The History of Whiteness and How We Teach About Race

Episode 3, Season 4

Historian Ed Baptist provides context on the creation and enforcement of a U.S. racial binary that endures today, as well as Black resistance as a force for political change. And Aisha White urges educators to ask themselves, “What did you learn about race when you were younger?” before they engage with children. She argues that self-reflection and ongoing education are vital tools to combat the fallacy of ignoring students’ racialized experiences.

 

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Transcript

Bethany Jay: When I started graduate school at Boston College back in 2001, a field known as Whiteness Studies had gained significant interest among scholars. Books like Making Whiteness: The Culture of Segregation in the South and Working Toward Whiteness: How America's Immigrants Became White had recently been published. And they were just two of many different monographs written on the subject. By the way, if you want to get a lot of funny looks in Boston while you’re riding on the T, try reading Noel Ignatiev’s book, How the Irish Became White, when you’re on your commute.

Bethany Jay: But studying whiteness wasn’t new. As is the case with a lot of great work on race and racism in the United States, W.E.B. Du Bois did it first. In his 1910 essay, “The Souls of White Folk,” Du Bois wrote: “The discovery of personal whiteness among the world's peoples is a very modern thing,– a nineteenth and twentieth-century matter, indeed. The ancient world would have laughed at such a distinction.” He goes on to say, “Today we have changed all that, and the world in a sudden, emotional conversion has discovered that it is white and by that token, wonderful!”

Bethany Jay: In the 1990s, this new generation of scholars was expanding on Du Bois’ analysis. Their work examined the process of white racial formation. And they identified ways in which different groups of Americans were able to claim that identity—or were excluded from it. One of the most influential works of this generation was The Wages of Whiteness by David Roediger. The title itself is a reference to Du Bois’ book, Black Reconstruction in America, in which he asserts that whiteness paid a “psychological wage.”  Using Du Bois as a foundation, Roediger outlined how white race consciousness helped shape the identity of the working class in America.  And he provided examples of the ways that new immigrant groups participated in anti-black violence as a way to stake their own claims to whiteness.

Bethany Jay: My time at Boston College came towards the end of the Whiteness Studies boom. But that resurgence of historical attention to whiteness—based on the work of W.E.B. Du Bois—still continues. Du Bois’ observations were shaped by the transformation he witnessed in decades following emancipation. Born during Reconstruction, he witnessed how the full rights and privileges, which were restored to Black people, were violently and systematically stripped away. He saw the role that whiteness and white supremacy played, and the cost of that racial binary. 

Bethany Jay: As we think about the importance of race during Jim Crow, it’s important to remember both Du Bois and those Whiteness Studies scholars of the 1990s, who reminded us that whiteness is not the natural racial identity. Whiteness is a social construction that was remade during Jim Crow and used to maintain white supremacy.

Bethany Jay: I’m Bethany Jay, and this is Teaching Hard History. We’re a production of Learning for Justice—the education arm of the Southern Poverty Law Center. This season, we’re offering a detailed look at how to teach the history of Jim Crow, starting with Reconstruction. In each episode we explore a different topic, walking you through historical concepts, raising questions for discussion, suggesting useful source material, and offering practical classroom exercises.

Bethany Jay: During Jim Crow, whiteness could no longer be defined by freedom from enslavement. And white Americans worked hard to maintain its power in the post-emancipation world. In this episode, we’re going to talk with historian Edward Baptist about the centuries-long political, social and legal decisions that not only defined whiteness as a racial identity but also imbued it with power, fought to police its borders, and later, worked to maintain its potency in the post-emancipation world. 

Bethany Jay: But first, in order to have these conversations in the classroom, it’s important to think about the ways we talk with our students—particularly our younger students—about race. So we’re going to hear from Aisha White, the Director of the Positive Racial Identity Development in Early Education Program, or P.R.I.D.E., at the University of Pittsburgh. She spoke with my co-host Hasan Kwame Jeffries about how to have positive race conversations with your students. I’m so glad that you could join us. Let’s get started.

