Today marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day—a date used to commemorate the birth of the modern environmental movement in the United States and around the world. This occasion offers an opportunity to evaluate our progress since the founding of Earth Day, as well as where our thinking and action must be re-energized. Though the modern environmental movement has achieved great gains over the last fifty years, an array of profound challenges remain. And the coronavirus pandemic is bringing some of those longstanding challenges—and how they impact people differently—into sharper focus.
February 3, 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the passage of the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. When passed in 1870, the 15th Amendment extended voting rights to all American men “regardless of race, color, or previous condition of servitude”—a move that initiated an experiment in interracial democracy that continues into the present. Yet the voting rights that were formally extended to black men were quickly curtailed by interests that opposed black enfranchisement, setting the stage for an ongoing battle to ensure that all Americans can participate in the political process regardless of race, gender, and other dimensions of identity. This 150th anniversary is an occasion to assess the continuing threats to voting rights today, the stakes of those threats, and how we can challenge them.
As we observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the midst of our present climate of hate, we are inevitably asked to consider how far we have come in realizing the visions of justice and equality that King articulated a half century ago. Though King has been memorialized in many places around the country and world, how we represent his legacy remains contested and points to divisions in our thinking about what it actually means to promote racial justice. Cultural artifacts like monuments present rich opportunities to examine the narratives we choose to uphold and sideline in the public sphere, and the forthcoming Boston-based memorial to the Kings is no exception.
The news cycles of the last few years have captured countless instances of racist violence perpetrated by white people against black people—a continuation of a long history of antiblack violence in the United States. And amid this legacy of violence, a number of black figures have done the unimaginable: they have publicly expressed forgiveness to avowedly racist white people who murdered their relatives and community members.
On August 5th in New York City, legendary writer, editor, and educator Toni Morrison died. As countless figures around the country reflect upon her legacy, we find an opportunity to consider her impact on American culture and the responsibilities of educators everywhere.
Summer is a time for relaxation. However, many of us also seek books and stories that will immerse us in the experiences of others, or will help us stay engaged in making a better world. Here are six picks that will teach, challenge, and inspire us.
The recent 65th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education—the landmark 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision that overturned the policy of state-sanctioned segregation in public schools—raised a number of vexing questions for those concerned with educational equity today. As a decades-old quagmire of competing interests sustains school segregation in many parts of the country, this anniversary reminds us that we must have all hands on deck in the continuing fight for educational equity.
A governor is revealed to have dressed up in blackface (at least once); an attorney general is shown to have done it, too; a senator is exposed as having edited a yearbook full of racist images and language; a team at Gucci apologizes for creating a balaclava sweater that evokes blackface.
Sonari Glinton is a journalist who read Night as a young boy and went on to study with Elie Wiesel when he was a student at Boston University. In a 2016 essay written right after Wiesel's death, Glinton describes how he was first drawn to Night simply because it looked like a quick read for a book report he’d been assigned to write. He was surprised to discover that he identified with its protagonist, even though, as a black boy growing up in Chicago, he and Eliezer would seem to have little in common. Still, Glinton saw himself in Eliezer’s love of books and theology and his status as part of an out-group in his society. Eliezer’s sense of fragility and vulnerability felt familiar.
Topics: Race and Membership
As a high school student growing up in Memphis, Facing History and Ourselves helped me understand the history of my hometown. When I was a sophomore in high school on Facing History’s tour of major cities in the Civil Rights Movement, I could see how Memphis fit into the larger context of that history as it rippled through Alabama cities like Birmingham and Montgomery and in Little Rock, Arkansas. And through Facing History’s emphasis on upstanders, I saw how I had a part to play in my city’s future.
Topics: Race and Membership