Equality, identity and hope help shape the Black American experience For some, the shooting of Jacob Blake and the recent killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor among many more have become a rallying cry for change igniting a wave of protests around the world For others, the protests are a reminder of the changing face of America In this program, we’ll share some of our nation’s often untold history of racial injustice and inequality, and how that history shapes our identities, perceptions and worldview Joining this discussion, a reputable panel of historians and activists will explore how the past connects to today and how what we do now will impact future generations From Comcast Newsmakers and Voices of the Civil Rights Movement, This is Equality, Identity and Hope: Race in America Hello, I’m Tetiana Anderson 2020 has seen civil unrest that echoes the protests of the 1950s and ’60s as Black Americans and allies of all races take a stand against institutional racism And today we’ll explore the origins of racial discrimination in America and how centuries of inequality impacts our society, our relationships and our identities as Americans My guests, Robby Luckett, civil rights historian and Director of the Margaret Walker Center at Jackson State, a historically Black university Educator, activist and community organizer Zellie Imani He is the co-founder of the Black Liberation Collective It’s a cooperative of Black students dedicated to transforming institutions of higher education through unity, coalition building, direct action and political education And finally, we have Ken Morris Jr He is the great-great-great-grandson of Frederick Douglass and the great-great-grandson of Booker T. Washington Ken is carrying on the work of his ancestors as the President of the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives It’s a non-profit he co-founded with his mother, Nettie Washington Douglass And for our viewers, please be sure to join the conversation We will be responding to questions and comments via our live chat I would like to start this discussion, though, with a quote from a recently departed civil rights icon Representative John Lewis He said, “The scars and stains of racism are deeply embedded in the American society.” And gentlemen, I would love to start off getting your take on what you think of that quote Zellie, why don’t you lead off for us? I think it’s an amazing quote and is reflective of the reality of the country that we live in and the history of the country that we live in For so often people believe that racism is a thing of the past and that we have moved on from this idea or the violence or racism But racism rears its ugly head in so many different ways Ken, will you give your thoughts? Yeah, I would just pick up where Zellie left off that we don’t understand the true history in this country And the true history has not been told We’ve received a whitewashed and sanitized version of history where people of Native American descent and people of African descent have been put in inferior positions to prop up and uphold white supremacy And so when you consider the history of racism in this country from its founding up until today, racism is systemic and it’s embedded in every institution in American life I would agree completely with my esteemed colleagues here And it does, as Ken just said, point to the, really, the systemic nature of white supremacy and racism throughout American history Also in John Lewis’ last essay on the New York Times, he said that Emmett Till was his George Floyd And when we understand our history and know our history, we start seeing that through line and we pick it up, really, from the beginning, right? And I would argue even before the beginning and the founding of this nation Let’s go back all the way to 1619, and the arrival of the first enslaved people on the shores of Jamestown There’s always been a movement, an activist movement and oppression that is meant to build up and sustain white supremacy and white power throughout our history And Robby, I’m actually glad you mentioned 1619, because in order for us to figure out how we got to where we are, it’s really important to take a look back And I wanted to give all of you some time to sort of connect the dots for us, for our viewers and a good place to start is slavery So Ken, I wanna kick that to you 1619, the system of slavery started, but what did it mean to be a slave? What did that look like? What did that feel like? Well, I can speak from my ancestors and they were both,

Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington were born into slavery and they were born into the most horrific conditions that a human being could be subjected to And if you read Frederick Douglass’ first autobiography, “The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave,” he talks about the brutality that he witnessed, the brutality, inhumanity that he endured and survived And the same thing with Booker T. Washington, his autobiography “Up from Slavery.” Frederick Douglass was enslaved for the first 20 years of his life Booker T. Washington benefited from the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation and he was freed when he was 9 years old And so when you consider in 1865, when the last of 4 million plus enslaved people were free, there was no plan for emancipation, there was no counseling, there was no post-traumatic stress disorder designation They were really just left to fend for themselves And so when you consider the history of slavery starting from 1619 on, we’re talking about hundreds of years of oppression and racial terror And Robby, I wanna speak to the point of this was really the driver of economic growth in the United States – slavery Can you describe, briefly, that reliance for us? Sure, so, one of the things that we really need to be aware of in terms of kind of the founding of American history is how central slavery was to the power of the founding fathers