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Nolasco 1

Jocelyne Nolasco
English 115 Honors
Professor Lawson
Final Draft Project 3
10 December 2016
Word Count: 2751
The Evolution of Slavery
The foundation of the Unites States of America is based on racism and comprised of a
system that mostly benefits the white rich male. From the time, Christopher Columbus
discovered this land and committed a mass genocide against Native Americans to today, in
2016, where our newly elected president is a blatantly racist, misogynistic white man, one can
only conclude that systemic racism and racism in general still very much exist in America,
specifically against people of color. However, among other things, this deep-rooted racism in
America continues because of the ratification of amendment Thirteen on December 6, 1865,
marking the period of reconstruction for America. This amendment is essential in keeping
systemic oppression against people of color thriving in this country because despite it being the
amendment to formally abolish slavery, is holds a huge exception to the rules of slavery that
white men in power have been using to their advantage almost immediately after its ratification
and even still in modern America. Through the thirteenth amendment systematic oppression
against people of color is kept alive and has only evolved into a new form of slavery in American
prisons.
The Thirteenth Amendment of the United States constitution holds a significant role for
systematically continuing white male supremacy in America. The amendment states, neither

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slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime wherefore the party shall
have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States. Along with the Emancipation
Proclamation, which only declared liberty of all men in the rebellious states (meaning the states
that had seceded from the Union), there had to be an official document that freed slaves
throughout the nation, so the thirteenth amendment was created (National Archive and Records
Administration). Yes, this amendment clearly abolishes slavery and free labor; however, there is
an exception to rule. Every man is free throughout the nation except when there has been a crime
committed and the person has been formally convicted. As punishment, a criminal is allowed to
be used as a slave in the United States. This was the nations first prison bill.
Before the Civil War, slaves were an integral part of the economy of the South. Slavery
kept the economy thriving in the South while the North was quickly moving away from that and
becoming more modernized. So, when the amendment was first ratified, many Southern states
immediately began to exploit the thirteenth amendment loop hole which led to mass
incarcerations of African Americans. African Americans were being arrested for extremely minor
crimes such as loitering and even for something as simple as interacting with a white person.
According to history analyst website, Fredrick Douglass Family Initiative, as the new president
appointed governors to southern states there was still an overwhelming approval of proslavery in
these states, so the new state legislature passed laws designed to keep blacks in poverty and in
position of servitude. During the Reconstruction Era, passing laws that were outright
discriminatory toward people of color was shameless because encountering a racist was norm in
the late 1800s in America. Now that blacks were presumed criminals, African Americans could
again be used as slaves. These new slaves were now responsible for stabilizing the southern
economy once again.

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In order to influence African American arrests, the rhetoric being used to describe black
people changed dramatically. The vulnerable and scared image of African Americans was
converted into a new image that made black people seem like destructive beast who were a
danger of violence to white women and needed to be banished. This change in rhetoric was also
evident in literature and movies of the time. Before the civil war the book of folktales, Uncle
Remus by Joe Harris is an example of literature that almost romanticizes slavery and the
black experience of the time, then after the civil war the film The Birth of a Nation presented
by D.W. Griffith portrayed African American males as animalistic rapist criminals. Much like
present day American, in the reconstruction era the media, films and literature had a huge role in
influencing the masses. Because of these growing stereotype of Black people, it became easier to
arrest African American through racial profiling. Oddly enough, similar negative stereotypes
about Blacks are still carried out in present day America which play a part in a lot of African
American arrests in this country.
With this form of racial profiling, came a new form of terror in the nation; however, the
people who were being terrorized were African Americans and not white people at all. Between
the Reconstruction Era and World War II, Black people were killed and harassed in the safety of
their own homes. African Americans were being beaten, lynched, and harassed under the
assumption that they had done something criminal, but the only crime they didnt choose to
commit was to be born with dark skin. The death of young Emmet Till was proof of this terror.
Till was only fourteen years old when he was kidnapped, torture, and shot to death for illegibly
whistling at a white woman store owner while he was buying gum. Tills mother insisted in
having an open casket funeral so that the nation can see firsthand the change that needed to be
brought. On September 23, 1955, an all-white jury acquitted the two men who murdered Till. In

