Legacies of American Slavery

  • Why Do We Have a Blog?

    This blog was created to support the larger work of CIC’s Legacies of American Slavery initiative—i.e., to help CIC member colleges and universities; their faculty, staff, and students; and the members of their communities reckon with the multiple legacies of American slavery through research and exploration, teaching and learning, and public-facing programs and engagement.

    The blog offers a mix of background information about the project, updates and highlights from our institutional partners, and curated content about the afterlives of slavery. It is a place to raise questions, to share examples of exemplary work at scores of CIC member colleges (many of which have direct ties to the institution of slavery), and to build a national network of like-minded researchers, teachers, and community members. We hope that visitors will find some useful things in this small corner of the web while learning more about the public contributions of private (independent) colleges and universities.

    We also invite you to contribute to the blog. Please contact us at legaciesproject@cic.edu.

  • The Resource Database
    Decorative image of file cabinets.

    The Legacies of American Slavery network is much bigger than the seven Regional Collaboration Partners. Many CIC member colleges and universities are reckoning with the legacies of slavery through original research, historic or archival preservation, teaching and learning, and public engagement. We have created a resource database to share some of their ongoing work. It is searchable by institution, legacy theme, resource type, and other variables.

    The database was developed in Notion, a multi-function project management platform. The database is displayed as a spreadsheet, which should look familiar to anyone who has used Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel. Each row begins with the name of a CIC member institutions, listed alphabetically. Next to each institution are columns of other relevant information: the resource name, a brief description, the type of resource (e.g., a course syllabus or a digital exhibit), and the primary legacy theme (e.g., “Contested Citizenship” or “Racial Violence”).

    Looking for multiple resources related to a specific legacy of American slavery? Use the filter at the top of the resource database to select any of the legacy themes. (By default the resource database is set to view “ALL.”)

    The database is easy to sort and search!

    The database is not comprehensive. If you know about similar activities at other CIC member institutions, please contact us at LegaciesProject@cic.edu so we can keep adding new resources to the database. Also let us know if you spot any inadvertent errors.

  • Legacies links for October 2, 2023: life and death, art and memory, contested citizenship

    As always, the editorial team here at the Legacies blog encourages you to share the post with friends, students, colleagues, etc. A link does not imply agreement or endorsement by the Council of Independent Colleges.

    Four stained glass windows with images of African American protesters
    The “Now and Forever Windows” at the National Cathedral, designed by Kerry James Marshall, replace windows that honored Confederate military leaders. source: National Cathedral


    • The Roberson Project on Slavery, Race, and Reconciliation at Sewanee: The University of the South is marking the public launch of the Locating Slavery’s Legacies database with “Monumental Progress,” a Zoom webinar at 6:30 p.m. CT / 7:30 p.m. ET, Wednesday, October 4, 2023. The program will highlight the features and capacities of this new public history and digital humanities resource. Please register in advance. Sewanee is a Regional Collaboration Partner in the Legacies network.

    Life and Death:

    • Anissa Durham, “Medical Debt: The Price of Life,” Word in Black (September 28, 2023): LINK. 100 million Americans have medical debt, but African Americans are 50 percent more likely to owe money for their care.
    • Nora Mathison and Katie Hafner, “Reconstruction Helped Her Become a Physician. Jim Crow Drove Her to Flee the U.S.,” Scientific American (September 28, 2023): LINK. The story of Sarah Loguen Fraser, a daughter of abolitionists and one of the first female African American doctors after the Civil War. Available as a podcast or transcript.
    • Elizabeth Williamson, “America’s Black Cemeteries and Three Women Trying to Save Them,” New York Times (September 27, 2023): LINK. “In Georgia, Texas and Washington, D.C., three Black women are working to preserve desecrated African American burial grounds and the stories they hold.”
    • Rupinder K. Legha, et al., “Teaching the Legacy of Slavery in American Medicine and Psychiatry to Medical Students: Feasibility, Acceptability, Opportunities for Growth,” MedEdPORTAL (September 26, 2023): https://doi.org/10.15766/mep_2374-8265.11349. “Understanding the legacy of slavery in the United States is crucial for engaging in anti-racism that challenges racial health inequities’ root causes. However, few medical educational curricula exist to guide this process. We created a workshop illustrating key historical themes pertaining to this legacy and grounded in critical race theory.”
    • Maria Smilios, “The hidden story of Black nurses in the fight against TB and the search for a cure,” Infectious Diseases Society of America (September 15, 2023): LINK. A scholar goes on a journey to discover the “Black Angels”—African American nurses at a New York City hospital who endured racism and sexism to assist patients suffering from TB. Based on the author’s new book, The Black Angels: The Untold Story of the Nurses Who Helped Cure Tuberculosis (Putnam, 2023).

