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The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America (Paperback)

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From the New York Times bestselling author of White Rage, an unflinching, critical new look at the Second Amendment and how it has been engineered to deny the rights of African Americans since its inception-now with a new introduction and afterword from the author.

In The Second, historian and award-winning, bestselling author of White Rage Carol Anderson powerfully illuminates the history and impact of the Second Amendment, how it was designed, and how it has consistently been constructed to keep African Americans powerless and vulnerable. The Second is neither a “pro-gun” nor an “anti-gun” book; the lens is the citizenship rights and human rights of African Americans.

From the seventeenth century, when it was encoded into law that the enslaved could not own, carry, or use a firearm whatsoever, until today, with measures to expand and curtail gun ownership aimed disproportionately at the African American population, the right to bear arms has been consistently used as a weapon to keep African Americans powerless--revealing that armed or unarmed, Blackness, it would seem, is the threat that must be neutralized and punished.

Throughout American history to the twenty-first century, regardless of the laws, court decisions, and changing political environment, the Second has consistently meant this: That the second a Black person exercises this right, the second they pick up a gun to protect themselves (or the second that they don't), their life--as surely as Philando Castile's, Tamir Rice's, Alton Sterling's--may be snatched away in that single, fatal second. Through compelling historical narrative merging into the unfolding events of today, Anderson's penetrating investigation shows that the Second Amendment is not about guns but about anti-Blackness, shedding shocking new light on another dimension of racism in America.

About the Author


Carol Anderson is the Charles Howard Candler Professor and Chair of African American Studies at Emory University. She is the author of One Person, No Vote, longlisted for the National Book Award and a finalist for the PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award; White Rage, a New York Times bestseller and winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award; Bourgeois Radicals; and Eyes off the Prize. She was named a Guggenheim Fellow for Constitutional Studies and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

Praise For…


“Anderson strikes the perfect balance between righteous wrath and intellectual rigor.” —Oprah Daily, "20 of the Best New Summer Books to Pick Up This June"

“The Second is written with verve, painted with broad strokes and dotted with memorable anecdotes and vivid quotations.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Anderson thinks that America's singular relationship with guns reflects its singular history of racism. . . . Anderson's book is a bracing reminder that the defense of rights is not necessarily a liberatory project.” —The New Yorker's "Critic's Notebook"

“Absorbing... as timely as some of Anderson's best known books... The Second adds another dimension to the gun debate and proves that it is stained with the anti-Blackness mindset that disfigures every debate.” —Boston Globe

“Like Anderson's previous works, this is essential for everyone interested in U.S. history.” —Library Journal, starred review

“[A] powerful indictment . . . In her passion and precision, Anderson presents a uniquely positioned, persuasive, and unflinching look at yet another form of deadly systemic racism in American society that has stoked the centuries-long crimes of insecurity, inequality, and injustice.” —Booklist, starred review

“In this extraordinarily important book, Dr. Anderson shows that the Second Amendment was designed, and has always been implemented, to enable white Americans to dominate their Black neighbors. In her trademark engaging and unflinching prose, Dr. Anderson traces America's racist history of gun laws from the 1639 Virginia colony's prohibition on Africans carrying guns to the recent police murders of Breonna Taylor and Emantic Bradford, Jr., showing how calls for 'law and order' have concentrated guns in the hands of white people while defining Black gun ownership as a threat to society. Anderson's deft scholarship convincingly places the right to use force at the center of American citizenship, and warns that the Second Amendment, as it is currently exercised, guarantees that Black Americans will never be equal.” —Heather Cox Richardson, author of HOW THE SOUTH WON THE CIVIL WAR

“The Second Amendment, as Carol Anderson deftly establishes here, was written in the blood of enslaved Black people. Our stalemated gun rights debates have focused on the idea that the Second Amendment preserves liberty rather than its historic role in denying it. This book does a great deal to change the parameters of that conversation.” —Jelani Cobb, New Yorker staff writer, author of THE SUBSTANCE OF HOPE

“Carol Anderson brings her brilliant analytical framing to one of our most pressing issues: the proliferation of guns and the epidemic of American gun violence. She reveals the racial hypocrisy inherent in Second Amendment defenses of gun rights. The Second is a must-read for students of American History.” —Natasha Trethewey, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, former U.S. Poet Laureate, author of MEMORIAL DRIVE