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a white mans eyes, a black person interreacting with a white person was a far worse crime than
cold blooded murder. The country agreed with this notion. After the results of the Plessey v.
Ferguson case in Louisiana that condoned the separate but equal interpretation of the
Constitutions Fourteenth Amendment equal protection clause, the nation underwent a deep
divide that made segregation legal, which meant that it was illegal to have a life of full liberty,
due process, and jurisdiction in American if a person was black. This would only further
emphasize the idea that people of color are criminals and are second class citizens.
As America began to move away from blatant slavery, the purpose for incarcerating
African Americans changed and they were now getting arrested so they can be physically away
from white America. This was the time when the civil rights movement began to take
momentum. The Civil Rights Movement was a fight for equality and liberty despite someones
skin tone and history. Civil Rights activist like Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Angela
Davis were being arrested and condoned as criminals for deliberately violating the law when
they were merely protesting the law and its injustice. However, because of the growing arrests
of African Americans activist and protester, this was the first time in history where getting
arrested for defending basic American rights was a noble thing to do. Getting arrested was a
statement to the American government that demonstrated the evident injustice of the time, it
humanized the Black criminal. In 1964 and 1965 the Voting Act and the Civil Rights Act were
passed but, unfortunately, as the civil rights movement began to gain recognition in the media,
crime rates were rising which led politicians to think that if America gave black people their
rights then the country will be repaid with crime.
The prison population throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth century was
mostly consistent and didnt begin to rise drastically until the 1970s because of a shift in

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demographics, the baby boomers were now adults, but politicians correlated this to the passing of
the Civil Rights Act. Because of this rise in prison population, America began an era known as
Mass Incarceration during Nixons presidency. Nixon was the first president to mention crime
rates as an issue in America and the first to wage a war on crime, which ultimately meant a war
against minorities who were fighting to gain liberty and equality who were the main people
being arrested during this time in our nation. Besides a war on crime Nixon also waged war
against drugs, both which will have a drastic effect on African American incarceration rates later.
The War on Drugs decided to deal with drug abuse as a crime rather than a health issue which
lead to incarceration of thousands of people who had small amounts of drugs in their possession
and couldve been tried as low level offenses. Taking into consideration that crimes rates and
drug abuse was high mostly in urban and inner cities where most minorities lived, including
African Americans and Latinos, the new policies made to incarcerate even low level drug
offender and low level crime offenders made it possible to incarcerate people of color at higher
rates, similarly to the ways ex-slaves were being arrested immediately after the Civil War. This
was when prison populations began to look disproportional in terms of race. The ongoing
stereotype that was created in the 19th century that deems African Americans criminals has only
thrived. One of Nixons advisors, John Ehrlichman, admitted that the War on Drugs and Crime
was meant to put people of color away more than white people (13th Documentary). According to
the documentary 13th, directed by Ava DuVernay, from the start to the end of Nixons
administration, the crime population in America increased from 357,292 to 513,900 and of that
population the majority were African American or Latino.
The nations next president, Ronald Reagan, would be the next president to continue this
War on Crime and War on Drugs but in a more extreme way than Nixon did. The popular

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opinion of the 1980s during the Reagan administration actually did not see drugs as a problem,
but Reagan took it upon himself to continue this invisible war. Along with the growing
incarceration of minorities, the economy during Reagans presidency was disastrous for the
lower and lower middle class, which again affected most people of color. The poverty rate in
America was at an all-time low. Low income families, who were majority African Americans and
Latinos began to resort to drug dealing and stealing to simply survive. Crack cocaine was the
drug mostly being used by drug dealers because it could be distributed in small doses and it was
relatively inexpensive, which meant that a lot of needed money could be made fast. As the new
drug, crack cocaine, became a rising issue, particularly in poor inner cities in African American
and Latino communities, government established mandatory sentencing policies for drug
possession. Dealers of color were mostly likely to get incarcerated for a long time for a very
small amount of crack while white dealer would get a significantly much lower sentencing.
These new mandatory sentencing policies only led to a rise in prison population that was mostly
of people of color. This is evident even in recent years in America. Since the start of the War on
Drugs and Crime movement, African Americans and Latin[x] [now] comprise sixty two percent
of those in state prisons for drug offenses and seventy two percent of those sentenced for federal
drug trafficking offenses (Jamal Hagler). Although, the systemic racism was not as blatant in
the 1950s and 60s and in the Reconstruction Era, the oppression against people of color was still
very much alive; however, it slowly evolving into something abstract that would hide the racism
underneath a mask. The Reagan Administration, began to create policies that seemed as though
race was completely no involved. In America, there is no policy passed without race being at the
center of it. One of Reagans campaign strategist, Lee Atwater, admitted on tape that policies that
Reagan made were purposefully made to hurt blacks more than whites. According to the same

