The New Jim Crow

The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

Book - 2011 | Revised edition
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Law professor Alexander argues that the War on Drugs and policies that deny convicted felons equal access to employment, housing, education, and public benefits create a permanent under caste based largely on race. As the United States celebrates the nation's "triumph over race" with the election of Barack Obama, the majority of young black men in major American cities are locked behind bars or have been labeled felons for life. Although Jim Crow laws have been wiped off the books, an astounding percentage of the African American community remains trapped in a subordinate status - much like their grandparents before them. Alexander shows that, by targeting black men and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control, even as it formally adheres to the principle of color blindness. The New Jim Crow challenges the civil rights community - and all of us - to place mass incarceration at the forefront of a new movement for racial justice in America.
Publisher: New York : New Press, 2011
Edition: Revised edition
Copyright Date: ©2011
ISBN: 9781595586438
Characteristics: xvii, 312 pages : portrait ; 24 cm
Additional Contributors: West, Cornel


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Publisher: The New Press

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strangegazelle Aug 24, 2018

Exceptionally well-researched look at how mass incarceration in the U.S. has deliberately created a new racial under-caste. It's truthful, timely and in many ways prescriptive - it's one of those books that everyone should read.

Aug 22, 2018

The author says it is meant to be a discussion starter. She is head of the Racial Justice department of northern California's ACLU. Her thesis is that there Jim Crow laws have been replaced with a racial caste system. Her husband a federal prosecutor, sees it differently. This book really isn't meant to be read by yourself. You need other opinions as you read it. If you are in a book club or even a progressive church Sunday School class, this would be a great discussion starter. My favorite Sunday School class was in a Salem Oregon Methodist church, 1991, where we discussed what how did our actions now reflect our Christianity. Each class had a different focus, like responding to terrorism or working with Habitat for Humanity. I could see this book being used in that class or in an AP high school class.

vm510 Jun 28, 2018

The New Jim Crow is an instant classic of the genre. Since publication, I have seen this book and its arguments cited in so much media I've consumed (books, documentaries, podcasts). I am glad I finally got to experience the source text myself. For its historical analysis, for the way it traces slavery to the convict lease system to Jim Crow to mass incarceration, for how clearly it's explained how assigning criminality functions + creates a new social undercaste, this book is crucial.

Jun 08, 2018

"Hundreds of years ago, our nation put those considered less than human in shackles; less than one hundred years ago, we relegated them to the other side of town; today we put them in cages. Once released, they find that a heavy and cruel hand has been laid upon them."

"As a society, our decision to heap shame and contempt upon those who struggle and fail in a system designed to keep them locked up and locked out says far more about ourselves than it does about them."

"The widespread and mistaken belief that racial animus is necessary for the creation and maintenance of racialized systems of social control is the most important reason that we, as a nation, have remained in deep denial [about mass incarceration]."

"It is fair to say that we have witnessed an evolution in the United States from a racial caste system based entirely on exploitation (slavery), to one based largely on subordination (Jim Crow), to one defined by marginalization (mass incarceration)."

"Drug crime in this country us understood to be black and brown, and it is because drug crime is racially defined in the public consciousness that the electorate has not cared much what happens to drug criminals--at least not the way they would have cared if the criminals were understood to be white."

Alexander argues that reductions in legal avenues provided to black prisoners; Supreme Court antagonism toward racial bias in cases; and more people of color getting taken up by law enforcement forces despite the fact that more white people commit drug crimes, leads to a situation in which mass incarceration does not serve to reduce crime but to induce racialized social control.

If you retain an ounce of social justice in your psyche, you will probably want to repeatedly throw this book across the room, but not because it is poorly written. It is because it is so well researched and argued that it boggles the mind that this reader could have been so blind as not to see it. I wonder how well book could be countered.

May 10, 2018

The book is way to repetitive, but then glosses over some topics. could have been much shorter. Even so very interesting. New book with new information would be good.

Mar 22, 2018

This is a very important book to read, and I'd recommend it for that reason. I wanted it to say even more though. The book is repetitive, but then glosses over some topics. There could have been more about juveniles being charged as adults, jury selection, funding for public defenders, and the militarization of police departments. The book is only 8 years old, but already seems dated. I hope there is a second edition at some point that looks at how the Black Lives Matter movement, social media, police body cameras, and the Trump presidency have affected the rates of mass incarceration and public perception.

Jul 15, 2017

Wow. This book blew me away and helped me to better appreciate the racial challenges we are facing while educating me about important civil right's history I did not know.
Not only does author Michelle Alexander write with coherence and clarity, but she makes the material into a page turner, without exaggeration or hyperbole. The facts presented disturbingly connect the dots and substantiate her thesis that the war on drugs, in effect has created an underclass of Americans, who can be legally discriminated against in housing, employment, educational opportunities and exercise of basic citizenship rights that the rest of us take for granted. And oh -- the victims just happen to be the same people that we can no longer legally discriminate via the old Jim Crow laws --- but simply by catching them with a small amount of pot -- and no other evidence of wrong doing, they can permanently be part of an underclass composed almost entirely of people of color. The war on drugs has not only been a colossal failure it is The New Jim Crow!
This would be a FABULOUS choice for a book club too, so much to think about and discuss.

Jan 18, 2017

One of the most important books I have read in the last decade. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

Oct 22, 2015

Perhaps the most important thing this book does is break down the differences between the racial hostility and open bigotry that most Americans recognize as racism, and the quieter, more insidious forms of racial bias that are now that primary form of discrimination faced by American minorities. Alexander demonstrates how Supreme Court decisions that eviscerate the 4th Amendment and narrowly interpret the 14th Amendment have allowed a racially unequal criminal justice system to flourish since the War on Drugs began in the 1980s.

Read my full review at

Sep 26, 2015

For a variety of reasons (including prior employment and volunteer work) I already knew most of the pieces of what Alexander writes about. But she puts those pieces together in a way I hadn't entirely considered before--i.e. War on Drugs = a way of keeping black and brown people down without whites having to talk about race in a "post racial" age. She writes very dispassionately, in order to not antagonize white readers, but you get her point. I did put it down several times, as she got repetitive, but am glad I persevered. She doesn't really provide a definitive answer to the problems, but she sure nails the problems. Now it's up to the country that incarcerates a higher percentage of its citizens than any other developed country in the world to finally start talking and find those solutions, together.

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Oct 22, 2015

“Claims that mass incarceration is analogous to Jim Crow will fall on deaf ears and alienate potential allies if advocates fail to make clear that the claim is not meant to suggest or imply that supporters of the current system are racist in the way Americans have come to understand that term. Race plays a major role—indeed a defining role—in the current system but not because of what is commonly understood as old-fashioned, hostile bigotry.”


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