Chicago’s Grim Era of Police Torture

By The Editorial Board, New York Times

Andrew Wilson, victim of torture by Chicago Police Dept., taken while in custody. Courtesy of the Chicago Torture Archive.

Andrew Wilson, victim of torture by Chicago Police Dept., taken while in custody. Courtesy of the Chicago Torture Archive.

Americans who think of officially sanctioned torture as something that happens in other countries will be shaken when they confront the grim holdings of the Chicago Torture Archive, an online research repository set to open early next year. The archive — which includes testimony and documents from criminal trials and civil rights cases — was collected by the People’s Law Office, which represented numerous survivors of police torture. The trove will give researchers chilling insight into the grisly period from the 1970s to the 1990s when the Chicago Police Department’s infamous torture crew rounded up more than 100 African-American men who were shocked with cattle prods, beaten with telephone books and suffocated with plastic bags until many confessed to crimes.

Darrell Canon in Chicago in 2008. Credit Scott Olson/Getty Images

Darrell Canon in Chicago in 2008. Credit Scott Olson/Getty Images

The materials, made available by the Pozen Family Center for Human Rights at the University of Chicago, contain nightmarish stories, like that of Darrell Cannon. In 1983, three Chicago police officers arrested Mr. Cannon in connection with a murder case, drove him to a desolate area and tortured a confession out of him. Mr. Cannon explains in court documents that he refused to confess after the officers forced the barrel of a shotgun into his mouth and repeatedly pulled the trigger. He finally gave in, he said, after they shocked his genitals with a cattle prod….

Mr. Cannon served 24 hellish years in prison — nine of them at a supermax facility. But by the time state prosecutors finally dismissed his criminal case, it had become clear that his torture story was no exaggeration and that a cover-up had been undertaken to hide this period of police abuse from view.

Jon Burge, a former commander of the Chicago Police Department. Credit Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune, via Associated Press

Jon Burge, a former commander of the Chicago Police Department. Credit Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune, via Associated Press

By then, Jon Burge, the commander who had overseen the torture squad, had been fired after he was connected to a torture case. But statutes of limitation shielded him from prosecution for the abuses themselves.By then, Jon Burge, the commander who had overseen the torture squad, had been fired after he was connected to a torture case. But statutes of limitation shielded him from prosecution for the abuses themselves….

The Chicago City Council confronted the torture era head-on last year when it approved a measure that has paid reparations to scores of police torture victims. The legislation also provides substance abuse treatment, counseling and other services to victims and their immediate family members, as well as free tuition at city colleges. A memorial will be built and this history will be taught in city public schools…

Read the full article here.

More Breaking News here.


“Always In Season” Film on Lynching and Restoration to Screen in Milwaukee

A scene from the film showing the annual lynching re-enactment at Moore's Ford Bridge in Georgia.

For almost a century, tens of thousands of men, women, and children attended the lynchings of more than 4,000 African Americans that often included torture, mutilation and photography. This form of racial violence occurred in every state across the U.S. but four, and for reasons as arbitrary as sheer boredom. Lynchings were at times highly organized and akin to the sport of hunting, and blacks were “always in season.”

Independent filmmaker Jacqueline (Jackie) Olive produced and directed "Always in Season" as a part of her transmedia project about lynching – its healing and prevention.

Independent filmmaker Jacqueline (Jackie) Olive produced and directed “Always in Season” as a part of her transmedia project about lynching – its healing and prevention.

Always in Season is a film with Danny Glover by ABHM friend and colleague Jacqueline Olive (producer/director). It will be shown on PBS (public television) channels around the country in early 2017.

Always in Season will be the centerpiece of ABHM’s 2017 Founder’s Day Gathering for Racial Repair and Reconciliation on February 25, 2017. Director Jackie Olive and representatives of the communities featured in the film  will show the movie and answer audience questions in a talkback. Then they and local activists doing similar work will meet with participants in small breakout groups to dialogue about the issues raised by their healing community projects to commemorate lynchings. For more info about this event, contact

Why is it important to talk about lynching today?

Always in Season is a transmedia documentary project that ties the facts of lynching to the present with a feature film that encourages viewers to consider where their own family stories intersect with this difficult chapter in American history. With intimate stories of relatives of the perpetrators, victims, and others–along with the collection of photographs spectators took with the victims called Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in AmericaAlways in Season shows how lynching still impacts Americans and follows the efforts of descendants and others in four communities who are seeking justice and healing as they work to acknowledge the victims, repair the damage, and reconcile.

Descendants of lynching victims and perpetrators work together for repair and healing at the memorial in downtown Duluth MN. This plaza acknowledges the lynching of three young black men there.

Descendants of lynching victims and perpetrators work together for repair and healing at the memorial in downtown Duluth MN. This plaza acknowledges the lynching of three young black men there.