    Art and Memory:

    • Eric Gable and Richard Handler, “Why separating fact from fiction is critical in teaching U.S. slavery,” The Conversation (September 26, 2023): LINK. Two anthropologists weigh in on attempts to distort the teaching of American history in Florida and elsewhere: “[S]ome Americans [want to] transform the racist history of this country into an uplifting—and sanitized—moral lesson … [so] the story about the horrors of the slave system is transformed into a story about opportunity, success and the American dream.”
    • Brian Yothers, “The Power of Anti-Slavery Poetry,” Proofed: A Blog from Boydell & Brewer (September 24, 2023): LINK. Reflections on the legacy of anti-slavery poetry, a literary canon that includes white 19th-century abolitionists like James Russell Lowell, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Lydia Huntley Sigourney, and African American writers like William Wells Brown, Frances E. W. Harper, and George Moses Horton. The “moral commitment” of antislavery poets means their voices remain contemporary.
    • Adelle M. Banks, “National Cathedral windows shift from themes of Confederacy to racial justice,” Religion News (September 23, 2023): LINK. On September 23, the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., unveiled four new stained glass panels designed by prominent artist Kerry James Marshall. The new windows depict protests for racial justice by African Americans; they replace windows that honored Confederate generals.
    • Kriston Capps, “An Architect Uses AI to Explore Surreal Black Worlds,” Bloomberg (September 23, 2023): LINK. Using art and memory to contemplate the future, an architect remixes “Black vernacular architecture in kaleidoscopic Afrofuturist landscapes” to re-imagine what buildings and communities might look like in cities across America.
    • Brian Murphy and Katie Owens-Murphy, “Public History in the Age of Insurrection: Confronting White Rage in Red States,” The Public Historian 44:3 (2022), pp. 139–163: https://doi.org/10.1525/tph.2022.44.3.139. A prize-winning essay from the leading public history journal has emerged from behind a paywall. The authors argue that “Public historians have struggled to take a hard line against neo-Confederate groups in theory as well as practice. This article proposes a methodological shift that can clarify the work and obligations of the public historian following the insurrection on January 6, 2021.”

    Contested Citizenship:

    • Henry L. Chambers Jr., “U.S. Supreme Court refuses to hear Alabama’s request to keep separate and unequal political districts,” The Conversation (September 29, 2023): LINK. The Supreme Court has rejected (again) a plan to diminish the power of Black voters in Alabama. According to the author—who teaches at the University of Richmond, a CIC member institution—Chief Justice Roberts has been very clear about the continuity between “racially motivated voter suppression in the century after the Civil War,” the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and recent efforts to suppress Black voting.
    • Jocelyn Kiley, “Majority of Americans continue to favor moving away from Electoral College,” Pew Research Center (September 25, 2023): LINK. “Nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults (65%) say the way the president is elected should be changed so that the winner of the popular vote nationwide wins the presidency.” The report does not mention the racist history of the Electoral College.
    • Jonathan Eig, “How Bayard Rustin Inspired Martin Luther King Jr.’s Nonviolent Activism,” Literary Hub (September 25, 2023): LINK. The author revisits the central role that Rustin played in persuading King to fully embrace Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolent activism after King’s house was bombed in 1956. An excerpt from Michael G. Long, ed., Bayard Rustin: A Legacy of Protest and Politics (NYU Press, 2023).
  • Legacies links for September 25, 2023: Hispanic Heritage Month, the wealth gap, updates from the CIC network

    Happy Hispanic Heritage Month! Here are some links to help explore the complex intersections between Latino/a/x/e people and the legacies of American slavery. (As always, the editorial team here at the Legacies blog encourages you to share the post with friends, students, colleagues, etc. A link does not imply agreement or endorsement by the Council of Independent Colleges.)

    A stereo photograph showing the harbor in San Juan, Puerto Rico
    “Overlooking the Harbor, San Juan, Porto Rico” (1900). image source: Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, NYPL

    Hispanic Heritage Month:

    • Lisa Herndon, “Slavery Ended in Puerto Rico 150 Years Ago. Examine the Island’s History from Former Spanish Colony to U.S. Territory,” Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture (September 12, 2023): LINK. Slavery-related documents from Puerto Rico and other primary sources from Afro-Latino scholars like Arturo Schomburg trace the historical relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States.
    • Gabriel Arana, “My Great-Grandfather Was a Racist,” Texas Observer (September 4, 2023): LINK. The “ignoble legacy” of a Mexican ancestor who “led a vicious campaign against the Chinese … in the early 1900” becomes a meditation on white supremacy: “Once we take down Confederate statues, Texans must still grapple with monsters in the past.”
    • Iván Román, “How Salsa Music Took Root in New York City,” History (August 17, 2023): LINK. During the 1940s and 1950s, Cuban music with roots in Africa “melded into the city’s vibrant big band jazz scene” to create salsa, “the essence of the Latino soul.”
    • Patricia Guadalupe, “6 Groups that Advanced Latino Voting Rights,” History (August 17, 2023): LINK. The Voting Rights Act of 1965, which most people associate with voting rights for African Americans, also secured the franchise to Latino voters who had also been subject to school segregation and challenges to American citizenship. This remains a continuing challenge for historically underrepresented communities.
    • Iker Seisdedos, “The Underground Railroad of the south: The unknown story of the slaves who fled to Mexico,” El País (August 16, 2023): LINK. A recent book by Alice Baumgartner, South to Freedom: Runaway Slaves to Mexico and the Road to the Civil War (Basic Books, 2022), reveals that there was an Underground Railroad that helped fugitives escape to Mexico—a forgotten chapter in the Mexican-American story.
    • Geraldo Cadava, “The Rise of Latino White Supremacy,” The New Yorker (May 30, 2023): LINK (a free account may be required for access). In the wake of a Texas shooting earlier this spring, the author challenges the assumption that violent Latino offenders always see themselves as white when they enact violence against others.
    • Cecilia Márquez, “The Long and Violent History of Anti-Black Racism in the Latino Community,” New York Times (May 12, 2023): LINK (a free account may be required for access). Racial violence isn’t just about binary Black-and-White race relations. In research that tracks Far Right violence against African Americans by Latinos, the author explores the often misunderstood story of Latino political alignment.
    • Jean Guerrero, “My Black ancestors were erased from my family’s memory. But I found them,” San Diego Union-Tribune (February 13, 2023): LINK. After prodding her grandmother for weeks, the author finally learns the truth about her Puerto Rican great grandmother: she was Afro-Puerto Rican. “Black identity is often framed as a negative.”

