Basic Books

How Did America's Wealth Inequality Reach This Level of Toxic?

The following is an adapted excerpt from the new book Toxic Inequality: How America's Wealth Gap Destroys Mobility, Deepens the Racial Divide, and Threatens Our Future by Thomas M. Shapiro. Copyright © 2017. Available from Basic Books, an imprint of Perseus Books, LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc.:

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How to Achieve Real Criminal Justice Reform, Despite President Trump

The following is an excerpt from the new book Locked In: The True Causes of Mass Incarceration—and How to Achieve Real Reform by John F. Pfaff. Copyright 2016. Available from Basic Books, an imprint of Perseus Books, a division of PBG Publishing, LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

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America's Economy Was Built on Slavery, Not White Ingenuity - Historians Should Tell It Like It Is

The following is an adapted excerpt from the new paperback edition of The Half Has Never Been Told by Edward Baptist (Basic Books, 2016): 

All these assumptions lead to still more implications, ones that shape attitudes, identities, and debates about policy. If slavery was outside of US history, for instance—if indeed it was a drag and not a rocket booster to American economic growth—then slavery was not implicated in US growth, success, power, and wealth. Therefore none of the massive quantities of wealth and treasure piled by that economic growth is owed to African Americans. Ideas about slavery’s history determine the ways in which Americans hope to resolve the long contradiction between the claims of the United States to be a nation of freedom and opportunity, on the one hand, and, on the other, the unfreedom, the unequal treatment, and the opportunity denied that for most of American history have been the reality faced by people of African descent. Surely, if the worst thing about slavery was that it denied African Americans the liberal rights of the citizen, one must merely offer them the title of citizen—even elect one of them president—to make amends. Then the issue will be put to rest forever.

Slavery’s story gets told in ways that reinforce all these assumptions. Textbooks segregate twenty-five decades of enslavement into one chapter, painting a static picture. Millions of people each year visit plantation homes where guides blather on about furniture and silverware. As sites, such homes hide the real purpose of these places, which was to make African Americans toil under the hot sun for the profit of the rest of the world. All this is the “symbolic annihilation” of enslaved people, as two scholars of those weird places put it. Meanwhile, at other points we tell slavery’s story by heaping praise on those who escaped it through flight or death in rebellion, leaving the listener to wonder if those who didn’t flee or die somehow “accepted” slavery. And everyone who teaches about slavery knows a little dirty secret that reveals historians’ collective failure: many African-American students struggle with a sense of shame that most of their ancestors could not escape the suffering they experienced.

The truth can set us free, if we can find the right questions. But back in the little house in Danville, Anderson was reading from a list of leading ones, designed by white officials—some well-meaning, some not so well-meaning. He surely felt how the gravity of the questions pulled him toward the planet of plantation nostalgia. “Did slaves mind being called ‘nigger’?” “What did slaves call master or mistress?” “Have you been happier in slavery or free?” “Was the mansion house pretty?” Escaping from chains is very difficult, however, so Anderson dutifully asked the prescribed questions and poised his pencil to take notes.

Ivy listened politely. He sat still. Then he began to speak: “My mother’s master was named William Tunstall. He was a mean man. There was only one good thing he did, and I don’t reckon he intended to do that. He sold our family to my father’s master George H. Gilman.”

Perhaps the wind blowing through the window changed as a cloud moved across the spring sun: “Old Tunstall caught the ‘cotton fever.’ There was a fever going round, leastways it was like a fever. Everyone was dying to get down south and grow cotton to sell. So old Tunstall separated families right and left. He took two of my aunts and left their husbands up here, and he separated altogether seven husbands and wives. One woman had twelve children. Yessir. Took ’em all down south with him to Georgia and Alabama.”

Pervasive separations. Tears carving lines on faces. Lorenzo remembered his relief at dodging the worst, but he also remembered knowing that it was just a lucky break. Next time it could’ve been his mother. No white person was reliable, because money drove their decisions. No, this wasn’t the story the books told.

So Anderson moved to the next question. Did Ivy know if any slaves had been sold here? Now, perhaps, the room grew darker.

For more than a century, white people in the United States had been singling out slave traders as an exception: unscrupulous lower-class outsiders who pried apart paternalist bonds. Scapegoaters had a noble precedent. In his first draft of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson tried to blame King George III for using the Atlantic slave trade to impose slavery on the colonies. In historians’ tellings, the 1808 abolition of the Atlantic trade brought stability to slavery, ringing in the “Old South,” as it has been called since before the Civil War. Of course, one might wonder how something that was brand new, created after a revolution, and growing  more rapidly than any other commodity-producing economy in history before then could be considered “old.” But never mind. Historians depicted slave trading after 1808 as irrelevant to what slavery was in the “Old South,” and to how America as a whole was shaped. America’s modernization was about entrepreneurs, creativity, invention, markets, movement, and change. Slavery was not about any of these things—not about slave trading, or moving people away from everyone they knew in order to make them make cotton. Therefore, modern America and slavery had nothing to do with each other.