Hasan Kwame Jeffries: I am really excited today to welcome to the podcast Dr. Aisha White, who is the director of P.R.I.D.E., a program at the University of Pittsburgh in the School of Education. And we're going to dig deep and talk about the importance of teaching kids and talking to kids about race and racism and positive identity. Dr. White, thank you so much for joining us.

Aisha White: It is a pleasure and an honor, trust me.

Hasan Kwame Jeffries: Well, we're excited, we're excited. I've been thinking about this conversation since we began planning this season, so I'm honored that you are with us. I want to begin by asking you to explain to our listeners just what is the P.R.I.D.E. program at Pitt?

Aisha White: Okay, so P.R.I.D.E. is an acronym for Positive Racial Identity Development in Early Education. And we do that by providing the important adults in young children's lives with the knowledge, resources and skills to actually engage in conversation and activities that do support children's development of a positive racial identity.

Aisha White: The program actually emerged out of an environmental scan, where we did a study, collected lots of data, we did multiple focus groups. And teachers told us we want resources around talking to kids about race. We did not learn about how to talk to kids about race through our educational careers. And we need some examples and maybe some models that we can see so that we can actually do this work.

Aisha White: So if you're interested in learning more about P.R.I.D.E., you can find more information about our program at www.racepride.pitt.edu. We've been doing virtual trainings since the pandemic started. We have a core curriculum, and we want people to learn about the history of race and racism in America. We think that that's very important. Even as an educator, we're not just going to talk about children and race, we're going to talk about the history. And then we also want them to learn about the history of race and racism in their profession, the history of race and racism in the education system.

Aisha White: We also want them to do internal work, so we have a module where they have to explore their own racial narrative. And then we get to the point where we talk to them about how children experience race. So that is what our professional development model looks like, and that's what we offer to anyone who's interested in it. And then our parent village component, which is where we engage with a small group of parents, maybe around 10 or less parents over the course of six weeks. And we cover a series of topics. So helping them understand the history of skin color prejudice, and how they can help their children feel good about their skin. Talking about Black hair and discrimination against Black hair, and how they can help their kids feel good about that.

Aisha White: We also talk about using words to help their children defend themselves against racial bullying, for example. And we also include information about Africa, about the diaspora, and then how to become resisters. And the way we describe that is they are actually engaging in resistance, in our opinion, if they do something as simple as advocate for their child through the education system.

Hasan Kwame Jeffries: You know, when I have conversations with folk about the importance of race and racial identity and racism in society, you get from those who will push back, why focus on race at all? How come we just can't be colorblind? And I'm sure many of our listeners and teachers who want to engage in this work in thoughtful, honest ways hear that as well. What is your response when folks say that to you?

Aisha White: My first response is sort of like a gut reaction, which is you're not even being real. You do see color. But in thinking more about what we do at the P.R.I.D.E. program, my response is that the research has shown that when teachers take on this colorblind approach, it can be as damaging as actually being racist towards children. If you claim that you are colorblind and there are circumstances in a classroom, for example, where a child is harmed racially, what do you do? Because you're not prepared. Because you've said that nobody has color. I don't see color.

Hasan Kwame Jeffries: Why shouldn't we wait until kids are in middle school or high school, a little bit older, a little bit more mature to talk about these issues?

Aisha White: At three months, kids are already noticing skin color differences. Three months old. The research says that at three months old, a child will tend to an image that is similar to their primary caregivers, mom and dad. So if mom and dad are white, the child's white, show them pictures of somebody who's white versus somebody who's African American, they'll tend to the white face. That kind of flips, and they'll begin to be a little more engaged in looking at images and better able to see at six months. And so they'll tend to a face that is darker. They begin to look longer at the Black face now. And both of those things are fine, because it's just kids actually noticing things. But very quickly that changes, and the research says that by two and a half years old, they're starting to embrace some of the ideas and attitudes around race that are common in America. And those are commonly bad.

Aisha White: And by two and a half, if you ask a child to choose a playmate, and you show them a picture of somebody who's the same race or somebody who's a different race, they'll choose the same race. That's something that happens across the board, whether it's a white child, an Indigenous child or a Black child. Something happens by three, and the majority of children of color begin to prefer white.

