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Douglas A. Blackmon (1964–)

Douglas A. Blackmon is an American writer and journalist who won the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction and an American Book Award for Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II (2008).

Douglas Blackmon was born in the fall of 1964 in Stuttgart (Arkansas County). The family later moved to Leland, Mississippi, where Blackmon penned his first newspaper story at the age of twelve for the town’s Progress. The family relocated to Monticello (Drew County), where he graduated from high school. He then attended Hendrix College in Conway (Faulkner County), graduating in 1986.

After graduation, Blackmon was a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat and managing editor of the Daily Record in Little Rock (Pulaski County), as well as a writer for weekly newspapers, before moving into a position at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In 1995, he joined the Wall Street Journal. Currently, he works as Atlanta, Georgia, bureau chief. An article he wrote on how U.S. Steel Corp. relied on forced black laborers in Alabama coal mines in the early twentieth century was included in the 2003 edition of Best Business Stories. This article led to his book, Slavery by Another Name.

Based on a vast record of original documents and personal narratives, Slavery by Another Name unearths the lost stories of tens of thousands of slaves and their descendants who were freed with the Emancipation Proclamation and then sank back into the shadow of involuntary servitude and peonage in the twentieth century. Blackmon details accounts of tens of thousands of African Americans who, under the convict lease system, were arrested and charged with ludicrous crimes, such as selling cotton after midnight, changing jobs without permission, or bastardy, many of which would be declared unconstitutional later. These people were then given a choice of paying exorbitant fines or performing forced labor to support a South that was, in Blackmon’s words, “addicted to coerced labor.” This work often included mining and industrial labor, including the timber industry. According to Blackmon’s research, these workers lived under brutal conditions, including malnourishment and physical abuse.

Announcing the prize, the Pulitzer committee called Blackmon’s book “a precise and eloquent work that examines a deliberate system of racial suppression and that rescues a multitude of atrocities from virtual obscurity.” A documentary film based on Slavery by Another Name debuted on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in February 2012.

Blackmon lives in Atlanta with his wife and two children.

For additional information:
“Douglas A. Blackmon.” Tavis Smiley. Public Broadcasting Service. http://www.pbs.org/kcet/tavissmiley/archive/200805/20080501_blackmon.html (accessed April 23, 2009).

“Ex-Democrat Writer Wins Pulitzer.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. April 21, 2009, p. 2A.

Slavery by Another Name website. http://www.slaverybyanothername.com (accessed March 19, 2010).

C. L. Bledsoe
Ghoti magazine

Last Updated 4/13/2016

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