New Jim Crow Book Review: A Must Read If You Want To Understand Mass Incarceration

The New Jim Crow by American Author Michelle Alexander exposes how law enforcement and politicians used prosecution to turn Black Americans into a permanent underclass.

Any time a book is so revolutionary that it is banned, you know you should read it.

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness will help youtruly understand the weapon of white supremacy that we call prosecution. Keep reading to learn more about the book, the author, and why it deserves a place on your reading list.

You can watch the original New Jim Crow book trailer below.

What Is The New Jim Crow Book About?

According to Ms. Alexander, the war on drugs opened the gate to the new Jim Crow era, and was not waged in response to a rising drug problem in America – crack/cocaine use was actually declining at the start of Reagan’s so-called war on drugs – but was the Reagan administration’s efforts to publicize the crack epidemic, associate it with Blacks and link Blacks to Democrats.

The strategy worked beautifully. Reagan convinced congress to authorize $1.7 billion to fund the War on Drugs, instituted a “drug czar” to oversee the government media campaign, and passed laws dictating mandatory minimum penalties for drug offenses.

Read Also: “We Are Still Slaves” – Michelle Alexander Breaks Down How New Jim Crow Laws Became Weapons of White Supremacy

In an interview she did with Democracy Now!, Michelle breaks down the strategy behind the New Jim Crow and the war on drugs:

“The drug war was launched in response to racial politics, not drug crime” she says. ” The drug war was part of the Republican Party’s grand strategy – often referred to as the ‘southern strategy’ – effort to appeal to poor working class white voters who were threatened… by the gains of the civil rights movement particularly desegregation, busing, and affirmative action. The Republican Party found that it could get democrats to defect form the Democratic Party New Deal coalition and join the Republican Party through racially coded political appeals on issues of crime and welfare.”

It has since been revealed that during this same time period, the CIA opened the first pipeline between Colombia’s cocaine cartels and the black neighborhoods of Los Angeles, which thereafter became the “crack” capital of the world.

The cocaine that flooded in helped spark a crack explosion in urban America . . . and provided the cash and connections needed for L.A.’s gangs to buy automatic weapons. One of the key players in this was Manuel Noriega, who been on the CIA’s payroll since 1966, and has been transporting drugs with the CIA’s knowledge since 1972. All this culminated with the 1989 invasion of Panama to oust one time CIA ally Manuel Noriega.

How Reagan’s War on Drugs in America Fueled Mass Incarceration

A chart detailing the rise in mass incarceration in the United States following the election of Ronald Reagan


The aftermath of Reagan’s war on drugs (in reality a war on the inner city), was incarceration of Blacks on a scale never seen before. As a result…

  • There are more African-Americans under correctional control today — in prison or jail, on probation or parole — than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began.
  • As of 2004, more African-American men were disenfranchised (due to felon disenfranchisement laws) than in 1870, the year the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified, prohibiting laws that explicitly deny the right to vote on the basis of race.
  • A black child born today is less likely to be raised by both parents than a black child born during slavery. The recent disintegration of the African-American family is due in large part to the mass imprisonment of black fathers.

Fathers have been removed from homes. Whole communities have been laid to waste. Gang violence has raged through formerly stable Black communities.

Black men specifically are slapped with felony charges before they are old enough to vote, resulting in complete political alienation and disenfranchisement.

New Jim Crow mass incarceration laws have resulted in a felony undercaste, according to Michelle.

If you take into account prisoners, a large majority of African American men in some urban areas have been labeled felons for life. (In the Chicago area, the figure is nearly 80%.) These men are part of a growing undercaste — not class, caste — permanently relegated, by law, to a second-class status.

They can be denied the right to vote, automatically excluded from juries, and legally discriminated against in employment, housing, access to education, and public benefits, much as their grandparents and great-grandparents were during the Jim Crow era.

– Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow Book Quote

As a convicted felon, you are not eligible for federal assistance, including your ability to receive food stamps and pursue higher education, as convicted felons are not eligible to receive grants, loans, or work study.

You cannot hold professional licenses, including license to teach or practice medicine.

Your ability to travel to foreign countries or become a naturalized citizen of the U.S. may be impacted. For example, countries like Canada do not allow people who have been involved in criminal activity to enter their country.

You cannot serve jury duty, making it impossible for former felons to be tried later by a jury of their peers

As a convicted felon, you will also not be able to own or possess firearms, vote, or receive security clearance for government jobs.

A felony makes it very difficult to find a job, as many employers are hesitant to hire convicted felons. The jobs available tend to be low paying jobs that make it impossible for a man to support himself, let alone a family. Also, if you are one of the lucky few to get a job, up to 100% of your wages can be garnished to pay back the cost of your incarceration.

The result, according to Michelle, is a revolving penitentiary door that keeps black men returning to prison – the easiest way for them to survive. The effects on the Black community are evident.

About The Author of The New Jim Crow Book

Michelle Alexander shown during a lecture on her book titled The New Jim Crow.

MICHELLE ALEXANDER is a longtime civil rights advocate and litigator.

Before writing the New Jim Crow book, Alexander served for several years as director of the Racial Justice Project at the ACLU of Northern California, and subsequently directed the Civil Rights Clinics at Stanford Law School, where she was an associate professor.

She is a former law clerk for Justice Harry Blackmun on the U.S. Supreme Court, and has appeared as a commentator on CNN, MSNBC, and NPR. 

Michelle Alexander is a credit to our people, and anyone serious about raising their consciousness needs to have The New Jim Crow Book on their shelves.

Where To Buy The New Jim Crow Book

Where To Buy The New Jim Crow Audiobook

Where To Buy The New Jim Crow Ebook

We have included this book in our Books to Prisons program. If you have a loved one that is currently incarcerated, please consider purchasing a copy above to support our efforts. You can also send your copy to a prison near you to let our family behind the wire know that they are not forgotten.

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