The Troy University College Democrats, the Philosophy Society and the History Club organized a screening of the documentary “13th” in observance of Black History Month last Wednesday.
The event was attended by 40 students and faculty and the documentary screening was followed by a panel discussion led by Timothy Buckner, a professor of history, and Kathryn Tucker, a lecturer of history.
The movie, named after the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, followed the history of the black community from after the abolition of slavery in the United States to the present-day, discussing topics such as segregation and Jim Crow laws, the war against drugs and the prison-industrial complex.
During the panel discussion which followed, the faculty and students discussed the immediate aftermath of the abolition of slavery and the reconstruction era, as well as the problems of excessive bail.
Tucker explained the convict leasing system and how it was one of the major sources for income for many states.
Tucker said that the main take away of the documentary was the problems today in society did not come from nowhere, but instead developed from events and decisions taken in the past, and the way to fix those problems is to understand the roots of the problems and address the entire larger issues.
According to Jay Valentine, an assistant professor of philosophy who organized the screening, “13th” is a movie about the history of the various challenges experienced by black Americans.
“We have a responsibility to critically examine the phenomenon of mass incarceration in our country to ensure that the most disadvantaged among us receive fair, non-biased justice,” Valentine said.
According to him, this documentary makes the case that the wars on crime and drugs of the 1980s and 1990s have produced a justice system incapable of offering this fair and unbiased justice to all members of our society.
“The movie also demonstrates how the leadership of both the Republican and Democratic political parties significantly contributed to the production of this unjust system while private corporations, including those representing the prison industry, successfully lobbied for legislation that would result in more frequent and longer prison terms,” Valentine added.
“One thing that stood out to me was the intersectionality of all these issues,” said Nicholas Westbrook, a psychology major from Eufaula, Alabama.
“One major takeaway from the documentary was that all these times in the past when we thought we were done with the issues, they just transformed into a different form so we must always be vigilant.”