Aim: How can we incorporate historical and economic information into an argument essay?

Do Now (in Classroom): Coates writes “In the 1920s, Jim Crow Mississippi was, in all facets of society, a kleptocracy.” What does “kleptocracy” mean here?

Finding Evidence

In the 1920s, Jim Crow Mississippi was, in all facets of society, a kleptocracy. The majority of the people in the state were perpetually robbed of the vote—a hijacking engineered through the trickery of the poll tax and the muscle of the lynch mob. Between 1882 and 1968, more black people were lynched in Mississippi than in any other state.

The term kleptocracy is followed immediately by talking about robbery by the government. By using context clues, we can see that kleptocracy is a government that uses its power to steal resources.

The state’s regime partnered robbery of the franchise with robbery of the purse. Many of Mississippi’s black farmers lived in debt peonage, under the sway of cotton kings who were at once their landlords, their employers, and their primary merchants.

We've read about this system of debt peonage before.

We learned about Sharecropping and Jim Crow, economic and political systems designed to keep African Americans subservient agricultural labor in the wake of the Civil War.

We followed African-Americans as they journeyed North, looking for a better life. We saw the reality of their arrival.

Using Evidence

Your essay prompt asks you to answer two questions:

How do economic conditions affect racism?
How does race affect the economy?

After reading the first two sections of “The Case for Reparations”, we have a lot more evidence to support our claims.

  1. Look over your notes from sections 1 & 2. Sort your information into two groups: does it discuss race affecting the economy, or economics affecting racism?
  2. Go back to the source, and look for a supporting quote. Be careful! Are you quoting Coates or one of his sources?
  3. Add at least 3 quotes from sections 1 & 2 into your essay.


After the slaves were freed, they were kept in the south. They were a threat to the Southern economy, because if they were ever to migrate out of the south (which they did) it would bring nothing but chaos for the white southerners. Not only were African Americans being held back but they were being used as tools to keep up the economy, kept from leaving by the laws of Southern states.

“It was in these early years that Ross began to understand himself as an American—he did not live under the blind decree of justice, but under the heel of a regime that elevated armed robbery to a governing principle.”
The Case for Reparations

The Southern economy relied on free labor, and because slaves were now free, Southern governments came up with new ways to force cheap labor. But the freed slaves would only remain in the south as long as debt traps kept them. As the Southern economy continued basically the same as it had under slavery, new economic opportunities in the north would shift races and race relations in the next few decades.