    Updates from the CIC Network:

    • Fred Johnson, “With Their Own Eyes,” Hope College (September 20, 2023): LINK. When winter storms forced the cancellation of a history class trip to Harper’s Ferry, three students at CIC member Hope College (Holland, MI) decided to learn all they could about abolitionist John Brown and then organize their own trip.
    • Jacob Holmes, “Leader of DOJ Civil Rights Division delivers remarks at Miles College convocation,” Alabama Political Reporter (September 15, 2023): LINK. Kristen Clarke, the first woman to serve as assistant attorney general for civil rights at the U.S. Department of Justice, addressed the students at Miles College (Fairfield, AL), a CIC member institution and HBCU. She “highlighted the college’s place in the Civil Rights Movement” and its origins in the wake of the Civil War.
    • Daniel Silliman and Kate Shellnutt, “Wheaton College Releases Report on Its History of Racism,” Christianity Today (September 14, 2023): LINK. A task force of trustees, faculty, staff, students, and alumni “reconstructed the history of race relations from Wheaton’s founding [by Illinois abolitionists] in 1853” to the present. Among other steps to reckon and repair a very mixed historical record, the college will remove the name of a former president from the campus library.

    Bonus Links:

    • Ellora Derenoncourt, et al., “Wealth of Two Nations: The U.S. Racial Wealth Gap, 1860-2020,” Quarterly Journal of Economics (September 2023): https://doi.org/10.1093/qje/qjad044 (download the full text of a preprint version). Based on a detailed review of the academic literature and original analysis of various datasets, the authors conclude that “The racial wealth gap is the largest of the economic disparities between Black and white Americans, with a white-to-Black capita wealth ration of 6 to 1. It is also among the most persistent.”
    • Ed Rampell, “Filmmaker Connects Dots Between Fugitive Slave Law and Modern-Day ‘Karens,’” Truthout (September 20, 2023): LINK. The latest documentary from Oscar-nominated filmmaker Stanley Nelson adds to the ongoing conversation about police violence and brutality against Black people. He traces the line from pre-Civil War slave patrols to Black Lives Matter.
    • Murk Seymour, “A legacy of racial inequality before the law in Wisconsin,” PBS (September 19, 2023): LINK. A segment from NPR’s “Here & Now” addresses racial disparities in the criminal justice system and how Wisconsinites are providing support in their own communities.
  • Legacies links for September 18, 2023: the Constitution and other legacies of slavery

    Yesterday was Constitution Day, a great opportunity to consider the legacies of American slavery. (As always, the editorial team at the Legacies blog encourages you to share this post with friends, students, colleagues, etc. A link does not imply agreement or endorsement by the Council of Independent Colleges.)

    Photo montage of Abraham Lincoln and various U.S. Senators in 1865
    President Lincoln and all of the U.S. Senators who voted in favor of the 13th Amendment. image source: The Library of Congress

    Constitution Day:

    • Lana Ulrich, “A look at landmark Supreme Court cases on race and the Constitution,” National Constitution Center (May 25, 2023): LINK. A review of landmark Supreme Court cases on race, equality, and the 14th Amendment from Dred Scott (1857) to Bakke (1978).
    • Eugene Scott, “Fight over felons’ voting rights heats up for 2024,” Axis (August 14, 2023): LINK. An overview of voting rights for formerly incarcerated people across the United States, with a helpful map detailing where felons’ voting rights are at risk or completely taken away. “Black Americans, who make up about 12% of the U.S. population, account for about 40% of the felons who can’t vote.”
    • Christy DeSmith, “‘Tyranny of the Minority’ warns Constitution is dangerously outdated,” The Harvard Gazette (September 12, 2023): LINK. The authors of the bestselling book How Democracies Die (Crown Books, 2017) now make the case that “antiquated institutions” like the Electoral College protect and enable an increasingly extremist Political Right who have “lost commitment to democratic rules of the game.”

    Race and Religion:

    • Rosie Dawson, “The ‘white Christian problem’: the doctrine of discovery that encouraged enslavement and lynchings,” Religion Media Centre (September 11, 2023): LINK. Robert P. Jones, founder of the Public Religion Research Institute, discusses his new book The Hidden Roots of White Supremacy and the Path to a Shared American Future (Simon & Schuster, 2023). A long view of race, racism, and evangelical Protestantism in America.
    • Fr. Brian Paulson, “Jesuit conference president: White American Catholics need to face the truth about slavery,” America: The Jesuit Review (September 14, 2023): LINK. The president of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States soberly reflects on the journey to reconciliation for Georgetown University and the descendants of the 272 people enslaved and sold into slavery: “Together we can choose to do our part to end a 400-year cycle of pain and work to fulfill the vision that we all hold within our hearts of hearts.”
    • Karsonya Wise Whitehead, “Slavery is (still) the ‘peculiar institution,’” Conversations on Jesuit Higher Education (September 9, 2023): LINK (may require a free account to access). “[S]lavery was indeed a peculiar institution[;] it was also an unnecessary evil and America is still struggling to reconcile itself with the history and legacy of slavery.” The author is director of the Karson Institute for Race, Peace, and Social Justice at CIC member Loyola University Maryland (a college in the Jesuit tradition).