These stories demonstrate the impact of past and current racial terrorism on our country today.

Ever wonder about the choices you’d make if you lived during this time in history?

Always in Season Island uses an immersive, role-playing virtual world environment to give users an experiential look at the choices and circumstances that brought 10,000 men, women and children out in Marion, Indiana to watch the 1930 lynching of Abe Smith, Thomas Shipp, and the 16-year old who narrowly escaped, James Cameron. Not only will this interactive 3D environment give visitors insights into the multiple perspectives of many of the people involved in the events in Marion, but they can also learn how their actions can contribute to or prevent racism and violence in a safe, facilitated virtual world space. To learn more about Always in Season Island, click here.

To fund the completion of  this project or to find out more, click here.

To read more Breaking News, click here.

Dr. Cameron’s Memoir To Be Presented at SE Wisconsin Festival of Books 11/4/16

tot-cover-wippy-seal“Have you ever watched one man die and then another, knowing that your turn was next? Have you ever looked into ten thousand angry faces whose open mouths screamed for your blood? Have you ever felt yourself in the hands of such a mob whose sole purpose was to destroy you?

All of these things and more happened to me several years ago. This I acknowledge not boastfully but humbly, for the fact that I am alive to tell this story is due to a power greater than myself or any man.

It is an established fact that people learn a great deal quickly when caught in traumatic events. The things I believed I learned, as well as the unforgettable events themselves, are the reasons why this book has been written.”

Thus begins the extraordinary memoir, A Time of Terror: A Survivor’s Story, written by the only person ever to survive a lynching. Just as Anne Frank’s Diary reveals the intimate personal experiences of a teenager trying to make sense of Nazi terror, James Cameron’s book shares his journey growing up during the Jim Crow era, living through its worst forms of racial violence, and retaining his faith in the promise of America.

Fran Kaplan (L) and Reggie Jackson (R) accepting the Silver IPPY medals on May 10, 2016, in Chicago. They are two of four authors who contributed the additional materials included in A Time of Terror's 3rd edition.

Fran Kaplan (L) and Reggie Jackson (R) accepting the Silver IPPY medals on May 10, 2016, in Chicago. They are two of four authors who contributed the additional materials included in A Time of Terror’s 3rd edition.

This uplifting story of a life courageously and well lived has been re-released in a greatly expanded 3rd edition by LifeWrites Press, the publishing imprint of the nonprofit Dr. James Cameron Legacy Foundation. Proceeds from the book’s sales support the Foundation and its educational programs, including America’s Black Holocaust Museum.

Authors who contributed to the award-winning new edition – Dr. Robert S. Smith, Reggie Jackson, and Dr. Fran Kaplan – will talk about the book and the life and legacy of its late author, a civil rights pioneer and the founder of ABHM.

PLACE: Southeastern Wisconsin Festival of Books – University of Wisconsin-Waukesha, Room N125

DATE/TIME: Saturday, November 5, 2016, from 4:00-5:00pm. Book signing and sale follows the talk in the same room from 5:00-5:30pm.

The panel presentation, also featuring author and photographer, Mark Speltz, and civil rights activist and poet, Margaret Rozga, is called Up North: Images and Incidents in the African American Freedom Struggle.

Read excerpts from A Time of Terror here. Purchase the book online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble, as well as at independent booksellers like Milwaukee’s Boswell Books.





Hundreds Dedicate Lynching Marker to Anthony Crawford in Abbeville, South Carolina

By the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) – October 24, 2016

This weekend, community members, college students, and supporters from near and far gathered in Abbeville, South Carolina, to commemorate and reflect upon the 100th anniversary of a tragic event: the lynching of Anthony P. Crawford.

On Friday, hundreds gathered in Abbeville’s Jefferson Davis Park for a Freedom School, during which students from Kenyon College and Clemson University, activists, and leaders led discussions about our country’s history of racial injustice and its contemporary legacies. Those present included more than 100 of Anthony Crawford’s descendants, who wore black armbands and buttons in his memory, as well as members of the families of Emmett Till, Ida B. Wells, and Malcolm X, who came to lend support and words of encouragement.

The plaque, dedicated October 24, 2016, commemorating lynching victim Anthony Crawford, in Abbeville, South Carolina.

The day’s events culminated with a ceremony during which family members collected soil from the site where Mr. Crawford was lynched, and a consecration service in the Abbeville town square led by the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference in anticipation of the unveiling of a historical marker commemorating the lynching. The soil collection for Mr. Crawford was part of EJI’s Community Remembrance Project, a campaign to recognize the victims of lynching by collecting soil from lynching sites and creating a memorial that acknowledges the horrors of racial injustice in America.

