The New Jim Crow

The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

Paperback - 2012
Average Rating:
Rate this:
Once in a great while a book comes along that changes the way we see the world and helps to fuel a nationwide social movement. The New Jim Crow is such a book. Praised by Harvard Law professor Lani Guinier as "brave and bold," this book directly challenges the notion that the election of Barack Obama signals a new era of colorblindness. With dazzling candor, legal scholar Michelle Alexander argues that "we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it." By targeting black men through the War on Drugs and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control--relegating millions to a permanent second-class status--even as it formally adheres to the principle of colorblindness. In the words of Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP, this book is a "call to action."

Called "stunning" by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David Levering Lewis, "invaluable" by the Daily Kos , "explosive" by Kirkus , and "profoundly necessary" by the Miami Herald , this updated and revised paperback edition of The New Jim Crow , now with a foreword by Cornel West, is a must-read for all people of conscience.
Publisher: New York : New Press, c2012.
Edition: Rev. ed.
ISBN: 9781595586438
Characteristics: xvii, 312 p. ; 24 cm.
Additional Contributors: West, Cornel


From Library Staff

Tenth selection in Facebook's "A Year of Books" discussion series.

From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Jun 05, 2020

She keeps saying that if drug use is the same across the races, why do we have a disproportionate amount of people of color serving time for nonviolent drug charges? First of all, the laws in this country are for drug possession, not for drug use. Who's gonna be caught with more? The guys selling it, not the guys using it. So, let's look into the drug trade. I highly recommend watching the show Drugs, INC, and finding at least one documentary on a drug cartel. Most of the drugs in America are coming in from Mexico or Colombia. The cartels bring them across the border, and the gangs sell them on the streets. Females, Asians, and whites make up less than 5-15% of all gangs/cartels. So, the vast majority of the guys selling drugs are people of color. That's not racist, that's fact. When you look into it, you'll realize the nightmare violence associated with the drug trade. The cops target these poor neighborhoods of color because of the violence. People who are growing up there and trying to be good do NOT need to be told white people are subconsciously out to get them! They need all the help they can get!

Oct 31, 2019

I thought this novel definitely gave me a new point of view on my white privilege. I would never say I was oblivious to my white privilege before but after reading this novel I realized how big of a role it plays in my everyday life. I was also never aware of the gigantic war on drugs going on in this US which opened my eyes a lot. I think it is a very unfortunate time period we are living in where you get assumptions made about you from the color of your skin and the novel definitely helped my notice some of my own racial bias that I had before. This novel gives you a new perspective and is worth your time.

Jun 14, 2019

A thought-provoking book. Well researched. I no longer claim to be colour blind.

Nov 05, 2018

This book amazingly explains the inequality in today's justice system. Michelle Alexander is a talented writer that uses realistic reasonings to support her opinions. The New Jim Crow is a highly impactful book that will spark a discussion and will question yourself what kind of justice system we are living in. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is willing to learn about the persistently avoided problems we face.

Nov 04, 2018

This book is very thorough on discussing the creation and explanation caste system resulting from the war on drugs. The author does seem to dwell on certain topics and opposing views were not mentioned in the book. It is written persuasively more than how it claims to be about starting a discussion. I enjoyed it over all as the author has a strong voice and has adept writing skills.

Sep 22, 2018

The New Jim Crow massively oversimplifies issues in the American criminal justice system. It is perplexing how this book has received the hype that it has. It essentially cries racism and blames every issue within the system on that single claim. It is hard to take this work as an objective analysis of the criminal justice system when so many important aspects are ignored to advance the author's arguments. Alexander seldom acknowledges the all too real damage that narcotics inflict upon communities and our society as a whole. She also omits examples of "real" failed drug wars that have taken place as close as central America. If the topics covered in this book interest you I really recommend reading other books because this one simply does not paint a very accurate nor complete picture of the subject matter. Below are a couple of recommendations.

A War that Cant Be Won: Binational Perspectives on the War on Drugs
by Payan, Tony; Staudt, Kathleen; Kruszewski, Z. Anthony

Locked In: The True Causes of Mass Incarceration and How to Achieve Real Reform
by Pfaff, John

strangegazelle Aug 24, 2018

Exceptionally well-researched look at how mass incarceration in the U.S. has deliberately created a new racial under-caste. It's truthful, timely and in many ways prescriptive - it's one of those books that everyone should read.

Aug 22, 2018

The author says it is meant to be a discussion starter. She is head of the Racial Justice department of northern California's ACLU. Her thesis is that there Jim Crow laws have been replaced with a racial caste system. Her husband a federal prosecutor, sees it differently. This book really isn't meant to be read by yourself. You need other opinions as you read it. If you are in a book club or even a progressive church Sunday School class, this would be a great discussion starter. My favorite Sunday School class was in a Salem Oregon Methodist church, 1991, where we discussed what how did our actions now reflect our Christianity. Each class had a different focus, like responding to terrorism or working with Habitat for Humanity. I could see this book being used in that class or in an AP high school class.

vm510 Jun 28, 2018

The New Jim Crow is an instant classic of the genre. Since publication, I have seen this book and its arguments cited in so much media I've consumed (books, documentaries, podcasts). I am glad I finally got to experience the source text myself. For its historical analysis, for the way it traces slavery to the convict lease system to Jim Crow to mass incarceration, for how clearly it's explained how assigning criminality functions + creates a new social undercaste, this book is crucial.

Jun 08, 2018

"Hundreds of years ago, our nation put those considered less than human in shackles; less than one hundred years ago, we relegated them to the other side of town; today we put them in cages. Once released, they find that a heavy and cruel hand has been laid upon them."

"As a society, our decision to heap shame and contempt upon those who struggle and fail in a system designed to keep them locked up and locked out says far more about ourselves than it does about them."

"The widespread and mistaken belief that racial animus is necessary for the creation and maintenance of racialized systems of social control is the most important reason that we, as a nation, have remained in deep denial [about mass incarceration]."

"It is fair to say that we have witnessed an evolution in the United States from a racial caste system based entirely on exploitation (slavery), to one based largely on subordination (Jim Crow), to one defined by marginalization (mass incarceration)."

"Drug crime in this country us understood to be black and brown, and it is because drug crime is racially defined in the public consciousness that the electorate has not cared much what happens to drug criminals--at least not the way they would have cared if the criminals were understood to be white."

Alexander argues that reductions in legal avenues provided to black prisoners; Supreme Court antagonism toward racial bias in cases; and more people of color getting taken up by law enforcement forces despite the fact that more white people commit drug crimes, leads to a situation in which mass incarceration does not serve to reduce crime but to induce racialized social control.

If you retain an ounce of social justice in your psyche, you will probably want to repeatedly throw this book across the room, but not because it is poorly written. It is because it is so well researched and argued that it boggles the mind that this reader could have been so blind as not to see it. I wonder how well book could be countered.

View All Comments


Add Age Suitability
EuSei Nov 16, 2015

EuSei thinks this title is suitable for 1 years and under


BLUESJOURNEY thinks this title is suitable for between the ages of 17 and 19


Add a Quote
Oct 22, 2015

“Claims that mass incarceration is analogous to Jim Crow will fall on deaf ears and alienate potential allies if advocates fail to make clear that the claim is not meant to suggest or imply that supporters of the current system are racist in the way Americans have come to understand that term. Race plays a major role—indeed a defining role—in the current system but not because of what is commonly understood as old-fashioned, hostile bigotry.”


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at CPL

To Top