Slavery is (un)constitutional

In The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander delivers some sobering facts to her readers regarding the American Constitution and legal system, as they relate to Black Americans.



"Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction." -- U.S. Constitution, Amendment XIV

To what extent do you believe the criminal justice system perpetuates slavery under this constitutional "exception"?



State and federal forfeiture laws authorize the government to seize property believed to be obtained through illegal means - specifically narcotic sales. This practice has been challenged by defendants and upheld by the Supreme Court. In Bennis v. Michigan, Justice Stevens described the type of property that qualified for forfeiture and the circumstances under which forfeiture is constitutional:

Property directly resulting from, or that can be traced to, an illegal activity. Once a crime is identified, the government may seize any property flowing from the activity. In some cases, the government may seize property in lieu of provable criminal proceeds. Statutory innocent owner defenses provide a check on the seizure, [but the owner has the burden of proof for that defense], not the government. 

To what extent do you feel this process deprives suspected criminals of their rights as citizens?



Michelle Alexander's research proves that Black Americans are disproportionately targeted and harmed by the "war-on-drugs", but civil rights organizations and most Black politicians are hesitant to challenge this toxic policy approach that has led to mass incarceration.

Why do you think Black leaders have remained passive on this issue? How do you think we can mobilize Black leaders, and our community as a whole, on this issue?


Please feel free to share your thoughts, reactions, and opinions on the questions we have posed, and on any other topics that have sparked your interest while reading The New Jim Crow! This blog is all about facilitating group discussions and conversations around the books we read as a group! We look forward to reading your comments!

Contributed by Camille

This month's e-dicussion will be February 24th at 7:30 pm! Follow our twitter page @blackbottom and our moderators @Sarahsmileee and @PhilCosby

Posted on February 19, 2015 .

February - The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

February is almost here, which means it’s almost time to start reading The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander! We will be posting weekly discussion questions and opinion pieces on the themes and topics touched upon in The New Jim Crow, beginning the week of 2/1/2015. Then we will have a group e-discussion on twitter, February 24 @ 7:30 pm. This live discussions will be moderated by @_blackbottom @Phil_Cosby_ and @sarah_smileee. We can’t wait to dive into this book with you all!

With Love,

Black Bottom

Posted on January 30, 2015 .

2015 Book List

February — The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander (with foreword from Cornel West)

March — The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

April — The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X & Alex Haley

May — Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

June — Prophetic Fire by Cornel West

July — Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

August — That Non-Violent Stuff’ll Get You Killed by Charles Cobb

September — Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston by Valerie Boyd

October — Assata: An Autobiography by Assata Shakur (foreword from Angela Davis)

November — Long Division by Kiese Laymon

Posted on January 30, 2015 .

Black Bottom Book Club

Black Bottom Book Club is an e-book club, started by Black Bottom, LLC. Our book club focuses on Black literature and celebrates the work of Black authors. We created this book club to serve as an educational tool for ourselves and our community; cultivating our knowledge of Black history and Blackness in America, and instilling an increased feeling of Black pride and Black power amongst our brothers and sisters. It is our hope that the dialogue and discussions that stem from our book club’s e-meetings and posts will increase our collective knowledge and unify our community around strong messages and representations of Blackness.

We will have monthly e-meetings on twitter, moderated on our twitter page @_blackbottom, by Philip Lewis (@Phil_Cosby_) and Sarah Johnson (@sarah_smileee). In addition, we will post discussion questions and short opinion pieces each month, that tackle topics and themes touched on in the books we read, in order to prompt further discussion and thought provocation.

Thank you for joining Black Bottom Book Club. Knowledge is power and we’re excited to expand our knowledge with you!

With Love,

Black Bottom

Posted on January 30, 2015 .