A century ago, a white mob beat, stabbed, shot, and hung Mr. Crawford, a 56-year-old black farmer, in the Abbeville town square, after he dared to argue with a white merchant over the price of cottonseed. The patriarch of a large, multi-generational family, and the owner of 427 acres of land, Mr. Crawford was a successful farmer and leader whose murder had long-reaching effects. [Visit the commemoration of Anthony Crawford’s life in ABHM’s Memorial to the Victims of Lynching here.]

The gruesome public murder, though committed openly, did not lead to prosecution or conviction for any members of the mob.  Days after the lynching, Abbeville’s white residents “voted” to expel the Crawford family from the area and seize their property. When South Carolina’s governor declared himself powerless to protect the family from violence, most of the surviving relatives fled to destinations as distant as New York and Illinois, fragmenting the once strong and close-knit family.

Soil collected from the site of the lynching of Anthony Crawford, as part of the commemoration project of the Equal Justice Initiative.

Soil collected from the site of the lynching of Anthony Crawford, as part of the commemoration project of the Equal Justice Initiative.























It would take ongoing efforts over generations to begin to repair and reconnect those bonds through family reunions and the persistence of family elders who ensured that the younger generations saw Grandpa Crawford’s photograph at family gatherings and knew the story of both his life and death. This weekend, descendants of Anthony Crawford from as far as California, Washington, D.C., Illinois, Texas, and New York – as well as some who remain in Abbeville today – gathered for a powerful commemoration event.

Doria D. Johnson, descendant of Anthony Crawford, is a public historian and a 2016 Nelson Mandela Fellow.

Doria D. Johnson, descendant of Anthony Crawford, is a public historian and a 2016 Nelson Mandela Fellow.

Doria Johnson was born in Chicago, 45 years after her great-great-grandfather’s lynching forced her family to flee north with Doria’s young grandmother wrapped in newspaper to shield her from the cold. Addressing the crowd in Abbeville this weekend, Ms. Johnson recalled how the beautiful photo of Grandpa Crawford and the painful story of his death shaped a curiosity and determination that stayed with her. As a young woman, she called the Abbeville church where Anthony Crawford had been a leader before his death, and found herself speaking to Phillip Crawford, a cousin she’d never known she had. From there, she helped lead more conversations, and research led to advocacy, publicity, and a push for public recognition that has now come to fruition.

[Ms. Johnson will keynote ABHM’s 2017 Founder’s Day Gathering for Racial Repair and Reconciliation, exploring the ethics and impacts of memory work and commemoration of traumatic events on victims, witnesses, perpetrators and descendants. For more information about the event, write…

EJI is honored to partner with the descendants of Anthony Crawford to sponsor the historical marker and essay contest for high school students in Abbeville as part of our Lynching Marker Project. EJI continues to seek opportunities to work with communities where lynchings occurred to raise public awareness and erect historical markers.

Read the full article here.

More Breaking News here.

Annotated Bibliography – Whiteness: Framed, De-framed and Counter-Framed

Griots: Dr. Fran Kaplan and Jeanne Lowry

Nonfiction Books – Framing and De-framing

Anderson, Carol. White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide. New York: Bloomsbury, 2016.

Each time black Americans have made advances towards full participation in our democracy, white reaction has fueled a relentless rollback of their gains. Adding a new dimension to our national conversation about race, the author reveals the hidden actions taken in the name of protecting democracy, fiscal responsibility, or protection against fraud, rendering visible the long lineage of white rage.

Aptheker, Herbert. Anti-Racism in U.S. History: The First Two Hundred Years. Westport, CT: Praeger. 1993.

Aptheker challenges the view that racism was universally accepted by whites. Covering the period from the 1600’s through the 1860’s, the book questions racism’s universality by using examples of anti-racism from literature, including poets, teachers and preachers.

Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo. Racism Without Racists: Color-Blind Racism & Racial Inequality in Contemporary America. 3rd edition. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Company. 2010.L

This book explores the belief that America is now a color-blind society. Beneath our current conversation about race lie many arguments, phrases, and stories that white people use to account for—and ultimately justify—racial inequalities. The book stimulates conversations about the state of race in America today.

Coates, Ta-Nehisi. Between the World and Me. New York: Spiegel and Grau. 2015.

A profound and award winning NY Times bestseller, the book explores major questions about racism in American history and culture, such as “what is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it?” and “How can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden?” It is also a father’s attempt to answer these questions in a letter to his son. Coates shares the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in the world.

DeWolf, Thomas Norman and Sharon Leslie Morgan. Gather at the Table: The Healing journey of a Daughter of Slavery and a Son of the Slave Trade. Boston, MA: Beacon Press. 2012.

Two people—a black woman and a white man—confront the legacy of slavery and racism head on. For three years they traveled thousands of miles to historic sites and engaged in deep conversations about the lingering trauma of slavery. Embarking on this journey because they believe America must overcome the barriers that drive us to strike out at one another out of ignorance and fear.

