Throughout their experiences in this country, certain segments of the Black population have viewed themselves as enslaved, whether they were chattel owned by slaveowners prior to emancipation, whether they were impressed into peonage and forced to work on white plantations and in chain gangs after slavery, whether they were victims of sharecropping systems that virtually reenslaved them during the twentieth century, whether they were the repressed and disfranchised and persecuted in Southern Jim Crow towns throughout the first half of the twentieth century, whether they are those trapped by unemployment and poverty today, or whether they are among the Blacks who continue to be disproportionately represented in our penal institutions. One has only to talk to contemporary Black slum dwellers, Black prison inmates, and a host of other Blacks as well who may not be ensnared in those situations to have reinforced the observation made by William H. Grier and Price M. Cobbs, "For white America to understand the life of the black man, it must recognize that so much time has passed and so little has changed."

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Copyright © 1992 Howard University Press. This chapter first appeared in The New Cavalcade: African American Writing from 1760 to Present.

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