Hasan Kwame Jeffries: Mm!

Aisha White: Yeah, so by three years old, I think the literature, and it's from Katz and Kofkin, says that about 70 percent of the children begin to prefer white. But then it starts to get even worse. And the literature says that by the time kids are in kindergarten, they have pretty much absorbed and embraced the prevailing attitudes around race in America.

Hasan Kwame Jeffries: Wow. Before kids get to the first grade, all that has already sunk into their consciousness.

Aisha White: Yeah. We just recently in our team read an article about both gender and racial bias among four-year-olds who, they all had a bias against Black boys. By four years old. So they're already expressing these biases even before kindergarten. So, you know, that's a reason to not wait. Why would you not help a child understand something that causes so much harm to so many people in the country? If you're going to help your child understand other things and help them be better prepared to get along with other people and that sort of thing, then why would you not help them understand race?

Hasan Kwame Jeffries: Well, we can understand racial identity. We see it, we can identify it. What do you all mean by positive racial identity? What is positive racial identity, especially when it comes to Black children?

Aisha White: Mm-hmm. So for Black children, you know, the great fear is that they will develop ideas of racial inferiority. Children can easily develop negative attitudes towards their race based on what they see and hear in America. And so what we want to do is counter that. We're not able to prevent them from being impacted by it, but we can prevent the level of impact. So building capacity in children to deflect those messages that they receive. Because you can't stop them, you can't shield them from getting the messages. So when they have a positive racial identity, they feel okay with their skin color, they don't wish that they were a different skin color. They feel okay with their hair texture, which is a really big issue with Black girls. They feel good about their history because it's full of positive things and people. And we want them to also know about their culture, their culture originating in Africa as well as the African-American culture, and feel good about all those things, experience those things, so that once they do that, then they're able to embrace anybody else's culture because they already understand their own, they know their own and they feel good about their own.

Aisha White: The way we view supporting children in developing a positive racial identity is through it being a core need that children have, and not an add-on. So we're not asking teachers to add on a little bit at the end of the class or once or twice during a year, but make it central to what they do. So I always suggest that teachers begin working on themselves. And parents as well. So that means not going and grabbing a book and reading a book about race. It means taking time to reflect on their own racial experiences, their own racial history, their own racial—what we call racial narrative. So we have a series of questions that we offer people that they can use if they want to on their own. So we ask them, you know, what did you learn about race when you were younger? Where did those messages come from? What kind of impact did those messages have on you? Have your views about race changed over time? If so, what has caused that change? What things do you want to learn more about?

Aisha White: And I've done those, and it's been really eye-opening for me. So just to give you an example of what it might sound like, you know, we ask the question, "What messages did you get?" Well, I grew up in an all-Black community in the projects in Pittsburgh on the Hill, so I didn't see a whole lot of white people. And so the messages that I got were from television. So I watched the news when civil rights activists were being hosed and beaten and dogs set upon them. And that was one of my earliest memories of race. And what I felt was, one, people don't like Black people. There's something happening here. And second, they don't really have an interest in Black people. So the other part of that learning from the media was watching television and seeing very few Black people on television. So those were the two original things that kind of informed my understanding of race. And I never talked to anybody about it. My mom and dad never explained it to me. And so for me, what I felt was a need to always talk about it with my children, because I know that they would probably have questions.

Hasan Kwame Jeffries: What suggestions do you have for teachers for beginning these conversations in the classroom, beyond sort of the introspection, understand and ask those questions, figure out where you are in this, but then how do you then bridge, or what's that bridge to then engaging in the conversation with students, with young people?

Aisha White: Yeah. Picture books, picture books and picture books. I am a strong component of it. It makes it a lot easier. You pick a book that is—I'll describe it as benign, that simply shows a family that may be different from the mainstream. So first is just exposure. So I'm a big fan of Ezra Jack Keats's books. He wrote Whistle for WilliePeter's Chair. He was a groundbreaker because he was one of the first people to write a picture book that portrayed a Black family. I think his first books were written in 1969. And you can use a book like that that is just about an ordinary experience. So Whistle for Willie is about a little boy who's trying to learn how to whistle. He happens to be Black. And so a teacher may not be prepared to talk about the fact that he's Black, so she can just expose the children to the book and let them look at it. And she can also ask them to describe what they see, and see if the children are ready to talk about the fact that the main character is Black. If they feel that they can begin to have these conversations, then they can intentionally talk about the fact that the child is Black, and ask the kids what they think about that, and give them some kind of other extended activities to do to sort of celebrate what that child looks like.