DiAngelo, Robin. What Does It Mean to Be White? Developing White Racial Literacy. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc. 2012.

The author speaks as a white person to other white people. This book offers a clear and compelling  analysis of white socialization, relying on research, analysis, images, stories and familiar examples to provide the framework for developing white racial literacy.

DuBois, W.E.B. The Souls of Black Folk. New York: Dover Publications, Inc. 1903,1994.

A classic work of American literature, a seminal work in the history of sociology, and a cornerstone of African-American literary history. The author drew from his experiences as an African American. This book holds an important place in the social sciences as one of the early works in the field of sociology.

Feagin, Joe R. The White Racial Frame: Centuries of Racial Framing and Counter-Framing. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge, 2013.

The idea of “the white racial frame” is that we see the world and make sense of it through the lens of the culture of which we are part, through the framework of its language and stories. Deeply embedded in American minds and institutions, this white racial frame has for centuries functioned as a broad worldview, one essential to the routine legitimization, scripting, and maintenance of systemic racism in the United States.

Hale, Grace Elizabeth. Making Whiteness: The Culture of Segregation in the South, 1890-1940. New York: Vintage Books. 1998.

By showing the historical “making” of contemporary American whiteness and by examining how the culture of segregation, in all its murderous contradictions, was lived, Hale makes it possible to imagine a future outside it. Her vision holds out the difficult promise of a truly democratic American identity whose possibilities are no longer limited and disfigured by race.

Halley, Jean, Amy Eshleman and Rama Mahadevan Vijaya. Seeing White: An Introduction to White Priilege and Race. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Company. 2011.

An interdisciplinary textbook that challenges students to see race as everyone’s issue. Drawing on sociology, psychology, history, and economics, the book introduces students to the concepts of white privilege and white power. It is designed to help breakdown some of the resistance students feel in discussing race.

Hochschild, Adam. King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa. Houghton Mifflin. 1999.

In the 1880’s, as the European powers were carving up Africa. King Leopold II of Belgium seized for himself the vast and mostly unexplored territory surrounding the Congo River. Carrying out a genocidal plundering of the Congo, he looted its rubber, brutalized its people, and ultimately slashed its population by ten million. A fascinating epic story, very well told.

Jensen, Robert. The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism, and White Privilege. San Francisco: City Lights. 2005.

This short, easy-to-read book offers an honest and rigorous exploration of the nature of whiteness in the United States. Mixing personal experience with data and theory, he faces down the difficult realities of racism and white privilege. He argues that any system that denies non-whites their full humanity also keeps whites from fully accessing their own.

Katznelson, Ira. When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. 2005.

This book fundamentally recasts understanding of twentieth-century American history. It documents how the key government social programs passed during the 1930’s and 1940’s were created through discriminatory mechanisms that significantly widened the gap between blacks and whites, despite postwar prosperity.

Kimmel, Michael. Angry White Men: American Masculinity at the End of an Era. New York: Nation Books. 2013.

The sons of small town America feel scarred by underemployment and wage stagnation. They feel they’ve lived their lives the “right” way, worked hard, stayed out of trouble,and still do not get economic rewards. They feel a need to blame somebody. The choice the book presents is not whether these men can stem the tide of history–they cannot, but whether they will face the inevitable future with honor and a open spirit.

Jacobson, Matthew Frye. Whiteness of a Different Color: European Immigrants and the Alchemy of Race. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 1998.

America’s racial odyssey is the subject of this book. The author argues that the concept of race resides in politics and culture. The book traces the fluidity of racial categories in research, literature, popular culture, politics, anthropology, and legal history.

Kiev, Paul. Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work for Racial Justice. 3rd edition. Gabriola Island, BC, Canada: New Society Press. 2011.

Uprooting Racism offers a framework for understanding institutional racism. It provides practical suggestions, tools, examples and advice on  how white people can intervene in interpersonal and organizational situations to work as allies for racial justice.

Loewen, James W. Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong. New York: Touchstone. 1995, 2007.

The author of this bestseller surveyed eighteen leading high school American history textbooks. He concluded that none does a decent job of making history interesting or memorable. He posits that these books are marred by a combination of blind patriotism, mindless optimism, sheer misinformation, and outright lies. They also omit almost all the ambiguity, passion, conflict and drama from our past. Loewen makes up for that by providing an excellent short course in what really happened.

Loewen, James W. Teaching What Really Happened: How to Avoid the Tyranny of Textbooks & Get Students Excited About Doing History. New York: Teachers College Press. 2010.

This book goes beyond the usual textbook format and includes intriguing and often hidden facts about America’s past. Calling for a new way to teach history, this book helps teachers move beyond textbooks to tackle difficult but important topics, such as Native American history, truths about enslavement, and the realities of race relations throughout the centuries.

