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Confronting a History of Injustice: Watch, Listen, Explore

By Brooklyn Historical Society

Posted on June 4, 2020

Conversations to Inspire as We Grapple with Our Long History of Racism, Part 1 

This is the first of three blog posts that share past conversations that took place live at BHS. You can see the second post — “Structural Racism in America” — here, and the third post — “Processing Privilege and Moving to Action” — here. We hope they serve as prompts for each individual’s evolving insights about race. We hope that they spark frank discussion and spur action.

As we grieve for the loss of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and the many other Black Americans whose lives have been cut short by police brutality, systemic racism, and white supremacy, understanding our unjust society by looking to the past is one way to begin to take steps towards change. BHS has hosted many public conversations with experts, historians, scholars and others that peel back our nation’s history of slavery and systemic racism. We invite you to explore some or all of the seven programs listed below.

Race and History: An Evening with Historian Annette Gordon Reed | Watch

September 7, 2016 – Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning historian Annette Gordon-Reed discusses her ground-breaking research on Thomas Jefferson, the Hemings family, and slavery in America.

The Impact of Slavery and the Myth of the Free North with Edward Baptist and Michele Mitchell | Listen

October 15, 2019 – The slave economy is often associated with images of Southern plantations, but it played a major role in the Northern states and cities nationwide, becoming a fundamental building block of the country. Cornell University professor Edward Baptist and NYU professor Michele Mitchell discussed the history of the institution of slavery, what was different between its incarnations in the North and the South, and what was tragically similar.

Taylor Branch on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. | Watch

April 3, 2019 – For thirty years, in three extraordinary volumes, a film, and an anthology, author and historian Taylor Branch has presented an unparalleled epic story of the Civil Rights Movement and our democratic experiment. In this presentation, he discusses his life’s work and the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Long Arc of Justice: Revisiting the Civil Rights Movement with Jeanne Theoharris and Jeremy Scahill | Watch

February 15, 2018 – Award-winning historian Jeanne Theoharis debunks contemporary imaginings of the civil rights movement in her book, A More Beautiful and Terrible History: The Uses and Misuses of Civil Rights History. By showing how the movement was unpopular, disruptive, and courageously persevering in its time, Theoharis challenges exceptionalist narratives of American democracy and calls attention to the crucial work that remains to be done. Founding editor of The Intercept Jeremy Scahill joins her in conversation.

The Second Coming of the KKK with author Linda Gordon | Watch

October 26, 2017 – Rick Perlstein, described by Politico as “chronicler extraordinaire of American conservatism,” leads this conversation with renowned historian Linda Gordon. Gordon’s book, The Second Coming of the KKK: The Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s and the American Political Tradition, takes an in-depth look at the roots and ramifications of the KKK’s 1920s resurgence.

Paula Giddings on Ida B. Wells | Watch on C-Span

Januar 23, 2019 – Ida B. Wells, born into slavery in 1862 and freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, devoted her life to the fight against racism, sexism, and anti-black violence. Hear her story as told by Paula J. Giddings, Smith College professor and author of the award-winning biography, Ida, A Sword Among Lions: Ida B. Wells and the Campaign Against Lynching.

The Blinding of a Soldier and the Dawn of the Civil Rights Movement with Sherrilyn Ifill and Judge Richard Gergel | Watch on C-Span

January 30, 2019 – In February 1946, black WWII veteran Sergeant Isaac Woodard was forced off the bus he rode home from the War, arrested, beaten, and blinded in the sheriff’s custody. This act of violence propelled Judge J. Waties Waring, who presided over the criminal case brought against the sheriff, to take on landmark civil rights cases, including some that laid the groundwork for the legal milestone Brown v. Board of Education. Revisit this history with Judge Richard Gergel, who recounts this story in his book Unexampled Courage: The Blinding of Sgt. Isaac Woodard and the Igniting of the Civil Rights Movement. Gergel is joined in a conversation by Woodard’s nephew and caretaker, Robert Young, and President of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Sherrilyn Ifill. Moderated by legal scholar Leon Friedman.

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