Jarvious Cotton’s great-great-grandfather could not vote as a slave. His great-grandfather was beaten to death by the Klu Klux Klan for attempting to vote. His grandfather was prevented from voting by Klan intimidation; his father was barred by poll taxes and literacy tests. Today, Cotton cannot vote because he, like many black men in the United States, has been labeled a felon and is currently on parole.
—FROM THE NEW JIM CROW
900AM-WURD, Philadelphia’s only African-American owned and operated talk radio station, presents “And Justice for All?” This WURD Speaks event will feature a book signing and conversation between Harvard University professor Charles Ogletree and legal scholar Michelle Alexander as they examine the criminal justice system’s devastating effect on the African-American community at the National Constitution Center, Independence Mall, 525 Arch St. Book Signing begins at 3 PM, and the Interactive Panel Discussion begins at 5 PM.
Both presenters have recently published highly acclaimed books on this topic. Professor Ogletree’s “The Presumption of Guilt,” uses last year’s arrest of Harvard scholar, Henry Louis Gates, as the fertile ground to explore “race, class and crime in America.” And Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow” challenges the notion that, with the election of an African-American president, we have moved into a post-racial society. In fact, it’s just the opposite, she argues: “Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today… than were enslaved in 1850).”
Moderated by criminal defense attorney and WURD host Michael Coard, this event promises to be an enlightening and engaging dialogue. In this incisive critique, former litigator-turned-legal-scholar Michelle Alexander provocatively argues that we have not ended racial caste in America: we have simply redesigned it. Alexander shows that, by targeting black men and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control, even as it formally adheres to the principle of color blindness. The New Jim Crow challenges the civil rights community—and all of us—to place mass incarceration at the forefront of a new movement for racial justice in America.
A longtime civil rights advocate and litigator, Michelle Alexander was a 2005 Soros Justice Fellow. She holds a joint appointment at the Moritz College of Law and the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in Columbus, Ohio, where she lives. The New Jim Crow is her first book.