In recent years, racial tensions have been brought back to the forefront of U.S. headlines, ignited by events across the country, most recently in Charlottesville, Virginia and Baltimore, Maryland. These events and the places in which they occured have called to mind the legacy of racism in the United States and how this legacy is felt more than 150 years after the abolition of slavery.
Ava Duvernay’s 2016 documentary -13th- explores the “intersection of race, justice and mass incarceration in the United States.” The film traces the roots of the current plight of mass incarceration, and its consequent toll on communities of color back to the ratification of the 13th Amendment and the so called “punishment clause.” In 13th, Duvernay shows how this “punishment clause,” which excluded prisoners from the protections of the 13th Amendement, has allowed the perpetuation of slavery until the present-day through practices such as mass incarceration, the War on Drugs and the prison-industrial complex. Inevitably, these practices, along with racially biased legislation since the Post-Civil War era, have largely contributed to the demise of poor communities of color in the United States.
To see a preview of the documentary, click below: