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Buried in the Bitter Waters: The Hidden History of Racial Cleansing in America Hardcover – March 5, 2007

4.5 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Jaspin's harrowing and exhaustively researched history of racial cleansing in the United States is painfully eye-opening, and Leslie's voice—filled with horror and sorrow—takes the pain to another level. One's eyes cannot lightly skip over the cringe-inducing passage that explains the physics of whipping, or the scene of the burning and disembowelment of a pregnant woman, or white leaders' hate-filled speeches. In a low tone radiating rage and disbelief at the senseless violence and hardcore racism, Leslie relates Jaspin's accounts of a dozen instances of blacks being driven out of their homes by whites in a steady, commanding pace. The stories are disparate in locale and time—the cleansings happened in both North and South after the Civil War through the '20s—but they flow together thanks to their grim shared topic, Jaspin's eloquent prose and Leslie's almost cinematic delivery. Jaspin pursued this topic for 10 years. Listeners will be glad that he persevered to produce this important book: his passion and conviction are richly evident and inspiring throughout thanks to Leslie's first-rate narration.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jaspin draws on a decade of research of the horrific practices of small towns across America that resulted in the expulsion of black residents, the equivalent of racial cleansing. Drawing on archives and census data, Jaspin documents demographic changes from Reconstruction forward that show severe drops in black populations and the creation of towns that have remained all white. The most famous case of racial cleansing, Rosewood, Florida, in 1923, was no anomaly, as Jaspin notes 260 such towns. In fact, such expulsions were so common that newspaper accounts recorded them. Shame, an eagerness to forget, and reluctance to deal with reparations and compensation have allowed the expulsions to lapse into the past. Expulsions ranged from those centered on violence--lynchings and race riots--to threats and ultimatums that did not result in actual violence. Jaspin focuses on 12 of the worst cases, mapping out the counties, recounting the historical context, and interviewing those who remember. A chilling portrait of a shameful part of American history that has reshaped its racial geography. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First Edition edition (March 5, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465036368
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465036363
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #886,119 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
... elements of a powerful film on the order of Yojimbo or The Good the Bad and the Ugly - films where a defenseless minority in a village somewhere is terrorized by the rowdiest elements of their majority neighbors, but this time no Toshiro Mifune or Clint Eastwood is on hand to set things right. By individual violence and/or mob intimidation, the minority is driven from its homes and property, often with the memory of the public slaughter of family members to carry with them into exile and to preclude their ever returning. And in every case there is indifference or collusion from the police and other authorities.

The heart of Buried in the Bitter Waters is narrative -- twelve tragic stories of violence in twelve far-flung communities, decades apart in time. In each story, ordinary people united by their history and ethnicity suddenly rise against their neighbors of a different history and ethnicity, attack them physically, intimidate them psychologically and economically, and force them to leave the community, never to return under threat of death. It's always majority against minority, of course, or it couldn't be done. And in these stories it's successful; in every case, the community remains "pure" even generations later, and feels darned proud of its purity. True, the level of violence is different from narrative to narrative, but violence is always the means. In one narrative, the mob - provoked by a crime committed by one young man of the minority group - rampages through the minority community. It grabs two young men at random and literally shoots them to pieces. Then it seizes a man considered one of the elders of the minority and lynches him, leaving his body hanging as "a grizly tourist attraction" for two days.
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Format: Hardcover
Jaspin should be commended for telling the stories of these towns, even when the information concerning these incidents is scant. Buried in the Bitter Waters serves as a reminder to its readers that racial cleansing in America took place throughout the country, not just the Deep South. It also reminds us that much of the history of our country has yet to be told. Selma, Birmingham, Memphis, and Montgomery are familiar names in the history of race in America. Jaspin shines the light on towns like Corbin and Commanche, not to disparage them but to remind us that the racial clensing in America was widespread.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was channel hopping and came across a PBS independent file "Banished" and was quite surprised when the 1st place they mentioned was Washington County, Indiana, where I am orginally from and where my family still is. I was curious, so I did a search on Amazon and came across this book. Again, 1st thing mentioned, Washington County, Indiana. Then, later on in the book I came across Laurel County, Kentucky, where my maternal grandmother's people are from! I never thought I could be so ashamed of where I came from. It hurts to read this book, that people can be so ignorant and cruel.

I definitely suggest reading this. As I mentioned, it hurts, but we all should know our history, and hopefully quit repeating it.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the story of twelve (of approximately 1,800 incidents) of blacks being driven out of communities shared with whites (mostly between the years of 1876-1923), and having their land and possessions taken over by white vigilantes. Although the majority of the incidents were centered in the South -- primarily Georgia and Florida -- occurrences also were reported as far north as Indiana and Missouri. The upshot of a finely researched book is that the communities that were "ethnically cleansed" remain lily white even today, but with no memory of why they are that way?

The stories are all so similar in form that these twelve examples serve adequately as a representative of the many others: Whites established a pretext -- almost always based in a fear of black competition in the labor market, or on some variation of racial mythology, the subtext of which invariably reduced to imagined sexual threats from black men. In every instance, these imagined threats were stoked into hot tribal flames which were then used to threaten and cajole blacks into leaving the communities, cities and counties completely. Their lands and possessions were then taken over by the very vigilantes that had run them out.

Faced after the fact with an inconvenient history, white tribes also had a standard conscience soothing repertory of moral defenses for their collective perfidy. The first and most used defense was the cowardly use of silence. Since the winners get to define history, and "ethnic cleansing" was nothing to be proud of -- not only because it was criminal but also because it was morally reprehensible -- why mention it ever again? Therefore the first line of defense was a combination of silence and willfully strategic forgetfulness.
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Format: Hardcover
I wish I could say that I cried over this book, but the truth is that I am so accustomed to America's legacy of genocide, social injustice, and external fraud, regime change, and invasion that I simply sighed and thought, "wow, about time this came to light."

This is a stunning book that should be read by every American of every race, creed, and class.

I previously reviewed a book today that discussed how white supremacy views were one of the causes of the downfall of democracy after the Civil War. I believe this. As a Marine, I learned there are only Marines, some dark green, some light green. That lesson has NOT been learned by all Americans, and that is one reason I favor a restoration of universal national service (including two years for any immigrant granted citizenship, at any age), with the option of armed, peace, or homeland service.

I am Latino by culture, white by race, intelligent by design (pun intended). I believe that America genocided the native Americans, genocided the people of color, and is now in the process of disenfranchising the Latinos while making commons cause with the Asians. None of this bodes well for a Republic that is supposed to offer Liberty & Justice for all as the foundation for collective intelligence and the sovereign We the People.
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