Mun Wah, Lee. Let’s Get Real: What People of Color Can’t Say & Whites Won’t Ask About Racism. StirFry Seminars & Consulting. 2011.

The goal of this book is to initiate an environment that will support an open, intimate, and honest dialogue for all of us regarding the issues of racism. For example: what makes it safe or unsafe to share our truths, how denial erodes our willingness to trust, and the ways we shield ourselves  from being hurt or held accountable.

Painter, Nell Irvin. The History of White People. New York: W.W. Norton & Company. 2010.

Telling perhaps the most important forgotten story in American history, this book guides us through more than 2000 years of Western civilization, illuminating not only the invention of race but also the frequent praise of “whiteness” for economic, scientific, and political ends.

Picca, Leslie Houts and Joe R. Feagin. Two-Faced Racism: Whites in the Backstage and Frontstage. New York: Routledge. 2007.

Two-Faced Racism examines and explains the racial attitudes and behaviors exhibited by whites in private settings. The core of this book draws upon 626 journals of racial events kept by white college students at 28 colleges in the United States. It examines how whites think in racial terms by analyzing their reported racial events.

Read, Warren. The Lyncher in Me: A Search for Redemption in the Face of History. St. Paul, MN: Borealis Books. 2008.

In 1920 in Duluth, Minnesota, three men were lynched. Eighty years later Warren Read discovered that his great-grandfather had incited the riot that resulted in this lynching. In this memoir, Read explores the perspective of both the victims and the perpetrators.He concludes we must each take responsibility for deep-seated fears that lead us to emotional, social, or physical violence.

Reedier, David R. The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class. New York: Verso. 1991, 2007.

This widely acclaimed book provides an original study of the formative years of working-class racism in the United States.This cannot be explained simply by economic advantage. White working-class racism is underpinned by psychological and idealogical mechanisms that reinforce racial stereotypes.

Robinson, Randall. The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks. New York: Plume. 2000.

An unflinching indictment of past wrongs and an impassioned call to a nation to educate all Americans about the history of Africa and its peoples. The author makes a persuasive case for the debt white America owes blacks, and the debt blacks owe themselves. He also summons America to acknowledge what he casts as its financial obligation to blacks for centuries of slavery and continued subjugation.

Tatum, Beverly Daniel. Can We Talk about Race: And Other Conversations in an Era of School Resegregation. Boston, MA: Beacon Press. 2007.

Tatum asks the question: Is our nation ready to talk honestly about the forces that continue to make race such a thorny issue? In separate essays, she probes the impact of continued segregation in public schools – mostly the result of segregated neighborhoods – on classroom achievement; the difficulty of developing and sustaining interracial relationships in a society that practices silence on race; and the longer-term implications of continued segregation on a changing democracy with a growing nonwhite population. She blends policy analysis with her personal recollections as an educator.

Roediger, David R. Black Writers on What It Means to Be White. New York: Schoken Books, Inc. 1998.

This volume presents works of more than 50 black major writers to take a closer look at the many meanings of whiteness in our society. From folktales and slave narratives to contemporary essays, poetry, and fiction, black writers have long been among America’s keenest students of white consciousness and white behavior. Using irony, artistry, passion, and common sense, they illuminate how whiteness as a racial identity derives its meaning–not as a biological category–but as a social construct designed to uphold racial inequality.

Sensoy, Ozlem and Robin D’Angelo. Is Everyone Really Equal? An Introduction to Key Concepts in Social Justice Education. New York: Teachers College Press. 2012

This is a practical handbook for social justice education. It provides tools for developing “critical social justice literacy” and for taking action towards a more just society. Accessible to students from high school through graduate school, the book offers detaOiled explanations of key concepts in social justice education.

Thompson-Miller, Ruth, Joe R. Feagin and Leslie H. Picca. Jim Crow’s Legacy: The Lasting Impact of Segregation. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Company. 2015.

This book draws on interviews with elderly African American Southerners who lived through Jim Crow segregation. Their stories show the lasting devastation of racism not only in the past, but also in the present and on future generations.

Tochluk, Shelley. Witnessing Whiteness: The Need to Talk About Race and How to Do It. Lanham, MD: Rowan & Littlefield Publishing Company. 2008.

The author illustrates how racial discomfort leads white people toward poor relationships with people of color. Questioning the implications our history has for personal lives and social institutions, the book considers political, economics, social-cultural, and legal histories that shaped the meanings associated with whiteness. Drawing on dialogue with well known figures, it offers intimate stories of cross-racial friendships that address both how a deep understanding of whiteness supports collaboration and the long-term nature of the work of excising racism from the psyche.

