Collective Amnesia: American Apartheid – African American’s 400 Years in North America, 1619-2019

IndieReader: David Herman


This comprehensive, richly documented history of African Americans’ experiences in America is not just an eye-opening investigation of the violent oppression to which black people have been subjected for centuries, but also a compelling call to consciousness raising, political action, and institutional reform.

Designed to counteract this country’s “collective amnesia” about the systematic racism that has marred its achievements and limited its potential, Bétit’s book traces the all-too-often traumatic history of African Americans, who have faced chattel slavery, lynchings (among other atrocities), Jim Crow laws, the pernicious apartheid of the “separate but equal” principle, educational and economic inequities, and today’s mass incarcerations.

COLLECTIVE AMNESIA is a big book that covers a lot of ground. This comprehensive, richly documented history of African Americans’ experiences in America is not just an eye-opening investigation of the violent oppression to which black people have been subjected for centuries, but also a compelling call to consciousness raising, political action, and institutional reform.

Pacific Book Reviews: Anthony Avina

As John Lewis once said, “The scars and stains of racism are still deeply embedded in the American society.” In author Eugene DeFriest Bétit’s book Collective Amnesia: American Apartheid: African Americans 400 Years in North America, 1619–2019, the history of African Americans over the course of 400 years on the North American continent is explored…This is a read for anyone interested in history, tales of injustice and anyone interested in the long history of African Americans as a whole. With our current society still embroiled in these acts of racial violence and discrimination, this book is much needed to teach the true history of not just our nation but the history of African Americans as a whole.

A thought-provoking, detailed and thorough read, Collective Amnesia: American Apartheid: African Americans 400 Years in North America, 1619–2019 by Eugene DeFriest Bétit is a brilliant narrative that explores a tragic history that must not be forgotten. This book is incredible, brutally honest, and necessary. Read this book and then change yourself and your world.

Kirkus Book Reviews

An accomplished American historian explores the roots and effects of the mistreatment of African Americans in the United States. With the precise eye of the historian and the captivating tone of the storyteller, Bétit details the persistent efforts of black Americans to forge their place in American society, often at risk of violence and death and always facing aggressive opposition… exhaustive, and well-researched. Perhaps the most forceful chapter is the last one, “Conclusions: Whither America?,” which recaps the chronology of racism against black Americans, points out the dangers of rising white supremacist groups, and poses important questions about what actions may be taken to heal the legacy of slavery and segregation.

A scholarly and grippingly readable historical narrative of race relations in America. Rosemary Wright

Collective Amnesia: American Apartheid, by Dr. Eugene DeFriest Betit, covers the history of racism in the United States since 1619. It shows the protracted war fought to eliminate the scourge of chattel slavery from America. In addition, it unveils how the racism prevalent in the society prevailed in the U.S. Army, and how, through bravery and discipline, Black Americans made significant contributions to the liberation of their race. It describes the difficulties they have experienced while trying to survive in the white society.

In conclusion, I rate Collective Amnesia: American Apartheid 4 out of 4 stars. It was exceptionally well edited; I didn't find any grammar or typographical errors. I recommend it to anyone who is courageous enough to face facts and learn more about the history of racism and slavery in the United States.

Robert Schuweiler: Fingers on the Scale

5 out of 5 stars

Written so clearly and so well documented that it should be required reading for all students. This book gives just cause to reflect and correct past and ongoing social injustice. I found myself constantly shocked, dismayed and disappointed in human behavior during American's short 400 year association with persons of color, in this portrayal, the Black. While it would be easy to become inflammed over many current concerns exacerbated by social media, the difference here is the writer's detailed references at the end of each chapter making rationalization of truth a foolish escape from a terrible story of America's relationship to and treatment of a its Black population.

Rueben K. Green: Author of Black Officer, White Navy

This book provides a thorough, four hundred year history of the abuse and disenfranchisement of the black people of America, often while they were simultaneously encouraged to fight for "their" country. The breadth of the work makes it an outstanding choice for both the newly curious and the established scholar. It is designed to force you to look at the big picture, the cause and effect relationships between people of different races. I found it to be particularly relevant as I read the last few chapters, which show that the United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent (2016) plainly states that racial bias and discrimination are still constant factors in America today. This book would make an excellent textbook for any high school or college classroom as well as a general overview for anyone... The author clearly did extensive research, and unearthed documents, studies and papers of which I was not aware and that I found quite helpful.

Gail Hermosilla

Some would categorize this book as “Black History”. I believe that is wrongly restrictive. This book is about Blacks who are American, an “American History” book. Acknowledging that this is American history is a critical distinction. It shines a light on the glaring difference between the events documented here and those taught as “American history” at all levels of US education. As evidence, I present the most basic of misleading teachings: the cause of the Civil War. When I studied 4th grade American history, we learned without qualification that “The Civil War was fought over states’ rights”. When I discussed this with my daughter, she remembers being taught the same thing! She recalls that slavery was at least mentioned, so I guess there has been some progress in 30 years. What is being taught in our schools today? I hesitate to ask.

So, if this most basic fact of American history has been distorted by our educational system, is it any wonder that the average American is unfamiliar with the rest of the sordid history, so well documented in this book?