    Local Stories of Resistance and Persistence:

    • Alison Stine, “How Are American Monuments Telling Our Stories?” Nonprofit Quarterly (September 14, 2023): LINK. “A panel organized by the Mellon Foundation grappled with questions surrounding monument-making, attempting to acknowledge America’s painful histories, our ongoing fight against racism, and the lessons we must carry into the future.”
    • Darcel Rockett, “Keeping the legacy of freedom seekers relevant and present,” Yahoo! Finance (September 14, 2023): LINK. In Illinois, lay historians, community members, researchers, and teachers have been hard at work to uncover the “untold stories” of enslaved people escaping from bondage. Some of them have now pushed Illinois legislators to support a statewide plan to connect a series of local projects—including the well-documented role of CIC member Knox College that was featured in a recent Legacies blog post—to create a cohesive statewide history of the Underground Railroad.
    • Lisa Foust Prater, “Generations of resilience: The inspiring legacy of Butler Farms,” Successful Farming (September 13, 2023): LINK. A farm founded by a former enslaved man in Tennessee in 1869 has endured for over five generations, outlasting the Jim Crow laws, poll taxes, and other challenges. Today, the heirs have found ways to optimize estate planning and ensure the farm’s sustainability, becoming one of the state’s leading beef producers in the process.
    • Cole Kindiger, “‘Queen City’ is a Testament to the Black Community Removed to Make Way for Roads to the Pentagon,” ”DCist (September 12, 2023): LINK. A new public art project aims to recover the long-buried history of East Arlington, Virginia, a Black neighborhood that was displaced by the federal government via eminent domain for construction of the Pentagon.

    An update from the CIC Network:

    • Jennifer Meininger Wolfe, “Examining Incarceration as a Legacy of American Slavery,” Ursinus College (September 13, 2023): LINK. A team from Ursinus College (Collegeville, PA) participated this summer in the Public History Institute offered as part of the Legacies of American Slavery initiative. The team is looking closely at the relationship between slavery and freedom in Pennsylvania, with a focus on the prison industrial complex and the disproportionate incarceration of Black people in eastern Pennsylvania.
  • Legacies links for September 11, 2023: roadside markers,  histories of Black displacement, and more

    As always, the editorial team at the Legacies blog encourages you to share this post with friends, students, colleagues, etc. A link does not imply agreement or endorsement by the Council of Independent Colleges.

    an oil painting of a Black community mourning a dead community member

    John Atrobus, A Plantation Burial (1860). Portrays the Gullah-Geechee people who lived (and still live) along the Atlantic coast in Georgia and the Carolinas. image source: The Historic New Orleans Collection

    a road sign marking the "Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor"

    A roadside marker for the Gullah-Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor along U.S. 17 in Mt. Pleasant, SC. image source: Highway 17


    • Louis Hansen, “The Long History of Universities Displacing Black People,” Chronicle of Higher Education (September 11, 2023): LINK (may require a free account to access). “In the second half of the 20th century, the establishment and expansion of public universities across Virginia uprooted hundreds of Black families, hindering them from accumulating wealth in the most American way—homeownership.”
    • Taryn Luna, “New poll finds California voters resoundingly oppose cash reparations for slavery,” The Los Angeles Times (September 10, 2023): LINK. “California voters oppose the idea of the state offering cash payments to the descendants of enslaved African Americans by a 2-to-1 margin, according to the results of a new poll that foreshadows the political difficulty ahead next year when state lawmakers begin to consider reparations for slavery.”
    • Rachel Hatzipanagas and Emmanuel Felton, “Black history is ‘being attacked.’ These parents found alternatives,” The Washington Post (September 9, 2023): LINK (may require a free account to access). “Across the country, the teaching of Black history has been put under a microscope. … But Black parents who object to the changes say they worry their children aren’t learning enough about their history, an important part of building their self-esteem. Some have begun signing up their children for extra classes, buying supplementary textbooks or giving at-home lessons.”
    • Antetor O. Hinton, “Why Juneteenth Matters for Science,” Nature (September 8, 2023): LINK. According to a distinguished roster of Black scientists—one of whom penned this column for the nation’s most distinguished scientific journal—Juneteenth is not just a holiday but an opportunity to “reduc[e] burdens on researchers from our community and eradicat[e] barriers to equitable science.”
    • John Garrison Marks, “Why Historical Markers Matter,” Smithsonian Magazine (September 7, 2023): LINK. Not exclusively about slavery- or race-related memorials, but an excellent introduction to the complex landscape of historic markers across America. The author is director of research at the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH).
    • Russ Bynum, “Slave descendants on Georgia island fighting to keep protections that helped them keep their land,” AP News (September 7, 2023): LINK. The vibrant and unique culture of the Gullah-Geechee people has survived for over 230 years, but now their community is facing challenges from local government encroachment and the threat of development. Despite these obstacles, Gullah-Geechee residents are fighting passionately to keep their cultural heritage intact.
    • Safiya Sinclair, “Toward Black Wonder: How Nicole Sealey Makes Erasure a New Way of Seeing,” Literary Hub (September 6, 2023): LINK. In her new book The Ferguson Report: An Erasure, poet Nicole Sealey “takes a document that began with death, and re-imagines a space that is ultimately about life and its possibilities. … Here is what erasure becomes in the capable hands of one our very best poets, a poet descended from the formerly enslaved, from so many erased from history.”
  • Legacies links for September 7, 2023: Black breastfeeding, Black colleges, Black medicine

    We’re back after the holiday weekend! As always, the editorial team at the Legacies blog encourages you to share this post with friends, students, colleagues, etc. A link does not imply agreement or endorsement by the Council of Independent Colleges.

    A. D. Jaynes, “Full-length portrait of an African American woman seated holding an African American infant” (c. 1860s). source: The Library of Congress

    Update from the Council of Independent Colleges:

    • “CIC Helps Member Institutions Reckon with the Legacies of Slavery,” Independent (Summer 2023): LINK. A report from the CIC newsletter on two summer programs offered as part of the Legacies of American Slavery initiative: a seminar for faculty members and a public history institute for teams that included college and community representatives.

    The rest of this week’s links:

    • Leia Belt and Jill Inderstrodt, “It’s possible to change low rates of Black breastfeeding, but it starts with acknowledging the legacy of slavery,” The Boston Globe (August 30, 2023): LINK. Racial disparities are everywhere in neonatal health: for example, just 74% of Black babies are breastfed at some point vs. 86% of white babies. The authors argue that Black breastfeeding narratives—with deep roots in the legacy of slavery—have to change before breastfeeding rates can be improved.
    • Saida Grundy, “Since their foundings, HBCUs have been a white supremacist target,” The Guardian (September 2, 2023): LINK. A reflection on the recent shooting in Jacksonville, Florida, where a racist shooter tried (but failed) to target CIC member Edward Waters University before killing three people at a Dollar General. The author notes that HBCUs have long been a symbol of Black excellence and progress—and thus a target for white supremacists who seek to disrupt and undermine progress.
    • Michael Brice-Saddler, “Georgetown sold their ancestors. They just had a historic family reunion,” The Washington Post (September 3, 2023): LINK. The Southern Maryland Descendant Gatherings Committee received $400,000 from Georgetown University this year for genealogical and community-building projects, including a group visit over Labor Day weekend to some of the Maryland plantations where their ancestors toiled.
    • Elise A. Mitchell, “How Far Back Were Africans Inoculating Against Smallpox? Really Far Back.” Slate (September 4, 2023): LINK. A historian details the practices that enslaved Africans used to combat smallpox in the Americas. Although an Englishman created the first modern vaccine for the disease in the 1790s, inoculation was a crucial part of non-Western medical practices long before then.
    • Steve Lohr, “Occupational Segregation Drives Persistent Inequality, Study Says,” New York Times (September 4, 2023): LINK. “[T]he dearth of Black students in majors that lead to higher pay in careers like technology or finance, the researchers say, is a legacy of racism.”
    • Lamaur Stancil, “Ancestral sins of slavery set aside for collaboration for Brattonsville descendants,” The Post and Courier (September 3, 2023): LINK. Historic Brattonsville in York County, S.C., hosts an annual “By the Sweat of our Brows” event, “reflecting on the property’s historic engagement into slavery while connecting descendants from both sides of it.” Faculty and students from CIC member Winthrop University have engaged in interpretive work at the historic site.
    • Lucy Duncan, “Reparations is a commitment to spiritual transformation,” Philadelphia Inquirer (August 31, 2023): LINK. Earlier this year, Philadelphia’s city council unanimously passed a resolution to create a reparations task force. For almost two years, a “Rise up for Reparations” campaign in the City of Brotherly Love has engaged 100 majority-white congregations in “deep reparations,” blending faith with spiritual community uplift.
    • Katy Roberts, “What my 1960s U.S. history class taught me about slavery—and life,” Washington Post (August 27, 2023): LINK. A Southern white woman considers the surprisingly progressive history she learned in the 1960s. “If [today’s] parents want to protect young minds 24 hours a day, shielding them from ‘divisive concepts’ or from ‘feeling guilty’ about dark chapters in the nation’s past, they are showing a lack of trust in their children’s ability to figure out how to live in a complicated world.”
  • The Legacies blog is taking a break for Labor Day, but here are some stirring words for the day from artist and activist Paul Robeson:

    Portrait of Paul Robseon
    Paul Robeson (1898–1976). source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.

    [W]ho built this great land of ours?
    Who have been the guarantors of our historic democratic tradition of freedom and equality? Whose labor and whose life has produced the great cities, the industrial machine, the basic culture and the creature comforts of which … [American] spokesmen so proudly boast?
    It is well to remember that the America which we know has risen out of the toil of the many millions who have come here seeking freedom from all parts of the world:
    The Irish and Scotch indentured servants who cleared the forests, built the colonial homesteads and were part of the productive backbone of our early days.
    The millions of German immigrants … millions more from Eastern Europe … the brave Jewish people from all parts of Europe … the workers from Mexico and from the East….
    And, through it all, from the earliest days—before Columbus—the Negro people, upon whose unpaid toil as slaves the basic wealth of this nation was built!
    These are the forces that have made America great and preserved our democratic heritage.