Of course, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, all slaveholders whose economic, political, social power was built upon the backs of the men and women they enslaved through a system of total brutality And that economic system, whereas we often think of slavery in the context of the American South, it was an American story and not just a Southern story And it was a system of power and an economic system that benefited the most powerful throughout America and not just in the American South And it was a story that was done with the complicity of this entire nation in terms of what it meant to support the power system and to lay the foundation for what is the white supremacist narrative throughout American history And Zellie, I wanna kick that over to you because I wanna better understand how that system of power really perpetuated what many of us today might call systemic racism Right, during the protests that have occurred for the past few years during the Black Lives Matter movement, we hear a lot of criticisms We had a lot of people talking about they condemned the looting And when I hear things like that, I have to laugh a lot because America was the original looter They looted the land of indigenous people They looted Black bodies. They looted the labor of workers They are essentially the original looters So if you wanna talk about the greatest looting that ever took place, we have to not point fingers at Black Lives Matter activists or activists in the movement, but point the finger at ourselves, as the American nation And it’s that looting that is systemic, that looting that has been legalized It’s the real crime of the century And these are the type of conversations that we need to start having in our communities, in our dialogues about what really created this system and what the system really is So you’re making the exact point that we wanna make here today, which is understanding the past, helps us understand where we are as a nation now, but I wanna go back to slavery for just a minute and Ken, I wanna turn to you 250 years out of slavery, we have this system of chattel that sort of becomes a system of freedom Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, we know led to the 13th Amendment, which freed the slaves But Ken, why wasn’t it enough for Lincoln just to emancipate the slaves? Why did he make such a point to push this towards a change in the Constitution? What was going on at the time? When President Lincoln announced on September 1, 1862, that he would sign this document, 100 days later, January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation That document only freed those that were enslaved in the States that were in rebellion to the Union And so you really had two questions The first was you had people, white abolitionists, that believed that slavery was morally wrong, but many of those same abolitionists did not believe that people, Black people, were equal to white people So that was the second question So you have that exception clause in the 13th Amendment,

which states that if you commit a crime, then you can be arrested and reenslaved And so now we move into the years of Reconstruction and this a whole new system of slavery that is put in place And building on what Ken was saying about the significance of the 13th Amendment, you had to have the 13th Amendment because the Emancipation Proclamation did not free any slaves, not only pertained just to slaves in the states in rebellion It did not pertain to slaves in states that had not succeeded So border states that were still in the Union, that had slavery, like Kentucky, the Emancipation Proclamation didn’t impact any of the enslaved people there But I do think that it’s a bit of a misconception And one of the ways that American history has been poorly taught to assume that the 13th Amendment was really responsible for freeing anyone who was enslaved Because I would argue that enslaved people freed themselves, they fought for their own freedom And in a place like Mississippi, where African Americans were the majority of the population, from enslavement all the way up through World War II they’re gonna fight for their own freedom They’re going to be tens of thousands of U.S. colored troops who are gonna take up arms, former slaves from Mississippi and from the other southern states, were gonna take up arms to demand their own freedom Not only that, but the hundreds of thousands of enslaved people who run to flee due to the Civil War and due to the dislocations of the war that enabled them to get away And they are immediately going to be claiming their own freedom African Americans are gonna do remarkable things that are gonna blow the mythology of slavery out of the water There’s this idea, somehow, in white supremacy, during that era, that enslavement was the only proper condition for people of African descent That being slaves was the only thing they could ever aspire to But in reality, and then what they showed as they are freeing themselves and claiming their own freedom, they’re doing things like building communities, reestablishing families, creating businesses, they’re building churches and schools, they’re running for political office In Mississippi, during Reconstruction, we’re gonna have two Black United States Senators, Hiram Revels and Blanche K. Bruce And if you consider the fact that when Barack Obama was elected to the United States Senate, he was only the fifth Black U.S. Senator in American history, he was number five We had two from Mississippi in the immediate aftermath of the American Civil War It’s the end of the Civil War, the 13th Amendment, a lot of it really good news But at the same time, a little bit of a step forwards with the 13th Amendment and a little bit of a step back because the equality and rights weren’t necessarily the same thing at that time in practice And that’s where we do get some of those insidious restrictions that were being placed on the newly freed Black people