Aisha White: Teachers can begin to use books that include within them some kind of conflict around race. So an example of a book like that is a book called Amazing Grace, where it's an Afro-Caribbean girl who is very creative, expressive and she's always pretending to be different characters. And there's an opportunity for the children to be in a play, a Peter Pan play. And she wants to be Peter Pan, and they tell her she can't be Peter Pan because she's Black and because she's a girl. And she has a conversation with her grandmom who encourages her. She practices positive racial socialization by showing her a Black ballerina, and Grace is convinced that she can try out for the part. She tries out and she becomes Peter Pan. Teachers who are prepared can talk to children about this conflict that's in the book, Amazing Grace. Was it fair for them to say Grace couldn't be Peter Pan because she was Black? Because she was a girl? What do you think about that? And then the kids will have a whole lot to say, I'm sure.

Aisha White: One other book that I would recommend, it's called, All the Colors We Are: The Story of How We Get Our Skin Color. And I think it's a great starting point book for teachers because it provides an objective and really scientific explanation for where we get our skin color. It has lots of great activities in the back of it, and it's a great way to start the conversation with young children.

Aisha White: Another resource that I think would be really great for teachers, it's called A Kid's Book About Racism. It's part of a series. There are lots of A Kid's Book About, but this one just happens to be about racism. And the author is Jelani Memory. So let me read a few pages from the book. So the first page reads, "This is a book about racism. For reals. And yes, it really is for kids. It's a good book to read with a grown-up because you'll have lots to talk about afterwards. Now to introduce myself. My name is Jelani. My skin color looks like this"—and the word "this" is in all brown—"because my dad is Black and my mom is white." And so those two words are in black and white. "Which makes me mixed." And then the word "mixed" is in brown. He goes on to talk about him being biracial, and how proud he is of his skin color, and how he sometimes gets called names, and how people hurt him by doing that. And then he talks about the need for us to be kind to each other, and he explains what racism is and how it kind of plays itself out. And one of the things that I really like about the book is how he describes what racism could look like, because we always think about it like this terrible person who does something violent and terrible to another person, but in the book, he describes it as being a look, a comment, a question, a thought, a joke, a word or a belief. I highly recommend it.

Aisha White: I'll give you another that's really, really close to home for me, because I started the P.R.I.D.E. work four and a half years ago or so. I would try to use my grandkids as experiments, so as guinea pigs. And so I would bring some books home and I would read them to them and ask them questions about it, have a conversation with them. And so I decided that I was going to pick this one book, it's called Shades of People, I believe. And it's a photo picture book of children of all races, ethnicities.

Aisha White: And I asked my grandson, who at the time was six, to find for me the person in this book whose face you like the most. And so he found a very, very pale white girl who had stark blue eyes and jet black straight hair. And so I said, "Okay, and let's look and see if we can find anybody else that you like." And we turned some more pages, turned some more pages. And I got to a picture of this really cute African-American girl. She looked like she was around three years old. She had a big dimple and she was holding her arm—I can still see the picture. And I said, "Oh, what about her?" And he said, "She's too dark." And I thought I was going to die.

Hasan Kwame Jeffries: Mm-hmm.

Aisha White: I don't know if you're familiar with the French film Amelie, but there's a scene where she is in a restaurant, and something happens and her whole body becomes liquid and she splashes down to the ground. That's the way I felt when that happened with my grandson. And I just wanted to cry. But I was cool, calm and collected, and didn't react in a way that showed him I was upset, how upset I was.

Hasan Kwame Jeffries: Right, right.