    Excerpt from “Forge Negro-Labor Unity for Peace and Jobs,” a speech that Robeson delivered at the National Labor Conference for Negro Rights in Chicago in 1950. You can also listen to Robeson singing the international labor anthem “Joe Hill”:

  • Map Showing the Distribution of the Population of Enslaved People in Texas, 1860. Source: Lost Texas Roads

    Guest contributor: Claire Wolnisty*

    This summer, scholars from six Texas institutions of higher education—Austin College, Baylor University, Texas Christian University, Texas A&M at Prairie View, Texas Southern University, and St. Edward’s University—participated in Austin College’s third annual syllabus workshop series devoted to teaching about slavery. The workshops are supported by CIC’s Legacies of American Slavery initiative (Austin College is a Regional Collaboration Partner and the other institutions in bold are all CIC members). An interdisciplinary group of scholars—including political scientists, an archivist, historians, an environmental scientist, core curriculum developers, and English instructors—developed resources and syllabi that highlight the legacies of slavery in our state, through courses such as “Environmental Justice,” “Race, Ethnicity, and Politics,” and “American Literature.” The workshop was created to facilitate graduate and undergraduate course design, rooted in placed-based learning, and to create an interdisciplinary and inter-institutional space for college instructors to establish lasting collaborations.

    The workshop included a walking tour of sites in the city of Sherman, Austin College’s home in north Texas, which emphasized the centrality of local histories in teaching the legacies of slavery. Dr. Felix Harcourt’s tour highlighted local historical events, such as the 1930 lynching of a Black farm laborer, George Hughes, and the work of civil rights lawyer, William J. Durham. The tour also acknowledged the ways in which some community stakeholders have consciously obscured these aspects of the town’s history while others have led efforts to commemorate these stories. By engaging with Sherman’s localized histories of racial violence and resistance (Austin College’s thematic focus as part of the CIC Legacies network), the workshop invited participants to consider how local histories, and local treatments of those histories, could inform teaching and student learning in the communities surrounding their home institutions in Texas in places such as Waco and Austin.

    Austin College’s summer syllabus workshop was an opportunity for participants to share teaching resources. Through conversations that took place over the two days of the workshop, we shared with each other library guides for slavery in Texas, oral history resources such as the Texas Oral History Association’s annual conference, GIS resources such as ArcGIS StoryMaps, articles, class assignments, primary source collections, recent and forthcoming books, as well as the contact information of scholars working on similar topics.

    The syllabus workshop took place against the backdrop of movements to limit what Texas public school students can learn about their state’s history. At Austin College, we hope that the workshop’s collaborative conversations proved especially generative for participants and can serve as a model for ongoing efforts to reckon meaningfully with local histories of racial violence and resistance, here in Texas and beyond.

    * Claire Wolnisty is associate professor of history at Austin College in Sherman, Texas. Austin College is a Regional Collaboration Partner in the CIC Legacies of Slavery network. To learn more about the college’s work, read “Resistance is not Futile” in the latest issue of Austin College Magazine. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the college, the Council of Independent Colleges, or the Mellon Foundation. Note: This post was revised on September 1, 2023.

  • Legacies links for August 28, 2023: MLK’s Dream at 60 (and counting)

    As always, we encourage you to share this post with friends, students, colleagues, etc. A link does not imply agreement or endorsement by the Council of Independent Colleges.

    Peaceful protesters with signs from the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
    Today is the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, August 28, 1963. source: Library of Congress
    • “Threats to Racial Justice Persist Six Decades After the March on Washington,” Equal Justice Initiative (August 28, 2023): LINK. “Today, the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington, is an occasion to reflect on the widespread and often violent opposition to racial equality and civil rights that surrounded that landmark event and to recognize the parallels that persist today.”
    • David Crary, “From MLK to today, the March on Washington highlights the evolution of activism by Black churches,” Associated Press (August 22, 2023): LINK. This article reviews the long history of social activism and conservative impulses in the Black Church.
    • Ben Railton, “Considering History: Black-Owned Businesses Reflect the Best of American History,” Saturday Evening Post (August 22, 2023): LINK. August is Black Business Month, an opportunity to remember individual entrepreneurs and community support for Black-owned businesses from the 1790s to today.
    • Kayla Berkey, “Michigan church releases $170,000 as faith-based reparations,” United Church of Christ News (August 22, 2023): LINK. A local congregation was inspired by “the history of racial injustice in their community”—including restrictive covenants on many homes in East Lansing, MI—and “the responsibility to offer faith-based reparations.”
    • “Two Histories, One Future: The Legacy of Confederate Memorials and the Promise of Public Spaces,” PRRI (August 22, 2023): LINK. A report from the Public Religion Research Institute, based on extensive surveys and focus groups with Black and white Americans across the South, explores public attitudes towards the legacy and future of Confederate memorials in public spaces. (Not surprisingly, attitudes differ by race.)
    • Hannah Schoenbaum, “North Carolina unveils its first park honoring African American history,” AP via WSOC-TV (August 23, 2023): LINK. “North Carolina state officials joined historians and Black community leaders Wednesday under a sprawling oak tree in the heart of downtown Raleigh for the long-anticipated unveiling of the state’s first park honoring the African American struggle for freedom.”
    • Jay Caspian Kang, “The Fantasy of Integration in Shaker Heights, Ohio,” New Yorker (August 24, 2023): LINK (free account may be required for access). “Can the good intentions of affluent liberals create integrated and equitable communities? This is the implied question that underlies so much of the current discourse on race and education.” It is also the topic of a new book about imperfect school integration in one Cleveland suburb.
    • Jessica Washington, “Meet the Black Woman Abolitionist Whose Name is Replacing a White Slaveowner’s in a Town Square,” The Root (August 25, 2023): LINK. In Savannah, Georgia, Susie King Taylor—abolitionist, teacher, Civil War nurse, freedwoman—will replace John C. Calhoun.
    • “109-Year-Old Tulsa Massacre Survivor Shares Slavery Legacy at UN,” UN News (August 26, 2023): LINK. Viola Fletcher, a Tulsa Massacre survivor, visited the UN Headquarters to commemorate UNESCO’s International Day of Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition. Fletcher discussed the legacy of slavery and the possibility of reparations while giving a first-person account of her violent displacement in 1921.
  • Black woman in a group of protesters, holding up a sign that reads "Racism is a Public Health Crisis."
    Source: Faith Eselé, courtesy of Unsplash.

