Current Event December 15, 2020
The state of Rhode Island is getting a name change. From its founding in 1643, the state’s official name has been Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. Recently, though, voters elected to remove “and Providence Plantations.” The word “plantation” is commonly associated with large farms in the South worked by enslaved people before the Civil War, and the reference in the state’s name offended many people. Listen to learn more about the significance of the word “plantation,” and hear an indigenous resident explain what the name change means to her.
Current Event August 28, 2020
Statues of Confederate leaders, long considered offensive by many, have been removed in states around the country. Now, protesters are calling for the dismantling of statues with more complex backgrounds. These statues depict historical figures respected for their significant contributions to the advancement of America’s democratic ideals, but whose personal stories include ownership of enslaved people or other examples of complicity with systemic racism. Listen to a Civil War historian caution against extreme responses to monuments and then debate: Should statues of historic figures with complex legacies be removed?
Current Event July 29, 2020
The Emancipation Memorial in Washington, DC, was created in 1876 to commemorate the freeing of enslaved people. It depicts a newly freed slave kneeling at the feet of Abraham Lincoln. Now, as Confederate statues and other symbols of racism are being dismantled around the country, some people are calling for this statue’s removal, too. They view the statue as a representation of oppression, while others see it as an image of liberation. Listen to learn more about the history of the Emancipation Memorial and the controversy surrounding it and hear black citizens from different generations express their views.
Current Event December 16, 2019
The first shipload of enslaved people reached the American colonies four hundred years ago, in 1619. Although the event marked the beginning of a system that profoundly shaped American life, the date is likely unfamiliar to most people. The 1619 Project aims to change that by exploring how the legacy of slavery still impacts our country today. Listen to hear the journalist behind the project reveal truths about slavery that schools often do not teach and why the project has personal meaning for her.
Current Event December 10, 2019
In 1811, hundreds of slaves in Louisiana took up arms and marched to New Orleans in the largest slave revolt in U.S. history. The event inspired current day artist Dread Scott (named after the famous slave who petitioned the court for his freedom in 1857) to organize a reenactment of the march with a new ending. Scott’s rebels end up victorious, unlike the originals, and his event celebrates the slaves’ heroism as well as the culture of New Orleans. Listen to hear an artist describe the inspiration for his reenactment and why he chose a positive focus for the event.
Current Event December 3, 2019
A filmmaker has brought an American heroine to life. The movie Harriet tells the story of Harriet Tubman, an escaped slave who risked her life many times to lead hundreds of her fellow slaves to freedom. The filmmaker wanted to show Tubman’s superhero qualities, along with her humanity, to make a legendary historical figure seem more real. Listen to hear the filmmaker explain why she was drawn to Harriet Tubman and how a hero from the 1800s can still inspire us today.
Current Event October 11, 2019
Congress is debating whether and how to compensate the descendants of African-American slaves. Some argue that reparations, which means money paid to those who have been wronged, would fairly compensate African-Americans for the crimes committed against their ancestors. Others believe that the past is past, and that today’s citizens should not be required to pay for actions that did not involve them. Listen to hear a congressional representative explain how the legacy of slavery continues to impact black communities today and how the government might invest in addressing ongoing issues, and then debate: Should Congress consider reparations for slavery?
Charles Johnson’s book Middle Passage is considered a modern classic, in part because so much of the story told in the novel is seen as a reflection on the history of race and what it means to be black in America. In the book, the main character, Rutherford Calhoun, a free black man, unknowingly boards a ship that’s part of the illegal slave trade. His experience on board forces him to clarify his own racial identity. In this audio story, we hear different perspectives, including the author’s, on the story the book tells and its important and relevant themes.
Current Event October 16, 2018
Originally organized by the Jefferson estate and the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture, an exhibit called “Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello” has been expanded to include recently discovered items associated with Sally Hemings. Hemings was an enslaved woman owned by Thomas Jefferson and also the mother of several of his children. Listen to hear one of their descendants, who now works at Monticello, reflect on the complexity of American history as represented in the exhibit.