Welcome to our first online discussion post! During Lent, we will post questions each week to help get you thinking and guide you through The New Jim Crow. We will do our best to make the questions accessible to those who have not yet read the book, but we strongly encourage you to read it. Please also see our page entitled The New Jim Crow Study Tools to read articles, find other discussion questions, or listen to Michelle Alexander speak.
Please respond to the questions through commenting on our post, or responding to the comments of others. We do not allow hateful language of any kind on our website, so we retain the right to remove posts.
Read the following excerpt from the book’s introduction:
“Jarvious Cotton cannot vote. Like his father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and great-great-grandfather, he has been denied the right to participate in our electoral democracy. Cotton’s family tree tells the story of several generations of black men who were born in the United States but who were denied the most basic freedom that democracy promises- the freedom to vote for those who will make the rules and laws that govern one’s life. Cotton’s great-great-grandfather could not vote as a slave. His great-grandfather was beaten to death by the Ku Klux Klan for attempting to vote. His grandfather was prevented from voting by Klan intimidation. His father was barred from voting by poll taxes and literacy tests. Today, Jarvious Cotton cannot vote because he, like many black men in the United States, has been labeled a felon and is currently on parole. Cotton’s story illustrates, in many respects, the old adage “The more things change, the more they remain the same.”
- In what ways is this true in how our society has dealt and continues to deal with issues of race and class?
- Do you think Jarvious Cotton’s situation has parallels to the stories of the earlier generations of his family? Why or why not?