Blogs > Cliopatria > Buried in the Bitter Waters: The Hidden History of Racial Cleansing in America By Elliot Jaspin

Feb 27, 2007 2:49 pm

Buried in the Bitter Waters: The Hidden History of Racial Cleansing in America By Elliot Jaspin

A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist exposes the secret history of racial cleansing in America."Leave now, or die!" From the heart of the Midwest to the Deep South, from the mountains of North Carolina to the Texas frontier, words like these have echoed through more than a century of American history. The call heralded not a tornado or a hurricane, but a very unnatural disaster--a manmade wave of racial cleansing that purged black populations from counties across the nation. We have long known about horrific episodes of lynching in the South, but the story of widespread racial cleansingabove and below the Mason-Dixon line--has remained almost entirely unknown. Time after time, in the period between Reconstruction and the 1920s, whites banded together to drive out the blacks in their midst. They burned and killed indiscriminately and drove thousands from their homes, sweeping entire counties clear of blacks to make them racially"pure." The expulsions were swift-in many cases, it took no more than twenty-four hours to eliminate an entire African-American population. Shockingly, these areas remain virtually all-white to this day. Based on nearly a decade of painstaking research in archives and census records, Buried in the Bitter Waters provides irrefutable evidence that racial cleansing occurred again and again on American soil, and fundamentally reshaped the geography of race. In this groundbreaking book, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Elliot Jaspin has rewritten American history as we know it.

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Raul A Garcia - 7/18/2008

Hopefully the book will also include the "ethnic" cleansing of the First Americans to be balanced and inclusive. There is still a tendency to be blind to the still numerous and many viable tribal organizations that are part of out society and economy, while many times there is more focus on the African-american sector.

John R. Maass - 2/8/2008

This book has an odd title--things don't get buried in water, do they?

Daniel Sturm - 3/16/2007

I just finished reading James Loewen's 2005 study, "Sundown Towns," and found it odd that reviews of "Buried in Bitter Waters" don't give credit to Loewen.

And when Jaspin was interviewed on NPR's Diane Rehm Show last week, he sounded as if his work was entirely groundbreaking, when in actuality Loewen had shed light on this very issue over some 560 pages (

By the way, Loewen is also the author of the must-read "Lies My Teacher Told Me."
-Daniel Sturm

James W Loewen - 3/9/2007

Based on reading Jaspin's newspaper stories, I suspect that BURIED is a good book and look forward to reading it. However, "groundbreaking" it's not; a previous "book of the month" at HNN is my own SUNDOWN TOWNS, on the same topic two years ago. (I just couldn't let that adjective slip by without comment!)