during the era of Reconstruction And to that point, Robby, can you give us sort of a quick overview of these Black Codes, of the Mississippi Plan, of Jim Crow, what were those restrictions? Sure, and Mississippi’s gonna play and white Mississippi, white supremacists in Mississippi are gonna play a key role in crafting the system of Jim Crow The 15th Amendment is often considered as granting African Americans the right to vote But in fact, the 15th Amendment doesn’t give anyone the right to vote Instead, what it says is that the right to vote shall not be denied or abridged based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude And what white supremacists in Mississippi realized and they had help, they had help from the federal government, they had help and complicity from particularly after the end of what was called Military Reconstruction, where there were federal troops, U.S. troops, occupying the American South until 1877 When those troops leave and you have the kind of the wanton violence that arises and the complicity of the American government in doing nothing to suppress organizations like the Ku Klux Klan And so they’re gonna sit down and write a constitution in 1890, in Mississippi to replace what had been our Reconstruction Era Constitution of 1868 The 1890 Constitution in Mississippi that’s written by these white ‘redeemers’ who were attempting to redeem their white supremacist power, sees that loophole in the 15th amendment and crafts and invents a number of things that would become infamous during Jim Crow Not the least of which were poll taxes, there was a $2 poll tax in Mississippi Literacy exams, it was called the Understanding Clause in Mississippi Residency requirements, a two year residency requirement Even felony disfranchisement for crimes that were considered, at the time, as you can see in the historical record back then, considered Black crimes Those are going to be invented in the Mississippi Constitution of 1890 Every southern state that had been in the Confederacy, rewrites their state constitutions to reflect what they called again, the Mississippi Plan

And so they enact Black disfranchisement in Mississippi to take power away from the majority of the population in 1890 And it’s estimated in 1890, roughly 86% of eligible Black voters were registered to vote, which would have been Black men over 21 and by 1900, it’s roughly 4% And that piece of political power enables the other pieces of power, of Jim Crow power, to really be put in place and to be sustainable So these Black crimes that you’re talking about, whether it was the Black Codes that were criminalizing Black people for not having a job or the Mississippi Plan, which created political disenfranchisement – all of those things meant to keep Black people down Ken, I want you to quickly weigh in for us because you have the sort of firsthand accounts from your ancestors Can you give us a sense of what was going on in the minds of white people at this time? Was this a fear factor that forced them to create these systems? I used to think that history repeats itself, but I don’t believe that anymore I think that history just takes on new shape and that old ugly monster of racism, morphs into other ways of oppressing Black people, taking away their labor And so when you consider Black Codes in the South, also there were Black Codes in the North, too So if you were trying to get to northern territories, you still had taxes that were imposed upon you to come into places like Ohio You mentioned the idea about getting arrested because you don’t have a job It’s also, in some places, if you weren’t in constant motion, if you weren’t going to your job or to and from home, you could get arrested just for moving about So these systems that have been put in place to continue to rob and degrade people of color and to oppress them, not just about history, but they’re about the present today Just before we get to the 20th century, there was a landmark Supreme Court case, It was called Plessy v. Ferguson, and that declared a separate but equal to be a fair practice And it really ignited the start of the civil rights movement Where did this leave us as a nation? Plessy is gonna codify the notion of separate but equal And everybody knew at the time, and of course knew over the course of the existence of separate but equal, all the way up through the Brown v. Board of Education decision that separate but equal was a fraud Separate was never going to be equal and it was not meant to be equal and it never was And so its implementation is a key, another key piece of that invention of Jim Crow And even to this day, we clearly are still dealing with the ramifications of that history in a way that we see particularly Black communities and marginalized communities, not having equality access to opportunity, to education, to any number of other things So we of course had Plessy v. Ferguson that was reversed by Brown v. Board of Education A year after that, we had Rosa Parks and the whole Montgomery bus boycott Zellie, I wanna turn to you to talk a little bit about that particular protest, the Montgomery bus boycott How effective would you say that period was from about 1950 to ’60 of protests? I think that period of protest was completely transformative And I also wanna tag on to the point where we talked a lot recently about the whole educational system and the failure of the educational system of not properly teaching our children about this very, very important moment in history Most of the children today, they may know about Rosa Parks and maybe the actions that she did of refusing to get out of her seat But many people don’t know what took place after that day And how were they able to sustain one of the largest protest movements in modern history And a lot went into that, where there was a lot of fundraising groups that took place, a lot of coordination that took place as well For example, people was doing taxiing and each other to work way before Uber existed So you have to realize that when we talk about sustaining movements, that civil rights movement really laid down the blueprint of what organizing really looks like And I hope that organizers today, could look past the fancy speeches, look past the large scale marches and really see how you can organize a sustained movement in order to boycott and drain the resources from a city in order for them to hear your demands, hear your cries because economic boycotts are powerful Zellie has an important point And before we move on in the conversation, I do wanna remind our viewers who are watching to join the conversation by sharing your questions and comments in our live chat It’s so hard to boil down 400 years of history

