The New Jim Crow

by Michelle Alexander

Start Free Trial

What can you share about Cotton's family voting experience in The New Jim Crow?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In the first paragraph of the introduction to this text, which makes the argument that the mass incarceration and unfair laws that specifically target African American men have become the new way in which the white establishment continues to oppress blacks, Michelle Alexander addresses Jarvious Cotton's family tree. There is a lengthy history of the men in his family being prevented from voting in a number of different ways, both legal and illegal, though none of them just. Jarvious Cotton is among the fifth generation of men in his family who have been prevented from exercising the right to vote in elections in these United States. Cotton's two-times great-grandfather was prohibited from voting because he was a slave (which meant that he was not even considered a human citizen of the country but, rather, three-fifths of a person); obviously, this was legal at the time. Cotton's great-grandfather apparently tried to vote, but he was killed by the Ku Klux Klan for making the attempt; this prevention was illegal but not uncommon in the years following the abolition of slavery. Cotton's grandfather was also a victim of intimidation by the Ku Klux Klan, and so he did not get to vote either: a further example of whites illegally preventing a black man from voting. Cotton's father was unable to vote as a result of some issue with his poll tax and literacy tests, though Alexander does not explain further. Now, today, Jarvious Cotton himself is prevented from voting because he is considered a felon by the United States government and so is denied the right to vote, by law.

According to the footnote, the information regarding Jarvious Cotton's family was obtained in 1999, by a young woman who interviewed Cotton herself while he was incarcerated in the Mississippi State Prison. Convicted felons on parole are denied the right to vote in the state of Mississippi, though Cotton apparently sued to regain the right in 1998, claiming that the law is racially discriminatory, but he lost. Ultimately, the law was upheld.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial