John Legend cites The New Jim Crow in Oscar speech

Monday, March 2, 2015

More than five years after its initial publication, the underlying ideas in Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness continue to spark conversations and criminal justice reform efforts not just in activist circles, universities, and churches, but in popular culture, as well.

Singer John Legend referenced The New Jim Crow in accepting his Oscar for best original song “Glory” from the “Selma” movie soundtrack. Noting that “we live in the most incarcerated country in the world,” he cited a statistic first put forth by Alexander in her book: “There are more black men under correctional control today than there were under slavery in 1850.”

The Los Angeles Times sought out Alexander for comment, and ran a piece in which she praised Legend’s remarks and thanked him for “using his moment on stage to raise awareness of the most pressing racial justice issue of our time.” The New Republic, the New York Daily News, and Al Jazeera America, among others, highlighted Legend's speech.

Dubbed the “secular bible of a new social movement” by Cornel West, The New Jim Crow has spent a total of 119 weeks on The New York Times paperback nonfiction bestseller list, where it first appeared in 2012, reappeared through much of 2013 and 2014, and where it has remained since the beginning of 2015.  It will be #8 the week of March 29th. It also continues to appear on regional bestseller lists across the country.