in such a short time But I do wanna push the conversation forward and whether or not we agree on what happened in the past, we can likely agree that it does shape the future And it impacts our individual and collective identity, no matter our race, creed or color Author and civil rights activist James Baldwin said, “I am what time, circumstance, history have made of me, certainly, but I’m also so much more than that So are we all.” And it’s true, we are products, not only of our collective history, but also of our family history Each generation imprints on the following generation and I want us to talk about this now And Robby, if we could start with you, is this true for you? I mean, you are a white man, you are from Mississippi, you were in activist circles How did your past imprint on who you are today? Yeah, sure, I had a very different experience than most people of my demographic, the white heterosexual Christian male from Mississippi And that was all about my parents and the upbringing that I had from them And a mother, in particular, who found herself, pulled into the movement in the mid 1960s and a father who found himself, pulled into activism by a mother, by my mother in particular And so they raised me in a very different way with a very different kind of consciousness than most white men who are from Mississippi originally And I was lucky to be in an incredibly diverse environment and around activists who really taught me to value the dignity of all human beings and just the basic fundamental nature of human equality And so that really blessed me and led me kind of down the path of studying civil rights history and African American history and eventually becoming a civil rights historian So there’s no doubt that that family history for me, put me on this path And Zellie, you sort of seek broad change That seems to be a thematic mission in your life You’re an activist, you’re a community organizer What about your past family history led you to take on that identity, if anything? Yeah, definitely a direct link to my parents My parents, they were activists in their years at college at Rutgers University during a time when there was the Black student movement and all across the country, activists and college students were demanding an increase of the Black student population and the increase to the Black faculty members So when I was drawn up, the activist spirit was pretty much instilled in me that yearning for education, that yearning for defending other people’s rights and that yearning to create better conditions for yourself, which pretty much was instilled in me so that when I went to college myself, I pretty much carried on that mantle But not only in college, after I graduated, I understood that I had to continue the work in the community in order to make my ancestors proud And Ken, your family history is widely known You’re a descendant of Booker T. Washington and Frederick Douglass How does knowing your family history in a way that many of us don’t, and maybe can’t, impress upon who you are today? You might be surprised that in knowing your family history, I really was decisively disengaged from my history and lineage for a lot of reasons When I was younger, the few times that I would tell people of my relationship to Douglass and Washington, nobody ever believed me And I never thought that it was a point worth arguing And there were times, when I was younger, where I did start to feel kind of this weight of expectation and living in the shadows of these two great heroes I was about 6 or 7 years old when I started to notice that my ancestors were on statues, they were on money, postage stamps, schools were named for them, bridges were named for them And everywhere I turn, I was in this long, vast shadow And I didn’t grow up an activist, I really came to this much later in life And I had seen what the pressure had done to those that came before me And when I was born and I had this dual lineage, my parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents went in a complete opposite direction and they didn’t want to force anything on me And it wasn’t until 2005, when I read a National Geographic magazine with a cover story, “21st Century Slaves.” It was about human trafficking, modern-day slavery today My life trajectory changed from that one article I’m curious to know how history and society really impacts our identity History definitely impacts our identity And from that James Baldwin quote, we are a product of our environment, we’re a product of our history

