From Slavery to Poverty

I wanted to recommend this book, the full title is, From Slavery to Poverty: The Racial Origins of Welfare in New York, 1840-1918. I’ve alway been in favor of reparations, although that is not what this book is about. It just once again raises the issue for me, and there was an op-ed in the Times yesterday about reparations, so I have it on my mind. But if you spend anytime researching American history, at a certain point you’re just “holy mother of God, even if we try for the rest of eternity, how will be ever fix this??”

I know a lot of people think slavery happened so long ago, and no one today is still truly suffering its effects or from all the associated evils of slavery. This book connects the dots between then and now in the most meaningful way (although she stops in 1918, except for the epilogue). You see clearly how the consequences of slavery continue to ripple through from one generation and time period to the next and to destroy. Ta Nehisi Coates did this as well in The Case for Reparations. These two should be read together.

Gunja SenGupta is a professor of history at Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York. I read her book as research for mine.

An undated photograph of a glee club at the Colored Orphan Asylum in New York City. It was from a booklet published in 1936, so it’s sometime around or before that.

Colored Orphan Asylum

Stacy Horn

I've written six non-fiction books, the most recent is Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York.

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