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poll that documentary 13th used, by 1985, the prison population increased again from 513,900
to 759,100. Because of law enforcement and prison spending during the Reagan Administration,
the money going to prisons and law enforcement more than tripled in the 90s.
The Bill Clinton Administration was next in line to continue the war on drugs by
increasing stricter policies. Clinton made it possible for citizens who have committed the same
drug crime three times in a row to be automatically sentenced to prison for a set amount of time
without parole no matter how minor the drug crime maybe. This new policy is called mandatory
minimums. Although at first glance the mandatory minimum policy seems fair, it becomes a
racist policy when these laws disproportionally affect black males. People of color are more
likely to become entangled by the criminal justice system, according to the article, 8 Fact You
Should to Know About Criminal Justice System and People of Color, one in three black males
will go to prison at some point in their lives and one in six Latinos will follow the same path,
while only one in seventeen white men will experience this. The same pattern occurs with
women. While 1 in 111 white women will go to prison, 1 in 18 black women and 1 in 45 in go to
prison in America. While the American justice system is making it easier for people of color to
be incarcerated, it is also making it easier for people of color to stay in prison for a longer time
than whites. Particularly black males are facing longer sentences than their white male
counterparts for the same crime. Per the U.S. Sentencing Commission, between 2007 and 2011
sentences for black males were 19.5 % longer than those for whites (Jamal Hagler). Along with
this evident disproportion of race in American prisons, prisoners are not under the best. They are
not given nutritious foods, punishments for breaking rules in prison are dehumanizing, and
prisoners are paid extremely low wages to be able to sustain themselves in prison.

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Among all these issues, the most prominent is dehumanization prison creates and free
labor involving prisoners. Institutionalization plays a huge role in keeping people of color
incarcerated and having them come back to prison continuously. A person who has been
incarcerated for years has adapted to prison life and now sees prison as their new comfortable
home. In an interview with Rikers Island inmate Rafael Figueroa on Nightline with Diane
Sawyer, he talks about his experience in prison. Hes experienced solitary confinement and has
been beaten and nearly killed in prison but says, when hes out in the world he feels like thats
[his] jail. Because Figueroa has spent more time in jail than in free world, he feels more comfort
in place where he early died than in place where he can experience freedom, which is not a
normal thing to feel. The government policies of today are designed to do very thing that
Figueroa and many other prisoners of color experience, they are designed to keep people of color
in constant servitude, similar to state law in the Southern states during the reconstruction era.
Much like the Reconstruction era, white men in power are taking advantage of these prisoners.
Companies like BP, Aramark, Wal-Mart, Whole Foods, and more use prisoners for practically
free labor. While companies are making huge profit by using prison workers, prisoners merely
paid cents a day and still incarcerated. Among other things that people of color go through in this
nation, because most convicted felons are people of color, once they are released from prison
they are denied the right to vote and are now not even considered full free citizens, practically
rewinding time back to the 1950s for people of color. Because of this, according to Jamal
Hagler, author of the article 8 Fact You Should Know, today approximately 5.9 million
people are not able to vote and while each state law varies in Florida, Kentucky, and Virginia
more than 1 in 5 blacks are denied the right to vote.

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Although most Americans think that slavery and racism ended in America, when looking
through the policies created throughout the years and the outcomes of who these policies
affected, it is not a far-off notion to say that systemic racism and oppression against people of
color is happening in America. In the recent election, an elite white male who talked down upon
every minority in America could gain presidency by winning over a whole race. The Neo-Nazis
disguised as the new Alt-Right are being taking more seriously, than the Black Live Matter
organization. The only thing that ended in America was physically bondage; racism, elitism, and
white supremacy still blatantly exist in this country and there is evidence in the criminal justice
system to prove it and the 2016 presidential election to prove it.

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Works Cited
American Originals. The Emancipation Proclamation, 1863. Transcribe.archives.gov. National
Archives and Records Administration. NARA, Web. 19 Nov. 2016.
"Life After the 13th Amendment." Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives. Delicious Theme On
Genisis Framwork, 2016. Web. 10 Dec. 2016.
History.com Staff. "The Death of Emmett Till." History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2010.
Web. 10 Dec. 2016.
Plessy vs. Ferguson, Judgement, Decided May 18, 1896; Records of the Supreme Court of the
United States; Record Group 267; Plessy v. Ferguson, 163, #15248, National Archives.
13TH. Dir. Ava DuVernay. Perf. N/A. Netflix, 2016. Documentary.
Siegel, Eric, dir. Most Violent Jail Inmates: Hidden America Inside Rikers Island (Part 1)
Youtube. ABC News, 26 May 2016. Web. 20 Nov. 2016.
Hagler, By Jamal. "8 Facts You Should Know About the Criminal Justice System and People of
Color." Center for American Progress. Center for Progress, 28 May 2015. Web. 23 Nov.
2016.