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By: Theresa Mancuso

If you have Netflix, and only watch “one” documentary in your lifetime in honor of “Black History Month”… Watch the original documentary called 13th…Produced by Ava DuVernayIt is surely transformative and worthwhile for parents who care about their children’s education to watch this as a family event.

It is surely transformative and worthwhile for parents who care about their children’s education to watch this as a family event. Ava initial wanted to produce a documentary based on the injustices within the prison system. Throughout her process, she realized that in order to truly reveal the atrocities in this system she had to shed light on how the history in our country shaped what we see today.

As I sat down to watch this documentary I was affected beyond comprehension. I realized that we as a nation of all colors have relied on a White patriarchal society writing our history book.  We have all come to believe the lies regarding slavery, mass incarceration and the vilification of a complete race of people.

The documentary 13th is aptly named because it references the 13th Amendment and where it all began. The 13th Amendment to the Constitution declared that “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

Formally abolishing slavery in the United States, the 13th Amendment was passed by the Congress on January 31, 1865, and ratified by the states on December 6, 1865.I came to realize that White America has romanticized the freeing of slaves, especially because there was a loophole.  Our government used this loophole to rebuild the South’s economy and fill their pockets with money while doing so while the torture continued.

After the Civil War and the abolishment of slavery, the south’s economy was left broken. Four million people who were forced to produce the southern economy that flourished were now free. This left “those white folk” to have to do the work themselves… and that was not going to happen.So the powers that be “the Government” decided if we can exploit the loophole of the 13th amendment in reference to punishment and involuntary servitude, we can rebuild.

This was the beginning of what we now call “mass incarceration or Slavery by another name.” There is an award-winning book entitled Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War ll Book by Douglas A. Blackmon detailing this topic.

African Americans began being arrested for the smallest of crimes. The media also began portraying them as savages, rapist and criminals; against White women in particular, and murderous animals instilling mass fear in an ignorant society that relied on the guidance of the government.

One widely used film which helped to spread and perpetuate this fraud is D.W. Griffith’s, “The Birth if a Nation.” It single-handedly supported the unification of the KKK and the criminalization of the Black man after the Civil War.
One scene in the movie depicted a white man in “black face” savagely seeking out a White woman with the intention of rape. She then plunges herself off a cliff to avoid the attack. The good White men hunt down the savage and lynch him. The White man’s attack on this savage propagated a lie made him a hero.
A Birth of a Nation was considered the greatest theatrical achievement of its time and the gang mentality was now justified for Whites against Blacks.Consider that at the end of the Civil War there were thousands of skilled artisan former slaves. They were craftsmen, blacksmiths, roofers, builders, not just cotton and farmers. They built the South. The labored long and hard in the hot summer to build the churches, the factories, the boats, the schools which they could not attend, the hospitals where they would not be taken.
Suddenly this free labor was lost and poor whites were now competing with these Black men and women for the same jobs. In became more than convenient, it became necessary for the South to maintain its economy to imprison Black men to work, and now feel justified in lynching them for nothing more than the color of their skin.

Fleeing for their lives, Black Americans ran from the South to escape the brutality they had encountered just to find there was no refugee.
By1924, at the Democratic Convention of New York, there were a jaw-dropping 350 Klansmen who held seats as delegates.  Above their heads, they hung  a banner freely announcing, “We Lynched a Man yesterday.”

This demonstrated an unavoidable fate of the Black man. The White society was engaged in open acts of terrorism with lynchings and mob killings throughout the first half of the 2oth century.Stories such as Emmett Till in 1955 were commonplace. This was a young boy from Chicago visiting Mississippi. He was mutilated, tortured and murdered for allegedly wolf whistling at White woman.The assassins gouged out the eyes of this 14-year-old boy before further torture, shooting him in the head and dumping his lifeless body in the river. They were found innocent and set free.

This information, I have found during 2017 Black History Month. This is information I never knew. It is horrific and minds numbing. It is hard for me to believe that none of this was ever taught to any of us in school.The book Hidden Figures was also new to me. These omissions from history are so disturbing to me yet so important, I know I need to know more and will continue to research and report on my findings here in the Phoenix.

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