Aftermath of Slavery


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SINCLAIR, William A., A.M., M.D. The Aftermath of Slavery. A Study of the Condition and Environment of the American Negro. Boston: Small, Maynard, 1905. Octavo, original gilt-stamped navy cloth, top edge gilt, uncut. $1500.

First edition of Dr. Sinclair's powerful 1905 indictment of America's history of slavery, the failures and hypocrisy of Reconstruction, the war on black suffrage, and the terror of ongoing public lynchings and burnings, asking "How long—are these things to go on?" A handsome copy in original cloth.

Born enslaved in 1858, Dr. Sinclair graduated from Howard University and earned his medical degree from Meharry Medical College before becoming a practicing physician. Serving as "the financial secretary of Howard University from 1888 to 1903, he participated in Du Bois' Niagara Movement, helped to launch the NAACP in 1909, and became a leading anti-Bookerite. Sinclair's Aftermath of Slavery broke with standard white interpretations, as he condemned slavery and the hypocrisy of Reconstruction and strongly denounced Negro disfranchisement" (Gavins, Perils and Prospects, 12-13).

In Aftermath Sinclair outlines an ongoing "reign of terror and blood" in the South where whites cling "to the traditions of the slave system." He refutes "the notion that slavery had been 'a paternalistic relationship' between master and slave" and argues "that the rapport between black and white Americans in the Reconstruction era was the product of 'the essential barbarism' of the slave system" (Journal of Southern History V.79, 1030). Following his well-documented histories of the slave trade, the economics of slavery, and its abolition under Lincoln, Sinclair reports on the persistent "war on negro suffrage" and the relentless passage of Jim Crow laws. He concludes Aftermath with extensive chapters on the achievements of African Americans determined to survive and overcome, and writes of his hope for the future: "Public opinion is omnipotent… Its commanding voice will be heard, respected and obeyed."

The year after publication of Aftermath, its chapter titled "The Negro and the Law" was printed by the Council and Constitution League as a pamphlet and sent to Republican members of Congress. In that chapter, Sinclair documents "the brutal acts that occurred under the nose of the legal system—lynchings, mob violence, and the workings of the southern legal system" (Alexander, Army of Lions, 268). As he cites reports of lynchings and burnings "done in the broad open daylight," Sinclair asks: "How long—are these things to go on?" In 1911 the NAACP sent Sinclair, a member of its board of directors, to Coatesville, Pennsylvania, where a white mob had kidnapped Zachariah Walker "from a hospital and then repeatedly thrust his living body into a roaring bonfire." Sinclair reported on the trials of the 15 men indicted for their part in Walker's death; all 15 were acquitted (Encyclopedia of African American History, 223). A year later Sinclair died while on his way to a NAACP meeting. "Published April, 1905" on copyright page with no statements of editions or printings. With Introduction by Thomas Wentworth Higginson. Six leaves of publisher's advertisements at rear, including works by Booker T. Washington, Charles Chesnutt and Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Without rarely found glassine. See Blockson 9129.

Text very fresh, expert reinforcement to inner hinges, rear free edpaper with expert paper repair, lightest rubbing to gilt-stamped cloth. An extremely good copy.

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