“Carol Anderson brings her storied sense of the intertwining of past and present, her keen insights into the wiles of racism, and her passionate prose to this extraordinary take on the meaning of the Second Amendment. This is a necessary history of the roots of gun obsession in slavery, racial assumptions, legal and political fictions that may have put America on a 'fatal' spiral we can only hope to prevent. Let's dream that this book echoes across the partisan canyon.” —David W. Blight, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning FREDERICK DOUGLASS: PROPHET OF FREEDOM

“A powerful consideration of the Second Amendment as a deliberately constructed instrument of White supremacy. . . . An urgent, novel interpretation of a foundational freedom that, the author makes clear, is a freedom only for some.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“A provocative look at the racial context for Americans' right to bear arms, Anderson's forcefully argued new book contends that the Second Amendment was inspired by “fear of Black people” - a desire to ensure that whites could suppress slave rebellions.” —New York Times Book Review, Editor's Choice

“[The Second is] an important intervention in the ongoing debate over gun control. . . . It's an eye-opening, enraging account that every politician should read as they fight on both sides of the aisle to either progress or curtail gun-control legislation.” —Bitch, "BitchReads: 17 Books Feminists Should Read in June”

“Though one needn't look too far beyond the recent murders of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling to see that so-called legal gun ownership is not a right-at least in practice-extended to Black Americans, Anderson follows this country's fixation on weaponized liberty back to its founding mythologies, and all the exclusionary rhetoric found therein.” —Literary Hub's “Nonfiction Books You Should Read This Summer”

“[Anderson's] new book, The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America, examines how the Second Amendment has historically been used to keep Blacks in America powerless. . . . She writes about Philando Castile a Black Twin Cities man who was shot while reaching for his driver's license after letting the police officer know he had a 'legally permitted, right-to-carry concealed gun. That was all the cop needed to know: Officer Jeronimo Yanez began shooting.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune

“New York Times bestselling author of White Rage, Carol Anderson offers an honest and previously disregarded account of the Second Amendment and the way it has punished Black people for centuries. . . . Anderson offers a 'penetrating investigation show[ing] that the Second Amendment is not about guns but about anti-Blackness,' bringing to life the horrible truth behind another untold aspect of racism in America.” —The Root's "Summer Reading Round-Up"

“When it comes to the Second Amendment, the “right to bear arms” is not universal but, instead, almost always applies exclusively to white men. But it's more than that, as Carol Anderson argues in The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America, because the deeper issue is that Black people, whether armed or unarmed, are treated by most of this country as a threat. And while debates around the Second Amendment focus on whether an individual's right to own a gun or join a militia outweigh collective safety (or vice versa), Anderson-a professor of African American Studies at Emory University and author of the 2016 best-seller White Rage-takes a strikingly different approach.” —The Progressive

“Dr. Carol Anderson's latest book is essential for anyone concerned about the Second Amendment and its impact on African Americans in the US. Anderson deftly turns the debate over gun rights on its head by changing the framework to one of anti-Blackness, vulnerability and oppression.” —Ms. Magazine

“The emptiness, for black Americans, of the right to bear arms is amply documented in Ms Anderson's vivid retelling.” —The Economist

“In The Second, Anderson highlights the manifest hypocrisy of the Constitution's most troublesome amendment. She makes a compelling case that, for all the noble rhetoric, it was created mainly to oppress. And that it is still working as designed.” —Leonard Pitts, Jr., The Miami Herald

“Groundbreaking . . . In The Second, Professor Anderson vividly recounts the bloody history from the vicious treatment of enslaved people to the forgotten massacres of Blacks in the Jim Crow era and to the 21st century in cases such as the murders of Trayvon Martin, Philando Castile, and Breonna Taylor, and police killings of Black 'good guys' with guns. To this day, as she illustrates, the rights of Black Americans have been denied under the Second Amendment.” —WNYC's “Brian Lehrer Show”

“Hauntingly well-matched to terrifying current events. . . . The Second shows how the American racial double standard on firearms, self-defense, and use of force dates to the nation's colonial, revolutionary, and constitutional origins.” —Counterpunch

“In a deeply researched book, Anderson traces the origins of American gun policy all the way to the colonial days when the earliest gun laws restricted Black people from owning guns-enslaved and free alike. She reports that in every chapter of American history, gun laws have had an anti-Black stance. If you found yourself angry at the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict, this book will help you understand the deep roots of gun policy that got us to this point.” —Reckon South, “25 of the South's Best Books”

Product Details
ISBN: 9781635574289
ISBN-10: 1635574285
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Publication Date: January 24th, 2023
Pages: 288
Language: English