Aisha White: And then about a week or two weeks later, he and his older brother came over and I had the book again. I said, "Do you remember what you said when I showed you this picture of the girl?" And he said, "Yeah, I told you that she was too dark." And then I had his older brother come over and put his arm next to the girl's picture to show that he was as dark, if not darker than that girl. And I said, "Wow, look, he's just the same color as her." And my grandson didn't say anything. He thought for a moment, and then he just looked at me with this slow smile on his face, like he understood the message that I was trying to present to him. I use that as an example all the time for teachers because I was stuck like a deer in headlights. And they need to understand that that's going to happen, but that you can always go back and revisit whatever happened, because kids don't forget, and you can sort of keep building on that so that you do make up for what you think you may have missed earlier on.

Hasan Kwame Jeffries: The times in which we are living today are unique, to say the least. We're in the midst of this hysteria surrounding critical race theory. I imagine that there are more than a few white folk who, if they knew about the work you were doing, they would burst into flames. Could you share a thought, a word or two with our teachers specifically who are headed back into the classroom in this charged environment where you have people mobilizing around not saying anything, not teaching, not talking about race and racism?

Aisha White: Yeah, so the first thing I would say is to be careful and watch out and take care of yourself. So I would never encourage teachers to engage in practices in the classroom if it means that they're going to be fired, because I don't want that to happen to teachers.

Hasan Kwame Jeffries: Right.

Aisha White: But I would also suggest that they try to be as creative as possible in introducing this content in ways that won't get them fired, but will still support children in learning about race. And I think part of what will help them to have sort of the fortitude to do that is in understanding the benefits that come from this. So when I describe sort of that continuum of children at three months old, you know, noticing someone who looks like them, and then once we get to kindergarten, here are kids embracing the biases. But there's also literature that says that when kids are engaged in ongoing conversations about interracial relationships, it can change their attitudes within weeks. So they can feel positive about being connected to other people who are different from them if you present it in the right way and you do it consistently. And children are open to that.

Hasan Kwame Jeffries: Wow.

Aisha White: Yeah.

Hasan Kwame Jeffries: You can see change within weeks. I mean, it doesn't take a lifetime necessarily to begin to move the needle if you're doing this right.

Aisha White: Right, exactly. Mm-hmm.

Hasan Kwame Jeffries: Well look, Dr. White, thank you so much for joining us. And thank you so much for the work that you are doing, and really modeling how we can create and foster and develop positive racial identity among our Black children, but really among all children. Thank you so much.

Aisha White: Oh, you're so welcome. And I would be remiss if I didn't mention that my daughter, Jamilla Rice, is a huge fan and she told me that I better mention her during this interview. [laughs]

Hasan Kwame Jeffries: Ah, shout out to Jamilla. [laughs] Wonderful. 

Bethany Jay: Dr. Aisha White is the Director of the P.R.I.D.E. program, which is part of the Office of Child Development at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. White is also the Executive Director of Rights & Responsibilities, a human rights organization creating awareness about issues impacting people of African descent. And of course, she is the proud mother of Jamilla Rice, who is also an educator in Pittsburgh. 

Bethany Jay: Next up is our conversation with historian Edward Baptist about whiteness in the Jim Crow era. Here’s Hasan to welcome him to the podcast.  

Hasan Kwame Jeffries: It is my distinct pleasure to welcome to the podcast one of Durham's finest sons, Ed Baptist. Ed, welcome aboard. So glad you could spend some time with us.

Ed Baptist: Thanks, Hasan. It's an honor to be here. And I know you spent some formative years in Durham as well.

Hasan Kwame Jeffries: The formative years, in which I learned that it's properly pronounced Durm.

Ed Baptist: Durm, yeah.

Hasan Kwame Jeffries: And not Durham. So I've been working on that ever since then. Look Ed, we wanted to have this discussion with you because we very much appreciate the depth of your understanding, not only going back into the era of slavery, but then also in the post-Emancipation era as well. And we wanted to have a conversation with you about whiteness. We're trying to wrap our minds around race and racial identity, and specifically whiteness. So let me ask you this, Ed: what is whiteness?

