Video: Watch the U.S. Transition From Slavery to Mass Incarceration

The Equal Justice Initiative, an Alabama-based nonprofit that challenges racial discrimination in the criminal justice system, released a vivid retelling of America’s direct transition from slavery to mass incarceration.

Illustrated by Molly Crabapple and written/narrated by EJI founder, Just Mercy author and all-around saintly man Bryan Stevenson (read more about his excellent work here, here and here), the video traces the twisted path of a familiar story whose continued retelling is desperately necessary—in part because it’s a story that many people still don’t want to hear.

“The civil rights movements of the 1950s and 60s helped to end legally authorized racial segregation, but racial bias still persists,” Stevenson says.

“Today, a presumption of guilt is assigned to many people of color who are disproportionately arrested, convicted of crimes, and sent to prison. African-Americans are six times more likely to be sentenced to prison for the same crime as a white person. One in three black males born today can expect to spend time in prison during his lifetime.”


The narration concludes: “The Equal Justice Initiative believes that racial bias remains a serious problem and is a direct and lasting legacy of American slavery, and our failure to deal with the history of racial injustice.”

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That is the center. That is the key. The transatlantic slave trade. That is the original sin, the basis of it all, that America must come to grips with in order to combat racism. Once America comes to terms with the slave trade, some sort of resolution of racism can begin.

But, it’s 2015, and you still can’t get Americans to agree on the wrongness of slavery. Until it happens, no progress can be made against racism. You have to go to the root.