But Ivy spilled out a rush of very different words. “They sold slaves here and everywhere. I’ve seen droves of Negroes brought in here on foot going South to be sold. Each one of them had an old tow sack on his back with everything he’s got in it. Over the hills they came in lines reaching as far as the eye can see. They walked in double lines chained together by twos. They walk ’em here to the railroad and shipped ’em south like cattle.”

Then Lorenzo Ivy said this: “Truly, son, the half has never been told.”

To this day, it still has not.

Adapted excerpt from The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism by Edward Baptist. Copyright © 2016. Available from Basic Books, an imprint of Perseus Books, a division of PBG Publishing, LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

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How Billionaires Are Successfully Fooling Us Into Destroying Public Education - and Why Privatization Is a Terrible Idea

The following is an excerpt from the new, expanded edition of  The Death and Life of the Great American School Systemby Diane Ravitch (Basic Books, 2016): 

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One of the Most Successful Right-Wing Myths of All Time: 'The Limousine Liberal'

The following is an excerpt from the new bookLimousine Liberal by Steve Fraser (Basic Books, 2016): 

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The Myths and Secret Lives of the Men and Companies That Make Our Millions of Guns

The following is an excerpt from the new bookThe Gunning of Americaby Pamela Haag (Basic Books, 2016): 

Excerpt from The Gunning of America by Pamela Haag. Copyright © 2016. Available from Basic Books, an imprint of Perseus Books, a division of PBG Publishing, LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

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Racial Segregation Was Invented by the Very Same Liberals Who Sought to Abolish Slavery

The following is an excerpt from the new bookBind Us Apartby Nicholas Guyatt (Basic Books, 2016): 

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How a Gay Newspaper in the '70s Brought Attention to the Nazis' Persecution of Homosexuals

The following is an excerpt from the new book Stand By Me by Jim Downs (Basic Books, 2016): 

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Want to Sense Electromagnetic Fields? Biohackers Look for New Sensory Experiences

The following is an excerpt from the new book We Have the Technology by Kara Platoni (Basic Books, 2015): 

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Segregated America, White Supremacy: The Lives of the Fathers of Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X

The following is an excerpt from the new book Blood Brothers by Rander Roberts & Johnny Smith (Basic Books, 2016): 

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How the Fight for Gay Rights Changed America

The following is an excerpt from the new book Don't Tell Me To Wait by Kerry Eleveld (Basic Books, 2015): 

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Why Are Americans So Pathetically Ignorant About Politics?

The following is an excerpt from the new bookPolitical Animals by Rick Shenkman (Basic Books, 2016): 

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Why Libraries Are Even More Vital Than They Were Before the Digital Age

The following is an excerpt from John Palfrey's new book BiblioTech: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google (Basic Books, 2015).  Reprinted here with permission.

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The Pervasive Distribution of the Gideon Bible Finally Stopped at the Schoolhouse Door

For the evangelical businessmen who belonged to the Gideons International, Inc., selling God was a second calling, if not their first. Founded by a trio of traveling salesmen at the end of the nineteenth century, the Gideons made a name for themselves in the early twentieth by putting millions of copies of the Holy Bible in hotel and hospital rooms across the nation. During the Second World War, the organization distributed, with the military’s blessing, a specially prepared edition of the King James Version of the New Testament and Book of Psalms to every member of the armed forces. After the conflict, the group created a new paperback version of this “Gideon Bible” (now with the Book of Proverbs as well) for distribution at public and private schools for all students between the fifth and twelfth grades. In the words of W. L. Hardin, an Atlanta contractor and past president of the Gideons, their new ministry would help them meet their long-standing goal “to win men and women for the Lord Jesus Christ” by reaching them earlier in life. “In the days of their youth, before the evil days come,” Hardin said in 1946, “the boys and girls of our public schools may by means of the precious Word of God, come to know Him.”

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How Corporate America Invented Christian America

The following is an adapted excerpt from Kevin Kruse's new book,  One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America (Basic Books, 2015).

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The Psychological Mistakes People Make That Lead to Misery

The following is an excerpt from Jonathan Rottenberg's new book, The Depths: The Evolutionary Origins of the Depression Epidemic (Basic Books, a member of the Perseus Books Group, 2014). Reprinted with permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

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Why Students Learn Better in a Playful Environment

Editor's Note: The following is an excerpt fromFree to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Lifeby Peter Gray. In the introduction to this chapter, Gray writes about a research experiment performed on pool players about 30 years ago, which found that when the players were closely observed, expert players performed much better while beginners performed much worse.

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Do Anti-Depressants Work? It Very Well Might Be the Placebo That Does the Trick

The following is an excerpt from The Emperor's New Drugs: Exploding the Antidepressant Myth by Irving Kirsch, Ph.D. Available from Basic Books, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright © 2011.

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