Vera, Hernán and Andrew M. Gordon. Screen Saviors: Hollywood Fictions of Whiteness. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Company. 2003.

Screen Saviors examines how the white self is portrayed in Hollywood movies—by white directors featuring white protagonists interacting with people of color. It looks at the way that the social relations called “race” are fictionalized and pictured in the movies. It argues that films are part of what leads Americans to deny the reality of the racial divide. Hollywood portrays the ideal white American self as good-looking, powerful, brave, cordial, kind, firm, and generous: a natural-born leader and savior of poor people of color.

Walsh, Joan. What’s the Matter With White People? Why We Long for a Golden Age That Never Was. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2012.

In this book, the author shows how America built a large and vibrant (although mostly white) middle class that fueled the greatest economic boom in history and made a reality of the American Dream. Hers is the story of postwar America told through a working class Irish Catholic Family whose political divisions mirrored the nation’s. Her account will help people of all races think through how we can build a multi-racial America.

Walters, Ronald W. The Price of Racial Reconciliation. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press. 2008.

The issue of reparations in America provokes a lot of controversy. This book provides an extraordinary comprehensive and persuasive set of arguments for reparations and can be the lens through which meaningful opportunities for reconciliation are viewed in the future.

Winbush, Raymond A. Should America Pay? Slavery and the Raging Debate on Reparations. New York: Amistad. 2003.

This book is a comprehensive look at a topic of increasing importance.The inclusion of dissenting voices and historical documents makes the argument for reparations even more urgent and compelling. This scholarly and thought provoking work brings the reparations debate to new levels.

Wise, Tim. Color-Blind: The Rise of Post-Racial Politics and the Retreat From Racial Equity. San Francisco, CA: City Lights Books. 2010.

Following the civil right movement, race relations in the United States entered a new era. Legal gains were interpreted by some as ensuring equal treatment for all and that “colorblindness” would be the best way forward. Since then, many voices have called for an end to affirmative action and other color-conscious policies and programs. Focusing on disparities in employment, housing, education and healthcare, Wise argues that racism is still an acute problem in the US today, and that colorblind policies actually worsen the problem of racial injustice.

Wise, Tim. Speaking Treason Fluently: Anti-Racist Reflections from an Angry White Male. Berkeley, CA: Soft Skull Press. 2008.

This is a collection of the author’s best essays. It reveals the ongoing salience of race in America today and demonstrates that racial privilege is not only a real and persistent problem, but one that ultimately threatens the health and well being of the entire society.

Memoirs, Autobiographies, and Biographies — Counter-framing

Angelou, Maya. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Ballantine Books. 2009.

This memoir is a modern American classic. It is the beautifully written story of the author’s childhood in in a Southern town with her brother and her devout grandmother. At 8 years old she is raped by an older man. She later learns that love for herself, the kindness of others and her own strong spirit allow her to be free.

Blow, Charles. Fire Shut Up in My Bones. Mariner Books. 2015.

The story of the author’s upbringing in a Louisiana town with his mother and four brothers and of his secret abuse by an older cousin. The damage from this trauma leads to years of anger and self-questioning. A startlingly honest coming-of-age story about the intersections of race, gender, poverty, and sexuality. A memoir by a talented New York Times journalist that both fits the tradition of African-American story telling from the South and gives it a new slant.

Cameron, James. A Time of Terror: A Survivor’s Story. 3rd Edition. Milwaukee: LifeWrites Press. 2016.

The only account ever written by a lynching survivor, this highly readable memoir is a intimate and inspiring view of a teenager’s life changed forever by the brutal reality around him. This newly expanded 3rd edition contains an introduction, “Growing Up Under Jim Crow,” and annotations that help the reader better understanding the social and political context of the author’s youth and an afterword, “The Amazing Afterlife of Dr. James Cameron,” about how this victim turned civil rights pioneer lived his next fruitful 71 years after the last page of this memoir.

Coates, Ta-Nehisi.  The Beautiful Struggle: A Memoir. Spiegel & Grau. 2006.

A memoir about the author’s father, who guides two of his sons. Ta-Neshi and Big Bill, as they take divergent paths through the collapsing civilization of Baltimore in the Age of Crack. The father’s steadfast efforts are assisted by mothers, teachers, and a body of myths, histories, and rituals conjured from the past to meet the needs of the troubled present by keeping them whole in a world that could lead to their destruction.

Jefferson, Margo. Negroland: A Memoir. Vintage. 2016.

Pulitzer Prize–winning cultural critic Margo Jefferson was born in 1947 into upper-crust black Chicago. Her father was head of pediatrics at Provident Hospital, while her mother was a socialite. “Negroland” is a world of exclusive sororities, fraternities, networks, and clubs in which skin color and hair texture were relentlessly evaluated alongside scholarly and professional achievements, and where the Talented Tenth positioned themselves as a third race between whites and “the masses of Negros.” A mischievous and provocative work on privilege, discrimination, and the fallacy of post-racial America.