Dennis J. Quinn: US Army (retired), former National War College instructor

Collective Amnesia is a hard read, not from literary style, for the writing is clear, direct, and often powerful. Rather, it is hard to read emotionally, because it will be hard for most readers to understand how we could have treated our fellow black Americans the way we did. Yes, we all know about slavery, know we ended it with our Civil War, and believe that presently we live in an America where racism, although still rearing its ugly head here and there, is mostly a thing of the past. Well, although that may be the generalized, bottom line most of us have chosen to believe and live with today, Dr. Betit asks us to step back and walk a 400-year journey through black life in America from the first slave brought to this country to the day America elected its first black president… Dr. Betit provides names, places, dates, journal entries, log books, newspaper articles, and photographs.

To really understand our present, I believe we all need to understand our past, especially this part of our nation's past. Our national Declaration says that all men are created equal with equal rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Dr. Betit chronicles how that has not been the case for most of our fellow black Americans. Although the words "all men are created equal' may not have always reflected actuality, they always were and still are aspirational. Yes, equality in America is much better today than it has ever been, but we need to ensure that it keeps getting better. Dr. Betit's Collective Amnesia shows our past in detail, often in terrible detail; we must emerge from that amnesia and construct a better future.

Matthew DiBiase: Blogger

This is a searing and unsparing history of four centuries racism against African-Americans. The result of pain-staking research, Eugene Betit chronicles with academic skill how certain factions of White America have devoted themselves for 400 years in the transportation, subjugation, marginalization, exploitation, and deliberate disenfranchisement of African-Americans; how American remains in a dark thralldom with racism and how racism still motivates our politics today--a sad reminder that in many ways America still has an enormous amount of growing up to do if we are to fulfill the spirit of the Constitution.

Eric Christensen: retired English teacher, Marshall Plan researcher

Arriving during a time of increased bigotry and willful obliviousness, Collective Amnesia American Apartheid, African Americans’ 400 Years in North America, 1619—2019 is a must read for Americans who are ready to understand our racial birth defect and its tragic legacy and ready to help move on to a better future. It’s not a polemic. It’s not a harangue. It’s a factual account of two peoples, whites and blacks, and the flawed civilization we share. It is an unblinkered account of race in America, the details of which tell the story of terrorism supported by church and state. Readers have to be ready to undo myths concerning the happy slave in the Antebellum South, racial superiority, imagined causes of the Civil War, and much more. Readers will read stories of families that were reunited after the War and families that were not. They will read a different account of Reconstruction than the stories they may have heard as children. And they will see that racism continues to cast a dark shadow, and not just in the South. No American can be fully American without completely understanding this history, a history clearly laid out by Dr. Bétit.

War’s Cost: The Hite’s Civil War

Jonathan Alex Noyalas Director, McCormick Civil War Institute, Shenandoah University

5.0 out of 5 stars -- Excellent!

Thomas Carlyle once observed, “history is the essence of innumerable biography.” Eugene Betit’s first book offers a great reminder to all about the value of individual stories. Those stories, as Carlyle believed, help us build a deeper connection to the past. Through the eyes of the Hite Family, Betit’s book offers tremendous insight into how families responded to the American Civil War and why all members of the Hite family who were of military age (40 in total) enlisted to fight for the Confederacy. In addition to gaining a glimpse into the lives of these young men Betit’s finely crafted and cogent volume, tugs at the heart strings as he recounts the stories of some members of the Hite family, such as George Smith Hite who enlisted in the 19th Virginia Infantry at the tender age of fourteen and did not live to see fifteen—having succumbed to wounds received at the Battle of Gaines’ Mill in 1862. Beyond the fascinating glimpses Betit offers, this study provides insight into the broader history of the Civil War era in Virginia, and specifically the Shenandoah Valley. Betit’s fine book is a worthwhile addition to anyone who interested in the lives of Confederate soldiers, the conflict in the Old Dominion, or who desire to gain a deeper understanding of how our American Iliad deeply impacted families, not only during the conflict, but years after the guns fell silent.


Robert Schuweiler

5.0 out of 5 stars --  When Knowledge was Power

Like a prism refracts light or how a glass can magnify images, this pithy little book will cast a long shadow across your thoughts. The author has an ability to clarify troubling aspects of both causes and effects of the Civil War with an especial examination of the Hite family and the war's impact on Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. The author's in-depth research of both the social standing and war records of the Hite family measures the cost of a southern agrarian society which utilized the lack of education as a barrier to power and social position. The author sets this up by illumination of context for people were living in this part of Virginia. Slavery was wealth under siege. One can feel the fear and the co-dependency from the very start. Denying education to control blacks, who were the engine of production, and as a social norm of "not being necessary" for whites whose time and attention was better served with managing agrarian matters resulted in unintended consequences. The Hite family seemed destined to die in numbers as consequence of both norms, with most enlistments being no higher than the rank of Corporal. It is profound how a family linked to the "first families of Virginia" could have such a small leadership roles and die in such numbers. The Civil War was truly a war about property, work, freedoms, and control. The resolution to those issues lead to war when no other system of exchange would do.



Dennis J. Quinn, Colonel (Retired, US Army), Former National War College Instructor

5.0 out of 5 stars -- War's Costs at the Family Level

A great read. Follow the story of the Hite family in the foothills of the Shenandoah from colonial Virginia thru the Civil War. While generally chronicling the history of the family through five generations, the author focuses on the impact of the Civil War on that history. Thru its main title, "War's Cost," Dr. Betit leads the reader to think beyond the Hite family to the impact of the Civil War, and all wars, on the families who fight in them and whose trajectory thru the future is affected by them. A good scholarly work that is well worth the read.


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