We’re a product of our community, our families And I know for myself, it took a number of years for me to really understand and appreciate that this blood that flows through my veins, the blood of two of the most influential leaders in this country’s history and it shapes my identity today Just about every day when I wake up, I ask, “What would Frederick Douglass do if he were here today?” “What we’re Booker T. Washington do if he were here today?” And the work that we do at our organization, the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives, we always think about that legacy, the Douglass legacy, the Washington legacy, and of course their legacy of literacy and education, because they both understood, from a very young age, that education would be the pathway to freedom And of course we know it was illegal to teach an enslaved person to read and write So both of them would have to steal their education I’d like to read an excerpt of a comment from one of our social media followers and then have you all react to it Vickie from California states, “I know I have prejudice I don’t like them and I correct them myself Knowing that I have them, but that I resist them, frees me from feeling guilty I have no resentment, no anger, no guilt But I can be empathetic, an ally, an advocate without being perfect As long as I’m working on myself and being proactive about it.” If I’m understanding this correctly, she’s basically saying that she knows she has a bias, we all have them, either innate or learned But she acknowledges that and says that not feeling the need to be perfect really allows her the space to be an advocate for, and have understanding about others who are not like her So what do you all make that? I think that’s a great start because so many different people in this country don’t even start off at that level So many people, when you have these conversations about racism, they immediately thrust out the common excuse that, “I’m not racist,” that “I have Black friends,” or “I don’t see color.” Well, we have to stop people from saying, “I’m not racist.” And instead encourage them to say that, “I’m anti-racist.” And that has to come from that realization that all of us have internalized biases That all of us have internalized anti-Blackness and that doesn’t make you necessarily a bad person, right? It doesn’t make you a bad person that you internalize anti-Blackness because we live in a white supremacist society and we’re flooded of all these constant images and all this discourse about anti-Blackness But what makes you, and that step to go in the right direction is acknowledging that and recognizing that you will make mistakes and you have made mistakes in the past, but you continuously working on yourself and you continuously putting yourself in a position in order to advocate for others Robby, what do you make of what Vickie had to say? Yeah, and I would agree with Zellie and I think it’s an important place to start, especially for white Americans And those of us who have benefited from white supremacy, right? We must acknowledge the past and this history, this systemic history of white supremacy, and we must act on it And I think being an ally is an important first step, but also the point that she made about advocacy, I really do believe that white Americans, especially, must go beyond being just allies We must be more proactive, being an ally is too passive of a position And so actually advocating and challenging ourselves to step up Not all of us can fix everything that’s wrong with this world and white supremacy by ourselves, but all of us can do something and all of us can do something more Ken and Zellie, I wanna get your take on this, advocates versus allies Is one more valuable than the other, or are they both needed equally? Zellie? I think that whenever we talk about social justice and being burdened with all these responsibilities and this fear of the unknown, that we need a different entry point So some people have to work up their comfortability level in order to increase that level of advocacy Even though there’s a great sense of urgency at this time, for as many people as possible to speak out, I do understand that some people, are just like one, the viewer said, just pretty much working on themselves But we need people to not stop there on just working on themselves They need to be also having conversations with their coworkers, conversations with their family members and also if possible, being out there in the streets with us Ken, what do think? Advocates, allies, all of it needed? None of it needed? We need all of it We need advocates and allies We need advocates to be out there using their platforms, especially in the age of social media There are a number of people that can really amplify a message through their networks

We also need allies on the ground organizing, working together And so we need all entry points But advocates and allies are definitely both necessary How do you feel about the demonstrations that have been occurring recently? The coming together of all ages, all races, people of different religions and socioeconomic backgrounds How does that make you feel to see that, Ken? I’ve been very encouraged and very inspired by the diversity in race, diversity in age in the protest I’ve been inspired that the Black Lives Matter movement has spread not only in this country, but all around the world And something about this time, at least in my lifetime, feels different And I believe that we can make true progress And Zellie for you, watching the coming together of these protesters from a variety of different backgrounds, how does that make you feel? I’m both proud, I’m also both fearful because if we were all students of history, we know that even when people go out there and march with good intentions, there’s people that’s on the sidelines with bad intentions trying to harm individuals And I’m always fearful when I am at protest or I watch protests in other cities about what type of harm will be inflicted on my brothers and sisters, even though they are fighting for something that represents justice and freedom for others Robby, can you please share your thoughts? Yeah, I’m very proud of the movements today and also recognize the continuity in American history, right? That what we’re seeing today is a continuity of the modern civil rights movement And even the protest here, in Jackson, Mississippi this summer, organized by young people just like the vanguard of the modern civil rights movement, where young people would lead a protest in downtown Jackson That was the largest demonstration since 1966 in the Meredith March Against Fear when it arrived in Jackson So pride and also