McBride, James. The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother, 10th Anniversary Edition. Riverhead Books. 2006.

In 1938, at age 17, the author’s mother, who was raised Jewish, married a black minister and founded the all-black New Brown Memorial Baptist Church. “God is the color of water,” Ruth McBride taught her children, firmly convinced that life’s blessings and life’s values transcend race. A vivid portrait of growing up in a large family and poor in Brooklyn’s all-black housing projects. A haunting meditation on race and identity.

Moody, Anne. Coming of Age in Mississippi: The Classic Autobiography of Growing Up Poor and Black in the Rural South. Dell. 1992.

An unforgettable personal story. Moody details the sights, smells, and suffering of growing up in a racist society and candidly reveals the soul of a black girl who had the courage to challenge it. An accurate, authoritative portrait of black family life in the rural South and a moving account of a woman’s indomitable heart.

Morales, Jennifer. Meet Me Halfway: Milwaukee Stories. University of Wisconsin Press. 2015.

Set in one of the nation’s most highly segregated cities, the author tells of connections in a community with a tumultuous and racially divided past and present. In nine moving stories, she captures a Rust Belt city’s struggle to establish a common ground and a collective vision for the future.

Washington, Booker T.  Up From Slavery. Dover Publications.1901, 1995.

Washington, the first black man to be invited to the White House, was a teacher, author, presidential advisor, and civil-rights leader. In this classic memoir, Washington describes how he was born into enslavement, and after the Civil War overcame many obstacles to get an education at the newly established college for blacks, Hampton University, He then founded the Tuskegee Institute (now University) to help other African Americans rise through education.

White, Sylvia Bell and Jody LePage. Sister: An African American Life in Search of Justice. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press. 2013.

Raised in the segregated South, Sylvia Bell migrated north to Milwaukee in search of a better life. In 1958, Milwaukee police officers killed her younger brother Daniel, in an infamous incident. Twenty years later, one officer involved would step forward, enabling her family to bring a civil rights lawsuit against the city. The book alternates between Sylvia’s telling of her life’s chapters and LePage’s highly readable background history of each time period in Sylvia’s (and the country’s) life. A fascinating read in which Sylvia emerges as a powerful witness to history and advocate for social justice.

White, Walter. A Man Called White: The Autobiography of Walter White. University of Georgia Press. 1995.

The legendary civil rights activist recounts his first 30 years of service to the NAACP. White joined in1918 and served as its executive secretary from 1931-1995. As a fair skinned, blond haired and blue eyed African American, White’s ability to pass as a white man allowed him to gather important information regarding lynchings and discrimination.

Williams, Gregory Howard. Life on the Color Line: The True Story of a White Boy Who Discovered He Was Black. Plume. 1996.

The Dean of the Ohio State University College of Law tells the affecting and absorbing story of his most unusual youth. Born to a white mother and a black father who passed for white, Williams was raised as white in Virginia until he was 10, when his mother left. His father sank into drink. He and his brother were eventually taken in by Miss Dora, a poor black widow. The memoir recounts his journey along the color line and illuminates the stark contrasts between the black and white worlds.

Wright, Richard. Black Boy: A Record of Childhood and Youth. Harper Perennial Modern Classics. 1945, 2007.

Richard Wright won international renown for his powerful and visceral depiction of the black experience. A literary luminary, two of his novels, Native Son and Black Boy, are required reading in high schools and colleges across the nation. This classic memoir recounts the author’s journey from innocence to experience in the Jim Crow South. It is a confession and an indictment— a disturbing record of social injustice and human suffering.

Novels and Stories — Counter-framing

Butler, Octavia E. Kindred. Beacon. 2003

In this extraordinary work of the imagination by an award winning sci-fi writer, Dana, a modern black woman, is snatched back to the antebellum South, She must save Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, from drowning. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay grows longer, more arduous, and more dangerous.

Hughes, Langston. The Ways of White Folks: Stories. New York: Vintage Classics. 1933, 1990.

In this collection of stories, the author depicts black people colliding, sometimes humorously ,more often tragically with whites in the 1920’s and 30’s. Langston Hughes was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist from Joplin, Missouri. He was one of the earliest innovators of the then-new literary art form called jazz poetry, and is best known as a leader of the Harlem Renaissance.

Pitts, Jr., Leonard. Before I Forget. Agate Bolden. 2009.

This novel of three generations of black men bound by blood, and by histories of mutual love, fear, and frustration. The author explores the painful truths of black men’s lives, especially as they play out in the difficult relations of fathers and sons.

