‘When Crack Was King’ follows four people who lived through the drug epidemic

“When Crack Was King: A People’s History of a Misunderstood Era” by Donovan X. Ramsey delves into the crack epidemic, outlining causes and effects using the stories of four individuals who experienced it firsthand.

Book Overview: Donovan X. Ramsey’s new book discusses the social, political, and economic factors which propagated the crack epidemic in the United States.
* Ramsey explains how terms like “crackhead,” “crack baby,” and “superpredator” were used to pass legislation that disproportionately affected poor communities of color during the 1980s and ’90s.
* The author argues that the crack epidemic spread due to several factors, including government policies that economically isolated poor communities and the War on Drugs, which focused on criminalization.

Personal Accounts: The book traces the lives of four individuals who were directly impacted by the crack epidemic.
* Lennie Woodley, now a substance abuse counselor, experienced both physical and sexual abuse as a child, turning to cocaine during her early adolescence.
* Elgin Swift and Shawn McCray, both drug dealers with vastly different scales of operations, highlight the varying nuances of drug dealing.
* Kurt Schmoke served as the mayor of Baltimore during the crack epidemic, advocating for drug decriminalization.

Underlying Factors: Ramsey explores the catastrophic effects of the epidemic and the influence exerted by politics and media.
* He examines how the crime bills led to an increase in mass incarceration and how the media sensationalized the issue.
* Ramsey concludes by calling for a better response system to tackle future drug epidemics, urging learning from historical failures.

The book uses a “people-first” approach to chronicle the crack epidemic, shedding light on the individual suffering endured due to broader-scale policies and societal stereotypes.

View original article on NPR

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