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In February of 2018, 17 people were killed in a shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Though not the first mass shooting of its kind, this tragic event, some say, represents a turning point the country’s tolerance for gun violence in schools. Since Parkland, student-led protests have risen up nationwide demanding a change to gun laws in America. This NPR story, told from a student’s perspective, reflects on the impact of school shootings. In particular, it focuses on the impact shootings have on students’ lives and how they shatter the notion of school as a safe haven.
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Angie Thomas’ novel, "The Hate U Give", tells the story of Starr, a young woman of color, who turns toward activism after witnessing the murder of her friend Khalil by a police officer when she is 16 years old. The novel is closely modeled after Thomas’ experiences as a student, and on the stories of several of the young men who have been victims of racialized police violence in recent years. In this audio story, the author talks about what inspired her to write this groundbreaking novel.
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James Baldwin’s legacy and words are still very much alive and relevant today. A 2017 Oscar-nominated documentary was inspired by Baldwin’s writing on race, class, and the Civil Rights era in America. The documentary, called "I Am Not Your Negro," examines the lives and work of three Civil Rights leaders: Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X. At the same time, it urges audiences to consider how racial tensions and attitudes continue to influence our culture today. Listen to hear more about how James Baldwin and this documentary challenge us to work toward positive change in our communities.
Current Event January 11, 2017
There are parallels between the race struggles of Martin Luther King half a century ago and the Black Lives Matter movement of today. This story tells of how attention is being brought to the disparities between races in the United States, and how the message has changed from an aspirational tone to a commitment to truth-telling. Protesters in both struggles were working to transform America and focus on respect. Listen to hear more about civil rights activism in this interview recorded on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
Current Event December 14, 2016
The alt-right movement, which has been associated with white nationalism, is receiving more attention since the U.S. Presidential election. There is a debate about the best term to describe this movement. Richard Spencer, who coined the term “alt-right” states that this is a movement of consciousness and identity for European people in the 21st century. Leaders of this movement reject the suggestion that the movement is either racist or white supremacist, although Spencer ended a speech with “Hail, Trump!” while supporters made the Nazi salute. Listen to hear more about this group and the debate around it.
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Toni Morrison is an American novelist who is best known for her novels exploring the experiences of African Americans. When she won the Nobel Prize for Literature in in 1993 she said at the ceremony that she is “pleasantly haunted by ghosts.” In this interview with Morrison she explores how ghosts are a part of some of her writing. The novel “Beloved” has a ghost as a central character in a story about two slaves who fell in love. The novel “Jazz” recalls Harlem in the 1920’s and explores the themes of purgatory and Jazz music. Listen to this story to learn what sparks Morrison’s creativity.
Current Event April 25, 2016
The $5, $10, and $20 bill are all due for an update, and there has been a big push to honor a woman on the face of U.S. currency. Escaped slave Harriet Tubman will replace Andrew Jackson on the face of the $20 bill. Jackson will be moved to the back of the bill. The change came after the US Treasury Secretary invited the public to submit their own ideas of which female from US history should be featured. Tubman not only escaped slavery but created the Underground Railroad through connections and networks, bringing people together to reach a goal. Listen to learn more about the changes in store for U.S. currency.
Current Event November 10, 2015
This story is about astronaut Ronald McNair, as told by his brother Carl. They grew up in racially-segregated South Carolina. Carl tells about when Ron came up against segregation laws that he didn’t understand as a child and how that shaped his life as a young African-American in the rural south. But his life ended tragically. Listen to this story of Ronald McNair’s journey.
Current Event September 3, 2015
The phrase “hands up, don’t shoot” has become a rallying cry and trending hashtag across the country. The expression, “to throw your hands up,” can indicate hopelessness or that something is too difficult to continue, which resonates with how helpless some feel after the many incidents of shootings of black men by police. “Hands up, don’t shoot” is used to protest police abuses and started after the death of Michael Brown, who was fatally shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri last August. Some officers say this chant makes teens more emboldened and non-compliant with the police, along with being a questionable retelling of the events of Michael Brown’s death. Listen to hear how this chant is seen in different ways to different people.
Current Event September 2, 2015
Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. gave a famous speech at the March on Washington in 1963 known as the "I Have A Dream" speech. The year before, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave a speech in Rocky Mount, N.C that anticipated the famous speech. A recording of the first known version of the "I Have A Dream" speech was recently discovered by a professor at North Carolina State. Listen to hear about this speech and the memories of someone who heard it first as a high school student in 1962.
Current Event July 1, 2015
On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court expanded the right to marry to same-sex couples in the United States. The Court ruled that gay marriage is a right protected by the 14th amendment and that all states must allow same-sex couples to wed. This 5-4 decision overrides state laws and state constitutional amendments that forbid same-sex marriage. Many groups are celebrating the decision saying that this is a civil rights case that will one day be celebrated like the landmark integration case, Brown vs. Board of Education. Others who oppose same-sex marriage vow to fight the decision saying the court doesn’t have the right to override public opinion and states’ rights to define marriage. Listen to learn more about this historic decision. You can see how this decision will impact different states with this NPR Map and read the decision for yourself.
Current Event June 21, 2015
The NAACP is a national civil rights organization that represents and works to serve the African American community. It was recently discovered that an NAACP leader from Spokane Washington lied and misrepresented her race. Rachel Dolezal was born to two white parents but identifies as black and has falsely claimed African American and Native American heritage. This falsehood had prompted a larger conversation about about racial boundaries and how they are observed.
Current Event April 16, 2015
In most states when students miss or skip school their parents are called or the school intervenes. In Texas, students who have repeated absences are sent to court. Dallas County has an automated process that sends students to be tried in adult court after just three unexcused absences. The Department of Justice has been called in to investigate if the school system is violating the civil rights of students with the practice. Last year 20,000 truant students in Dallas County went to court. Listen to learn how this system works and how some students and communities are disproportionately affected.
Current Event April 3, 2015
Basketball fans across the country are preparing for the exciting end of March Madness, the NCAA basketball tournament. As Kentucky drives towards a undefeated season, this story remembers a time when the Southeastern Conference (SEC) was not integrated. Despite the Voting Rights Act of 1964, racism in the South was still commonplace and public. Perry Wallace stepped onto the basketball court for Vanderbilt University in 1966 and became the first black varsity athlete in the Southeastern Conference. Listen to learn more about the climate of Southern basketball in the late 1960s and how Perry Wallace survived and thrived.
Warning: Quotes in this story contain strong language.
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The novel "To Kill a Mockingbird" was written more than 50 years ago and yet its themes of racism and civil rights remain relevant today. In this story author James McBride who wrote “The Color of Water” explains why the book inspired generations of American writers.
Update: In July 2015, a newly discovered novel written by Harper Lee in the 1950s, "Go Set a Watchman," will be published. Lee submitted this to her publishers before "How to Kill a Mockingbird" and the script was assumed to be lost until late 2014.
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Maya Angelou was an author, poet and icon. She grew up during segregation and used her work to empower and give voice to the African American community. Her memoir, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" changed the literary world and opened doors for African American authors and women.