If you've seen any news or done any reading over the last year you are aware of how timely it is to better understand the plight of the Americans who were first brought here as slaves. In reading The Portal you are placed back into that time in history when the Civil War had just ended. The South was using "Jim Crow Laws" to try and keep the newly freed slaves "in their place" and the freed people were struggling to stay alive and perhaps to gain their freedom. It was unimaginably difficult.
For an excellent and current novel I suggest you read the Pulitzer Prize winning book by Colson Whitehead, titled The Underground Railroad or look for the movie.
Similarly you might wish to read the classic, Uncle Tom's Cabin, by Connecticut's Harriet Beecher Stowe, which tells the story of the slaves.
There is also a classic Reconsidering the Souls of Black Folk written in 1903 by W.E.B. DuBois which scholars will want to consume.
A more contemporary book edited by Ronald L Taylor. Minority Families in the United States, provides a multicultural perspective.
This is a contemporary issue evolving daily and demanding thinking people's continued attention.