presentation on the topic, including 3-5 graphics that will be the focus of the presentation with no additional supporting text.

Each group must focus on one element of the historical, political, legal, social, or ideological aspects covered in their chapter, or focus on a specific literary aspect used by the author in this chapter (e.g. foreshadowing, conflict, plot, character development, imagery devices, etc.). A suggested list of themes is provided for each chapter, along with a quick description of the chapter itself, but students are free to identify their own theme from the chapter. Students will conduct detailed research on the theme as it relates to 1) the chapter in order to establish sufficient historical context, and 2) more recent applications, or contemporary parallels to the theme. This research will provide the basis for the oral presentation.

Where possible, students are also encouraged to tie their chapter to other broad themes covered in this course (including, but not limited to, race relations, the evolution of democracy, gender relations, American economic history and globalization, and increased pluralism in American society). Students who are presenting as a team (i.e., 2 people) are each expected to present a unique angle on the theme, either by identifying separate contemporary connections or examples relating to the same theme, or by providing a different take on the same topic and theme.

Each student or group will present an oral lecture in which they trace the evolution of the element of focus in the chapter, and its correlation to the contemporary topic of research. To promote audience participation and provoke analysis of the theme and topic(s) in the presentation, presenters will provide to their respective teacher, no later than 24 hours before the presentation, at least one discussion question. The question should be well thought out to engage higher level thinking, class-wide participation, and debate as opposed to eliciting a yes or no response. The teacher will facilitate the class discussion.

Each week the class is expected to engage in a critical analysis of the chapters being covered, as well as a critique of the actions of the American government and related governmental bodies. Student participation is required and an ongoing log of the student conversations will be recorded for use in evaluating a grade for this portion of the project.

Content has been provided by the syllabi and directions provided by AOC staff.

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