recognizing the continuity of that history and really also pride in the young people who continue to be at the forefront of our movements When it comes to this whole idea of misconceptions, when it comes to race and when it comes to identity, I wanna know if you’ve experienced anything personal And Robby, I wanna start with you I mean, you are a history professor at a historically Black college and university, and you are a white man And I’m curious to know if you’ve gotten any sort of pushback on that and if so, how you handle it So, I’m very comfortable as someone who studied civil rights and race in America in talking about race and talking about my whiteness and the privilege that’s really embedded in white supremacy being a white heterosexual male in America So I deal with it heads on, but one of the things I learned early on in my career that I needed to do as someone who’s very comfortable as a professor, engaging people and talking about the past, I needed to listen more And I needed to go into my community at Jackson State, where I’ve been for over a decade now And I needed to listen to people in our community so that I could learn what they needed from me, so that I could be a more effective contributor to their education and to that broader community And Zellie, what about you when it comes to any misconceptions about race, about identity, about culture, have you faced anything personally in your journey that you can share with us? My existence since birth has been an existence of being criminalized, been an existence of being dehumanized I remember this one particular time when me and my friends were all wearing hoodies and we all started walking to our cars And as we was walking to our cars, a group of officers had noticed us and also got into their squad cars as well And one of the squad car starts to follow me as I was driving down the street and pulled me over and he didn’t stop me because I had a broken tail light or I was speeding or I passed the stop sign He literally pulled me over and asked me, where was I going and what was I doing in this neighborhood? So just living in America as a Black man, I had these misconceptions being thrust onto me and that I have to carry as a burden And Ken, what about you? Are there things that you are faced with as a result of people not quite understanding what your race may be, what your internal identity may be, what the boundless avenues of your culture are and how do you deal with that? Living as a Black man in America, I have been pulled over for no reason at all I’ve been asked, “What do you do to afford a nice car like this?” Searching through my car, looking for whatever

As recently as four years ago, I was called the N-word in a restaurant in my community And so living as a Black person in this country, you realize that you’re different early on And I remember being a young boy and people being interested in my hair and wanting to touch my hair, and then having, on top of it, this connection to Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington, people would come up to me at times and wanna pinch me on the cheek or pat me on the head or give me a kiss and they would have tears in their eyes And it wasn’t until much later in life that I understood why people had such an emotional connection to my ancestors When a lady came up to me and said, “I read Frederick Douglass’ autobiography when I was in high school and it changed my life It made me believe that I could be and do anything possible.” And so when you talk about identity, there’s that dynamic, being related to these two influential heroes, these important people in history And that’s been difficult to navigate at times in my life And even as an adult, it’s sometimes difficult to navigate But I think because I found this work and this mission on my own, it’s much more meaningful than it would have been had it been forced on me We have touched on some of our collective history at this point and how it helped shape who we are And we’ve also heard through our guests’ personal stories, how individual history also molds us So let’s move on now to social justice, that action and that hope that breeds lasting change Education pioneer and activist, Mary McLeod Bethune said, “We have a powerful potential in our youth, and we must have the courage to change old ideas and practices so that we may direct their power towards good ends.” So Ken, when you hear those words from Mary McLeod Bethune, what goes through your mind? It makes me think of my favorite Frederick Douglass quote, “It’s easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” And we look at our young people, they’re the next generation of leaders in the mold of Frederick Douglass, in the mold of Sojourner Truth, in the mold of Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta And so thinking about this idea that we can build strong children through education and for Frederick Douglass, there was one moment in his life when he was 7 years old, when his slave mistress didn’t know that it was illegal to teach him to read and write He starts to get that little spark of light into his mental darkness, into his mental bondage And those lessons continued for a little while, until his enslaver found out And when his enslaver found out about the lessons, he got angry and forbade the teachings and he said to Frederick, “You cannot teach a slave how to read and write, because if you do, it will unfit him to be a slave.” And so Frederick would teach himself to read and write And now he starts to critically think about his system of oppression, his enslavement, and he starts to ask questions like, “Why am I a slave?” “Why do you own me? “How come you know your birthday and I don’t know my birthday?” And then you think about today and young people in education and having them start to think critically about their condition of oppression and ask questions like, “Why am I born into a certain zip code and I have less opportunity and access to