400 Years Blog #19 – Incarceration and Toxic Environments

In my last two blogs I explored how environmental dangers disproportionately threaten schools and neighborhoods where many people of color live. This blog focuses on environmental threats to those sent to prison. Many of you know that people of color are incarcerated at close to five times the rate of whites. But few know that […]

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400 Years Blog #18 – Rising Tides of Racism

In 2006, Hurricane Katrina delivered both devastation and a lesson in environmental justice. Michael Eric Dyson explains in Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster how 1,836 people died, many of them people of color, because they couldn’t escape. “134,000 people in New Orleans were without cars. They were stuck — […]

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400 Years Blog #17 – Schools, Cities, and Environmental Racism

My last couple of posts highlighted lynching, a grisly and public manifestation of white supremacy.  My next couple will touch on a more hidden form of violence: environmental racism.  I heard this term when Baltimore’s 25-year-old Freddie Gray died on April 19, 2015, due to a spinal cord injury in police custody.  In a way, […]

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400 Years Blog #16 – Breaking Through Silence and Shame

On March 30th of this year, the front page of the Washington Post featured a photo of John Johnson. At 80-years-old he looks like a history detective, complete with dark coat and fedora. Much of his life he’s been obsessed with uncovering the truth about what newspapers in 1926 called a “crime of collective bestiality.” […]

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400 Years Blog #15 – Remembering Lynching Victims at Memorial Square

Bryan Stevenson is an American hero. His book, Just Mercy, documents his work as a lawyer and social justice activist. He has for years defended the poor and people of color caught up in our criminal justice system, some facing execution. Now Stevenson has created the National Memorial for Peace and Justice to remember the […]

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400 Years Blog #14 – Strange Fruit

To subscribe to “400Years” and automatically receive my blog postings with more features than offered here, go to this link: http://eepurl.com/gdeHJb   There’s no good way to speak about lynching. In writing last week about Ida B. Wells, I approached it through the heroic struggle of the journalist who cast light into this the darkest […]

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400 Years Blog #13 – Truth, Power, and Ida B. Wells

Born into slavery and orphaned at 16, Ida B. Wells spoke truth to power all her life. At 21, after she was dragged off a train by three conductors for sitting in a “white’s only” section, she sued the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad. Wells was stunned by what her grandson called “a dramatic whiplash” when […]

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400 Years Blog #12 – The Courage of Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman called the slave south “the next thing to hell,” and yet she went to hell and back again and again to rescue family and friends. She was well prepared because, while enslaved, she harvested wood for her master and learned about wilderness trails, a vital part of the Underground Railroad. Her 90-mile walk […]

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400 Years Blog #11 – Zora Neale Hurston and the Last “Black cargo”

In 2018 Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo” by Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) was posthumously published. Both the story it tells and the story behind it demonstrate how hard it is to get history right, especially about slavery.  Those who experienced it often had their words ignored, distorted, or lost when they died. In 1927, Hurston saved the words of Oluale Kossola, a […]

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400 Years Blog #10 – Ain’t I a Woman? Sojourner Truth

Sojourner Truth swept into the 1851 Ohio Women’s Rights Convention “with the air of a queen,” a tall, “almost Amazon form,” with “eyes piercing the upper air like one in a dream.” But how much of the account that followed written by activist Matilda Joslyn Gage was accurate? History does not do justice to this […]

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