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Separate and Unequal

The past is always present: examining quotidian life under Jim Crow to reveal its structures

The broad strokes of the Jim Crow South are well-known: the laws, the cruelty, and the protest movements that ultimately brought the era to an end. But as Adolph Reed Jr. argues, less attention is paid to the quotidian details of everyday life within that socio-economic system. Reed, whose book The South: Jim Crow and Its Afterlives is excerpted in the February issue, joins web editor Violet Lucca to discuss his attempt to access historical truth through his own memory, and the implications of different ways of understanding America’s racial history. Reed and Lucca explore questions related to recent efforts to make slavery the essential formative black American experience, and Reed advocates for the preservation of the open-endedness of history—of seeking to understand the past as it was, rather than as a source of inspiration or moral superiority.

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