    Guest contributor: Chris Ciocchetti*

    Teaching about race and medicine can be lonely. 

    When I created my course in bioethics at Centenary College over ten years ago, I knew more about what I didn’t want to do than what I wanted to do: I wanted to talk about race and medicine; I didn’t want to tack on a section about race after the “main work.” I believed that students most needed to see how race pervades the decisions made by patients, providers, and administrators in our healthcare system. I wanted them to ask the question habitually, “How is race affecting this situation?” 

    Without external training, I relied on several approaches that have grown popular in the last decade. I took students to the Martin Luther King Health Center and Pharmacy for some place-based learning. In class, they were assigned roles at a fictional clinic and asked to decide how to address AIDS and HIV in the community. This made them into active learners and required them to synthesize what we had learned. Meanwhile, the national discussion about how we teach race in schools was undergoing a dramatic transformation. 

    Needless to say, it was a lot to process (for me and my students), and I often second-guessed my teaching choices. Students are passionate, so I’ve had to learn to help them manage their passionate ideas and combine passion with critical discussions and problem-solving. As teachers, we never want to push students into resignation and indifference about the problems that matter to their communities. 

    Today, I host a Race and Medicine Teaching Circle for colleagues at Centenary College and other colleges in the region and beyond. On the third Friday of each month, colleagues from around the country helped each other rejuvenate our collective work. Among many things we discuss together are issues of practical pedagogy. We started the conversation about creating a welcoming classroom by critiquing an article from the National Education Association (NEA), “10 Principles for Talking About Race in School.” We discussed when and how to bring our personal experiences into the conversation. (The answers will be different for everyone, but it helped to hear how others used personal disclosure and when they found that it distracted from the lesson.) We share articles that we’ve used in our courses, including essays about epistemic injustice, systemic racism, and racism in earlier pandemics. We share teaching materials, assignments, and ideas to frame the issues for students—but most important, we support each other as we find ways to improve.

    One important discussion was about avoiding “elite capture,” a process that philosopher Olúfẹ́mi Táíwò defines as the moment when “political projects can be hijacked in principle or in effect by the well positioned and resourced, while the fundamental structure of the social order—and its attendant inequalities—remains unchanged.” This discussion left us with more questions than answers, but it helped to know others struggled with the same issue. 

    In the Teaching Circle, we concluded the 2022-2023 academic year with a challenging topic that was meaningful to all of us: how to obtain and maintain support for teaching about race from your department and institution. I have realized that I’m not alone in this challenge—colleagues from across the Teaching Circle network are all struggling to receive more permanent support for our work while working to retain the critical edge necessary to address the legacies of slavery as it pertains to race, health, and medicine. 

    Academic communities often think that teaching about race should be done only after the “real work” is finished. But at least once per month, I have enjoyed talking with a group of people who don’t see it that way. Perhaps more than anything, the Teaching Circle gives me hope for what a passionate community of scholars and practitioners can achieve across the country. 

    Chris Ciocchetti is Beaird Chair of Philosophy at Centenary College of Louisiana in Shreveport, LA. Centenary is a Regional Collaboration Partner of the CIC Legacies of Slavery network. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the college or CIC.

    The Race and Medicine Teaching Circle is committed to meeting again throughout the 2023-2024 academic year. Instructors from other CIC member colleges and universities are warmly invited to join the Teaching Circle if they want to learn more about race and medicine or want to explore new ways to teach about the multiple legacies of American slavery. The first meeting of the Teaching Circle this year will be on September 15, 2023, at 3:00 p.m. CST. Please email Chris Ciocchetti at cciocchetti@centenary.edu for further details or with any questions about this initiative. 

    Recommended Readings from the Teaching Circle

    Descriptions added by the Legacies of Slavery editorial team.

    Joe R. Feagin and Zinobia Bennefield, “Systemic Racism and U.S. Healthcare,” Social Science & Medicine 103 (2014): 7-14. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2013.09.006

    Using systemic racism theory to examine contemporary research about health disparities, Feagin and Bennefield call for a radical restructuring of the healthcare system in order to address issues of racially exploitative medical and public health practices informed by “institutionalized white socioeconomic resources, discrimination, and racialized framing from centuries of slavery, segregation, and contemporary white oppression.”