Ed Baptist: Yeah, I can start with a really short story from Durham, from third grade in C.C. Spaulding Elementary School. Had a good friend named Patrick. Patrick was Black, I was white. And we figured out if we held our breath long enough, we would each change a slightly different color. I would get really dark red and he would get purple. And when we figured this out, we fell out laughing, and we did it over and over again until the teacher made us stop because we were being very annoying. So we're not talking about really what color my skin is, what color my skin turns when I hold my breath or anything about Patrick either. What we're talking about is not phenotype, it is not biology. We are talking about political meaning. We are talking about what people mean when they say, "White people are going to be a minority in the United States in 2040 or 2050," or whatever. We are talking about the ways in which discussions about white people, their place, their privilege, the supposed threats to them, are used as ways to organize politics at both the daily level, so the exercise of power in daily life, or on the mass scale, as we've seen again and again in US history from the earliest days of the republic up until the most recent days of the republic as well.

Hasan Kwame Jeffries: You know, one of the things that we often get wrong about the evolution of whiteness in American society is that whiteness—and particularly notions of white supremacy and racism are fundamentally Southern in origin, are fundamentally Southern in their evolution. But when we look at that early 20th century, late 19th century, we're seeing these scientific rationalizations for white supremacy, for racism, not coming out of the South, but coming out of the leading intellectual institutions of the North. Could you say something a little more about that?

Ed Baptist: Sure. So much of the discourse about race, particularly since the 1960s, has been built on this sort of foundation of the argument that Black Americans are especially prone to commit crimes. This claim is written into the consciousness of America with the kind of bold letters of science, right? Capital-S Science. This is science. You know, well-meaning people might want to think otherwise, but science proves that, in fact, there's a tendency to Black criminality.

Ed Baptist: The people who are establishing this claim in the new, quote-unquote, "science" of criminology that's emerging in the late 19th century, yeah, they're based at Harvard, they're based at Columbia, they're based at places like that. It's not hard for us today to see that the Black critics of that work like W.E.B. Du Bois and others were right in that the statistical claims and the way those claims are framed are quite shoddy, right? You cannot say that the quantity of crimes committed is a statistical fact unless you can establish that crimes are being recorded in the same way for everybody, and with the same frequency for all groups of people. That's one of the most basic criticisms that Du Bois and others make of this kind of work. But this work is coming out of a Northern-focused elite, a new industrial and financial elite that wants to govern what it's afraid is going to be an ungovernable country, right? A country with an enormous, increasingly urbanized industrial working class that these folks at Harvard and the people who are donating their money to Harvard and the folks at Columbia and so on—and at Cornell—they can look to Europe and they could see that socialist parties are rising in power in Europe in the late 19th, early 20th century. They're worried about that. They're worried about the possibility of a revolution, whether Marxist or otherwise. And they are trying to come up with both techniques and justifications for establishing ever more powerful muscles for the state to use in controlling unstable people. And so creating a science of criminology allows you to justify new kinds of policing, new kinds of imprisonment and so on and so forth.

Ed Baptist: So this claim that there's a scientific difference in the propensity to commit crimes among African Americans as opposed to European Americans confirms things that lots of white Americans wanted to believe in the late 19th century. Now what we know from at least my understanding of DNA is that the genetic differences between people in Africa and people in Europe are extremely small. Probably not surprising—we all have the same ancestors. But because slavery and the slave trade taught us to focus on certain aspects of phenotype, we tend to focus on them. And so we assume that social behaviors and social facts, which may not actually be facts, but these become encoded in many people's minds as genetically determined, right? Because we've been taught from a very early age to at least consider whether or not maybe these things are genetically determined.

Bethany Jay: Can you give us a few sort of moments or events that allow us to kind of understand how whiteness is constructed in the early days of the republic?