economic opportunity, education and healthcare versus somebody that’s born into another zip code?” And so when you can start to think about your situation critically, and we see young people doing this all the time, we can start to think about ways in which they can start to dismantle these systems of oppression and racism And critical thinking does of course, lead to questions And we received a question from one of our viewers, Cheyenne, from Maryland, and she asks, “Do you think it is appropriate for schools to continuously discuss slavery instead of spending more time on the contributions of Black Americans to this country and the reason for movements such as Black Lives Matter?” Zellie, what do you think of that question and what’s your answer to her? One the hardest things that we have to deal with right now with the educational system is how it’s structured and what we are learning about Black history I’ve heard so many times when students go to college and again, to debate sometimes with their white peers and their white peers say, “Slavery is over, racism is over, the civil rights ended.” And it’s because when we talk about the experience of Black people in America and the hardships that we face, it only starts at slavery and ends at civil rights It’s as if after Dr. King gave his, “I Have a Dream” speech that racism magically disappeared, and that’s not the case We need to be able to continue to teach kids Black Lives Matter movement and all the other movements that occurred before that, so they get a better understanding of the racial injustices to have occurred in America, but also a deeper understanding of systemic racism

and how it functions and what they can do to empower themselves in order to start dismantling it What can we do to promote equality and justice and liberty for all? Well, we’re in a very important election year right now And Frederick Douglass used his voice, his pen, and his vote to effect change And now today, the pen really is a metaphor for the keyboard, but people can use their voice, their keyboard, and their vote to effect change, and also to make sure that we hold our elected officials accountable That they identify racist policies wherever they exist, they work to eliminate racist policies wherever they exist, and to enact policies that will promote equity and justice and equality for all Robby, I’d welcome your thoughts on what we can be doing to promote understanding Well, like the gentlemen here, I actually think promoting understanding is a function of education and that demanding that the children have equitable access to the highest quality education possible And teaching particularly of our history, as a historian, that is inclusive, that does encompass both the stories of oppression, but also resistance to that oppression and uplift and making sure that all of our children engage those stories and those lessons And through education, I believe, that we can foster the kind of understanding that you’re talking about We are coming to the end of our discussion, but before we go, I want us to close on a forward looking note If each of you could just take a moment, please tell us what your hope is for the future of our society and how we can better come together Ken, would you like to start? History lives in each of us It doesn’t just live in me because I descend from two people that we’ve heard of, but it lives in each and every one of you And the future really depends on how we carry that history forward I remember I had a 10-year-old girl say to me, one time, she was so excited to share this with me She said, “Mr. Morris, I researched my family tree And I found that my great-great-great-great, four greats, grandmother was born into slavery She taught herself to read and write in secret And then she escaped and became a successful business woman and a philanthropist.” And so she’s bouncing up and down in her chair and she says, “So do you know what all of this means?” And before I had a chance to respond, she said, “It means I have history flowing through my veins and I have greatness flowing through my veins, just like you do.” And so history lives in each of us, but the future depends on how we carry that forth Zellie, your thoughts, your hope for the future? Right, the safest communities still have more police officers You’re still not safe from evictions, you’re still not safe for foreclosures or losing your job The safest communities have access to more resources They have better jobs, better healthcare, better housing I want to live in a world where everybody has equal access to free healthcare, equal access to quality homes and equal access to great schools And I think that is the future that all of us can agree that we want to live in And Robby I aspire to see a world in America that would celebrate its being a multiracial place, a multiracial world, not a post-racial one I don’t want us to be post-racial I want us to be a place that celebrates diversity, that celebrates our differences as something that makes us interesting, that adds value to our lives and to our society And in so doing, celebrates all people and gives dignity to all human beings and guarantees kind of the fundamental human rights that are just basic in our humanity I would like to thank all of our panelists Robby Luckett, civil rights historian, and Director of the Margaret Walker Center at Jackson State University, Zellie Imani, educator, activist and community organizer and Kenneth B. Morris Jr., co-founder and President of the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives And for those of you watching, keep the conversation going, follow Comcast Newsmakers and Voices of the Civil Rights Movement, where we invite you to comment on key human interest in social justice stories, all year-round From all of us at Comcast Newsmakers and Voices of the Civil Rights Movement, thank you for watching I’m Tetiana Anderson (inspiring music)

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