Film Review: The exploits that followed the 13th Amendment

By Jeremy Harris, Clarion Staff Writer

The Netflix documentary 13th, directed by Ava DuVernay and produced by Kandoo Films is an hour and 40-minute documentary that speaks on the loopholes created by the 13th Amendment, which legalized slavery as a criminal punishment. The loophole was quickly misused and exploited after the Civil War; many African Americans were arrested for minuscule crimes such as loitering or vagrancy. These incarcerated African Americans were forced to provide labor and essentially rebuild the South’s economy.

The documentary brought up a silent movie called The Birth of a Nation, which came from a point of view that depicted the negative connotation of black people. The Birth of a Nation was partly responsible for the rebirth of the Klu Klux Klan (KKK), which led to thousands of mob-related deaths against African Americans. When these acts of public assaults became unacceptable, white people in power moved to something more tolerable and legal segregation. Laws were set in place to demote African Americans to second-class status. Every day, African Americans were faced with the indignations of inequality by not being able to vote, drink from certain water fountains, or even get an education. But during this time of unjust treatment, black people were starting to realize that they deserved civil rights and started the human rights movement. People who took part in these movements were portrayed by the media and politicians as criminals. While this was happening, African Americanswho had not yet been participating saw themselves getting arrested and recognized this as being noble for their movement. 

During the 1970s, White people with political power had the main focus of waging war on drugs and drug dependency. This was later admitted by Nixon administration officials that the “war on drugs” was about throwing black people in jail. The Nixon administration declared war on drugs as a legal cover-up to criminalize hippies and black people. “But by associating the hippies with weed and the blacks with heroin and then criminalizing them they could disrupt those communities.” Doing this would give the police a reason to raid hippy/civil rights activists’ homes, meetings, and speak badly about these groups on the news.

In 13th, there lies a great deal of information about the manipulation of the 13th Amendment and how exploitation affected African Americans during the late 1900s. This exploitation is still used in today’s society with the way the U.S. handles the prison system.

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