Ed Baptist: Well, I think if we're looking at some of the very earliest days, we actually have to go back before there was a republic to the first decades of the settler colonies that emerged in North America. And many of the legal institutions that the colonies set up, and some of the legal definitions that the colonies set up in the 1600s, they are taking land from and often killing on a mass scale Indigenous people. And they are also importing large numbers of enslaved Africans. But these colonies in North America don't start to write the words "Black" or "Negro," if I could use one of the most common terms that they used in the 17th-century laws, and they don't start to write the term "White" into the law until they actually start to work out in law the ways in which enslaved people and Indigenous people are going to be policed, right? Where are they going to be allowed to move? Are Indigenous people going to be able to come in and out of the colonies, which, of course, were their homelands originally. How are enslaved Africans going to be prevented from running away, setting up Maroon colonies in the woods, escaping to other colonies, et cetera, et cetera? That's when we start to see this word "White" come into the law as ways to distinguish how white people, if they are of lesser status like indentured servants or something like that, how they're going to be policed differently from enslaved Africans, and how they're going to be policed differently from Indigenous people.

Ed Baptist: And often, this actually comes down to a matter of life and death. Who can you kill, and who can legally do the killing? And so white people from very early on are given by law the power to police the movement, and even to take the lives of those of African descent, whether they're slaves or not. And there are certain aspects of those patterns which play out, not just through the colonial years, but far, far beyond.

Hasan Kwame Jeffries: You know, in 1739, of course, there is the Stono Rebellion, and then in 1740, South Carolina rewrites its slave code, its Negro Act of 1740. And they include in that very clearly the empowering, just as you were saying, of all white people to stop, to question and to kill if necessary, without repercussion, any Black person enslaved or free, doing exactly what you were saying: empowering white people to police and patrol the color line.

Ed Baptist: Yeah, and I just want to emphasize that as we've seen with the discussion of policing in recent years, policing is about politics, right? It's about effectively who can participate as a full member of the political community. If you're policed in one way, it becomes very difficult for you to participate as a full member of the political community. If you are allowed to police the movement and the behavior of others, you've been trusted with this immense amount of power.

Ed Baptist: You know, one of the things that's happening in the 18th century is folks who are really very different from the English, and even folks from England who are very different from upper class and these sort of elite English settlers, they are starting to make the claim to be part of this same group because after all, they've been entrusted with this enormous kind of power, right? And they are then saying, "And therefore, we deserve the right to participate on an equal basis in the political community."

Ed Baptist: And that's a constant churning conflict within white America even before the revolution, right? And in the wake of the revolution, that becomes one of the key dynamics of politics in the young United States: white men standing up and saying, "I don't own property, but I am as good as every other white person. I'm in the militia, or I'm eligible for the militia to go fight, to take more land from Indigenous people, or to defend the land that we've already taken, that we've rightfully stolen from Indigenous people." Or to put down slave revolts as they had done in 1739, as they would do again and again in the antebellum era.

Ed Baptist: So these different groups of people, like I said, had been accounted as significantly less than back in the old world. Great example is the Irish, of course. When Irish immigrants start to arrive—and many of them not even speaking English, they're not even Protestant, you know, which was such a key part of North American colonial identity. And they figure out the rules of the game really quickly. They make the claim, "We are equal members of this political community because we are white."

Bethany Jay: If whiteness is afforded all of these sort of privileges and power, then really knowing who is white and who is not becomes important. And one of the things that I think is so interesting about some of those early colonial laws is how many of them try to police interracial sex. Of course, with absolutely no real success. But the idea that you need to keep these color lines very, very distinct in order to make the privileges of whiteness clear and distinct.

Ed Baptist: Yeah, it's so fascinating, obviously. The story of this interracial sexuality is the vast majority of the history of that before 1865 is white men committing sexual assault against Black women. The children who are born obviously trouble all these binaries that the law and that custom and that political power and political structures are trying to implement. Folks decide "Well, we have to write something down in law to resolve this," right? So one of the key examples, of course, is what we now know is the one-drop rule, which is at first just an argument that free people of color, that they fit into the category of those who are policed in this particular way, policed in the same way effectively as the enslaved. But one of the interesting things that seems to happen is that the attempt to enforce this binary is a really powerful force, both in organizing white politics and in organizing Black politics, right?