Pitts, Jr., Leonard. Freeman. Agate Bolden. 2012

This novel is set in the first few months following the Confederate surrender and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Sam, a runaway slave who once worked for the Union Army, decides to leave his safe haven and sets out on foot to the South. He is compelled by the desire to locate his wife and only child he was forced to leave behind 15 years earlier on the farm to which they all “belonged.” This wonderfully drawn novel powerfully captures the pathos and possibility of the era. It reflects the ordeal of formerly enslaved blacks grappling with the promise – and the terror – of their new status as free people.A columnist for the Miami Herald, Pitts has won several is awards, including the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary.

Wright, Richard. Native Son. Harper Perennial Modern Classics. 1940, 2005.

Bigger Thomas is doomed, trapped in a downward spiral that will lead to arrest, prison, or death, driven by despair, frustration, poverty, and incomprehension. As a young black man in the Chicago of the ’30s, he has no way out of the walls of poverty and racism that surround him, and after he murders a young white woman in a moment of panic, these walls begin to close in. There is no help for him–not from his hapless family; not from liberal do-gooders or from his well-meaning yet naive friend Jan; certainly not from the police, prosecutors, or judges. Bigger is debased, aggressive, dangerous, and a violent criminal. As such, he has no claim upon our compassion or sympathy. And yet…A more compelling story than Native Son has not been written in the 20th century by an American writer.


Kristoff, Nicolaus. “A History of White Delusion,” New York Times, July 14, 2016.

McIntosh, Peggy. National Seed Project. ”White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” and “Some Notes for Facilitators”  Accessed July 23, 2016.


Jensen, Robert. The Color of the Race Problem is White.  (52:00)

Lecture by the author of The Heart of Whiteness. In The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. DuBois suggested that the question white people so often want to ask black people is, How does it feel to be a problem? This program turns the tables and recognizes some simple facts: Race problems have their roots in a system of white supremacy. White people invented white supremacy. Therefore, the color of the race problem is white. White people are the problem. White people have to ask ourselves: How does it feel to be a problem?

Following the ideas in his book The Heart of Whiteness, Jensen argues that — even decades after the significant achievements of the civil-rights movement and with an African-American president — it is still appropriate to describe the United States as a white-supremacist society, in terms of how we think and how we live. Through an analysis of contemporary racial ideology, Jensen presents a framework for critiquing the naturalizing of power and privilege in other arenas of our lives (gender, class, nationality, and ecology). How have we come to accept so easily systems of domination and subordination? How did we become resigned to hierarchy? How can we challenge the unjust and unsustainable nature of the systems in which we live?

Scott, Pippa (director). King Leopold II of Belgium and the 10 Million Deaths of the Congolese  (1:47:17)

Full-length documentary film based on the book King Leopold’s Ghost by A. Hochschild.

Tickell, Paul (director). Racism: A History (58:33)

A BBC documentary exploring the impact of racism on a global scale, the 1st of a 3-part series released on the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slave trade (but not slavery itself) in the British Empire. Beginning by assessing the implications of the relationship between Europe, Africa and the Americas in the 15th century, it considers how racist ideas and practices developed in key religious and secular institutions.

Tickell, Paul (director). Leopold II of Belgium: Racism, Slavery, and Genocide in the Congo (7:49)

A short clip from episode 3 of BBC documentary “Racism: A History”. Leopold II of Belgium orchestrates one of the most appalling and forgotten acts of slavery, genocide, and robbery in history.

Unterschuetz, Phyllis. The Promise: A Lesson in White Privilege (11:58)

What happens when the warm connection between a black woman and a white woman is broken by insensitivity and unconscious white privilege? Are courage, honesty, forgiveness and hope enough to heal the separation? This true story is based on the chapter “The Promise” in the book Longing: Stories of Racial Healing by Phyllis and Eugene Unterschuetz, © Bahá’í Publishing 2010.

Wise, Tim. On White Privilege (9:31)

One of America’s most important student of and writer/speaker about racism gives a brief overview of the history of white privilege. In critical race theory, white privilege is a set of advantages that some claim are enjoyed by white people beyond those commonly experienced by non-white people in the same social, political, and economic spaces (nation, community, workplace, income, etc.). Theorists differentiate it from racism or prejudice because, they say, a person who may benefit from white privilege is not necessarily racist or prejudiced and may be unaware of having any privileges reserved only for whites.

Wise, Tim. White Privilege, Racism, White Denial & The Cost of Inequality (57:41)

Wise, Tim. White America’s inability to talk about race (2:52)

Wise, Tim. “White America” does not understand the racial realities of US (8:22)

The unrest that swept Ferguson in 2014 and Baltimore in April left many pundits questioning the state of race relations in America. Ben Swann speaks with journalist and activist Tim Wise who says that the real problem lies in how ‘White America’ views communities of color.