Legacies links for April 3, 2023: DNA, ChatGPT, and Historic Preservation

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Historic image of students from Eatonville, Florida.
Robert Hungerford Preparatory High School in Eatonville, FL, one of the oldest African American communities in the United States. This yearbook photo is from 1965. source: Abandoned FL
  • Cheryl Cashin, “ChatGPT Is Parroting Myths About Slavery,” Politico (March 24, 2023): LINK. A historian asks a few of the popular AI-driven tools about the Founders’ views on slavery and concludes that “[t]he history of slavery in America is too complicated for the likes of ChatGPT and Google,” which tend to amplify simplistic (and, too often, racist) narratives. 
  • Maddie Burakoff, “Their stories were lost to slavery. Now DNA is writing them,” ABC News (March 28, 2023): LINK. An example of preserving the memories and the remains of enslaved African Americans: DNA research in Charleston, South Carolina, is shedding light on the lives of enslaved people whose bodies were found beneath the grounds of an arts venue.
  • “Residents of historically Black Florida town sue to stop land sale,” AP via WWSB-TV (March 29, 2023): LINK. Citizens of Eatonville, Florida, one of the first historically Black towns in the United States, are suing the Orange County School Board to stop the $14.6 million sale of school property to a developer: “If this sale is allowed to proceed, the rich culture and heritage of the town that Zora Neale Hurston popularized around the world…will be erased.”
  • “Preserving Significant Places of Black History: African American Landmarks and Historic Districts in New York City” (March 27, 2023): LINK. An interactive story map created by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission to “provide greater accessibility to New York City landmarks and historic districts that reflect the contributions and achievements of African Americans, against the backdrop of systemic racism.”
  • Arline T. Geronimus, “The Physical Toll Systemic Injustice Takes On the Body,” TIME (March 28, 2023): LINK. “The country is waking up to what Black Americans have known for centuries and what public health statistics have shown us for decades: systemic injustice—not just in the form of racist cops, but in the form of everyday life—takes a physical, too often deadly toll on Black, brown, and working-class or impoverished communities.”
  • Jennifer Ludden, “Cities may be debating reparations, but here’s why most Americans oppose the idea,” NPR (March 27, 2023): LINK. “[A]fter decades of lobbying and three years of a national reckoning over race, Americans overall remain strongly opposed to the idea [of reparations].”
  • Christian Santana, “Episcopal Diocese of New York formally apologizes for the church’s participation in slavery,” Gothamist (March 25, 2023): LINK. As early as 2006, the Episcopal Church issued a resolution declaring slavery a sin and call on its congregations to acknowledge and express regret for the church’s role. Last week the Episcopal Diocese of New York held a service of apology at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in Manhattan. (The Diocese has also committed $1.1 million in reparations in the form of scholarships, healthcare, and housing.)   
  • Alyson Klein, “Laws That Limit Teaching About Race and Gender Imperil Music Instruction,” Education Week (March 31, 2023): LINK. “Divisive concept” laws undercut frank discussions about the legacies of slavery in unexpected places—like music classes in public schools. (Try teaching about jazz, the blues, or gospel music without noting the long shadow of slavery.) 
  • Amanda Frost, “Everyone born in the United States is a U.S. citizen. Here’s why,” Washington Post (March 28, 2023): LINK. A legal scholar uses the anniversary of a landmark Supreme Court case—United State v. Wong Kim Ark (1898)—to discuss the history of birthright citizenship in the United States. “By framing citizenship as a relic of feudalism, the court [in this case] overlooked a far more compelling backstory for this constitutional right: the antebellum battles between free and slavery states over the fate of enslaved people who reached free soil.”
  • Christine Hatfield, “Illinois’ history with slavery and its links to the present,” Illinois Public Media (March 27, 2023): LINK. “When Illinois was admitted to the union, it was as a free state, as opposed to a slave state, but that was just one chapter in the long history of slavery and its legacy in Illinois…. [The 21st Show on Illinois public radio] spent the entire hour diving into that history and what it means for the present day with a panel of historical researchers.” Researchers on the panel include sociologist Brian Miller from CIC member institution Wheaton College.  
  • “Carroll Hall Renamed by Board of Trustees,” The Meredith Herald (March 24, 2023): LINK. At CIC member Meredith College, the Board of Trustees has removed Dr. Delia Dixon-Carroll’s name from the Student Health Center due to her engagement in “racist and harmful practices that outweighed her contributions to the College.” (Her brother, by the way, wrote The Clansman, the novel that was the basis for the racist masterpiece Birth of a Nation.) For more about Meredith’s efforts to reckon with (and repair) the racial history of the institution, see Dan Fountain’s recent post about the process.