    Vanessa Northington Gamble, “‘There wasn’t a lot of comforts in those days’: African Americans, Public Health, and the 1918 Influenza Epidemic,” Public Health Reports 125, suppl. 3 (2010): 113–122. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/00333549101250s314

    Gamble offers a brief history of African American health since emancipation, situating health disparities within the contexts of racist medical and scientific theories, political disempowerment, and segregated healthcare systems. Turning to the era of the Spanish Flu, she notes that “Contradicting prevailing theories about African Americans’ increased susceptibility to disease, it appears that during the 1918 epidemic the incidence of influenza was lower in … African American communities, [but] it still overwhelmed their medical and public health resources.”

    Nancy K. Bristow, “‘It’s as Bad as Anything Can Be’: Patients, Identity, and the Influenza Pandemic,” Public Health Reports 125, suppl. 3. (2010): 134–144. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/00333549101250S316

    Bristow uses primary sources to offer a people’s history of the pandemic, focusing on the intersections of gender, race, and culture that made it easier for an unprecedented disease to overrun both the public and private healthcare systems. She also argues—with prescience, in light of the COVID pandemic—that “Americans can learn from [the 1918 pandemic influenza], guarding against identity-based discrimination and acknowledging … the grief and loss fellow citizens suffered.”

    Ian James Kidd and Havi Carel, “Epistemic Injustice and Illness,” Journal of Applied Philosophy 34, no. 2 (2017): 172-190. https://doi.org/10.1111/japp.12172

    This article examines structural inequalities in the American healthcare system through the philosophical lens of epistemic injustice, “[identifying] negative stereotypes and structural features of modern healthcare practices that generate them.” The authors also suggest possible solutions to health disparities by race—starting with a recognition of the problem and a critical analysis of stereotypes and ending with a total reformation of contemporary healthcare.

  • Legacies links for August 21, 2023: Black property rights, an unmarked grave, and Confederate monuments

    As always, we encourage you to share this post with friends, students, colleagues, etc. A link does not imply agreement or endorsement by the Council of Independent Colleges.

    In 1957, the Little Rock Nine heroically challenged racial segregation in the public schools of Little Rock and beyond. They were commemorated in a 2005 postage stamp featuring a painting by African American artist George Hunt. source: National Postal Museum. Copyright United States Postal Service. All rights reserved.
    • Adolph Reed, Jr., “The Uses of Affirmative Action,” The Nation (August 9, 2023): LINK. “What does the US Supreme Court’s ruling against affirmative action in college admissions have in common with proposals for eliminating the ‘racial wealth gap’?” According to Reed, a progressive social scientists and journalist, “Neither will have any impact whatsoever on the lives and material circumstances of the vast majority of Black Americans.”
    • Alexa Spencer, “For Black Folks, Medical Mistreatment Starts Young,” Word in Black (August 9, 2023): LINK. A new study from the Urban Institute confirms that “Black children and their parents are more likely than others to face unfair treatment in medical settings.”
    • James Pollard, “Developers have Black families fighting to maintain property and history,” Associated Press via ABC News (August 12, 2023): LINK. “All along the South Carolina coast, developers of new homes and vacation getaways are targeting properties owned by the descendants of enslaved people.”
    • “Henry Brown’s marker reminds us of slavery’s evils,” Times Leader (August 15, 2023): LINK. Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, just dedicated a marker on the previously unmarked grave of Henry Brown, a Black freeman who served as an Underground Railroad “conductor.” This editorial from the local newspaper calls the marker “a reminder of how revisionist history downplaying the evils of slavery can darken our future.”  
    • Calvin Schermerhorn, “What Florida gets wrong about George Washington and the benefits he received from enslaving Black people,” The Conversation (August 17, 2023): LINK. “Despite the existence of voluminous public records that reveal Washington’s treatment of [a Black man named] Morris and other human property he owned, Florida officials want public school educators to instead emphasize Washington’s efforts to abolish slavery.”
    • Abinahav S. Krishnan, “How GOP lawmakers are pushing for Confederate monuments to be (legally) set in stone,” USA Today, (August 17, 2023): LINK. “Arkansas is one of many Southern states that have passed historic preservation laws to strip local leaders of the power to take down Confederate monuments in their communities. Bills in former Confederate states such as Texas and Florida were introduced in Republican-controlled legislatures this year. Now, similar bills are appearing in states that were not part of the Confederacy, including New York and Pennsylvania.”
    • Bracey Harris, “They integrated Little Rock’s schools—now they’re slamming restrictions on AP African American Studies,” NBC News (August 18, 2023): LINK. “Several surviving members of the Little Rock Nine, a group of students who in 1957 integrated Little Rock Central High School under threats of violence from white segregationists, are denouncing the Arkansas Department of Education’s restrictions on an Advanced Placement African American Studies course.” (Last week, Arkansas officials said that the AP course wouldn’t count for credit toward high school graduation in the state because it’s still a pilot … oh, and because it promotes “indoctrination.”)
    • “Project seeks to name the 10 million people enslaved before the Civil War,” WGBH (August 18, 2023): LINK. “A new collaborative project called 10 Million Names, spearheaded by the New England Historic Genealogical Society and American Ancestors, is seeking to identify and name each individual enslaved before the U.S. Civil War.” An interview with the lead historian of this project from NPR’s “All Things Considered.”