Ed Baptist: And so I don't want to say it's just because in the US and in the colonies that become the US, there's a decision made more or less collectively in the late 17th century by white people that we're going to exclude all people of visible African descent from full membership in the community. We're going to treat them all as if they're assumed to be enslaved until they prove otherwise. I don't want to say that that is what organizes Black politics, but it creates a space in which the response among people of African descent is to say, essentially, we're in the same boat. We're in the same boat together. And so, you know, while we're talking about whiteness as one of the most dangerous forces in the history of the United States, if not beyond, we also have to pay attention to the ways in which Black solidarity as it emerges in the United States is one of the most powerful political forces in the history of the US, just as surely.

Hasan Kwame Jeffries: The founders of this nation, the framers of those founding documents were white men who came of age in the era in which you are speaking, an era in which whiteness is taking shape, in which people who weren't white are now white. I wonder to what extent we see whiteness inscribed into the Constitution?

Ed Baptist: So whiteness is inscribed in the Constitution. It's not written in the sort of black letter law of the Constitution, yet it's there in virtually every section. Article Four, Section Two, the Fugitive Slave Clause, right? They don't specifically say "We're setting up this system in which anybody anywhere in the country who is accused of being enslaved can be seized and brought to trial and forced to prove that they're not a slave." It's not written, right? But that was the intent. That was the intent.

Ed Baptist: When you look at the notes of the debates that various members of the constitutional convention took, when they're talking about Article Four, Section Two, the only debate is about who's going to enforce the sort of grabbing up of fugitive slaves from the streets of Boston or the streets of Philadelphia or the streets of New York, right? These places where slavery was, in the case of Boston at that time, already eliminated from law and from state law, and Philadelphia, where it was on the way out as a sort of gradual process of abolition. The Massachusetts and Pennsylvania representatives do not deny that they are setting up a system in which slavery for some extends across the entire country, and in which those who can be accused of being enslaved, of committing the crime of trying to behave as if they're free, can be grabbed up by any white person who claims to be empowered to do so as their enslaver or as the agent of their enslaver. That's what the fugitive slave clause does. Everybody knows it. You see that from the records of debates. But it doesn't say, you know, "We are setting up this clear difference between whose lives matter, right? Black versus white. And who gets to take whose life." It's not there in the black letter law.

Bethany Jay: Can I ask you to speak to what I think is a common misconception in the reading of the Constitution about the three-fifths clause, and the idea that Black people are counted as three-fifths of white people. Can you speak to that, just in case anybody is confused as they're listening about how that kind of jibes with the conversation we're having?

Ed Baptist: Yeah, so the three-fifths compromise, they're not saying, "Okay, Black people are only 60 percent of a person." What they're talking about is who's going to be counted for representation under the Constitution. So you've got a process set up to take a census of all the inhabitants of the country. And "inhabitant" is a slightly different word from "citizen." It was used effectively as "citizen" in earlier times, and as of the 1780s, the New England and middle states see that if enslaved people are counted in the census and then are counted as one full person for representation, they're going to be close to outnumbered, and maybe actually outnumbered in the first House of Representatives.

Ed Baptist: And they're not sure that their interests are going to be best protected in that way. So they say, in effect, "Slaves are property. We don't count our property in an enumeration of persons for representation in our legislatures. So therefore, slaves should count as zero-fifths." And the Southern states, you know, who are seeking their own power say, "Oh, no, they should count—each one should count as five-fifths," right? And so the three-fifths compromise is driven by political interest. This is a compromise that's about political power, and how they can keep the political balance between North and South that's already emerging as a problem in the new nation.

Bethany Jay: This is Teaching Hard History, and I'm Bethany Jay. We prepare detailed show notes for each episode of this podcast, so that you can use what you learn here in the classroom. You'll find relevant resources—like "How to use Children’s books to talk about Race and Racial identity"—as well as a full transcript, complete with links to materials mentioned by our guests. You can find them at learningforjustice.org/podcasts. Let’s return now to our conversation with Ed Baptist. 

Hasan Kwame Jeffries: What are the politics, Ed, of the Declaration of Independence, and specifically Jefferson's insistence upon including this phrase that we cling to to this day, that all men are created equal, in a world in which there is such racial inequality?

Ed Baptist: Yeah, I don't know what Jefferson thought in his heart and mind. [laughs]

Hasan Kwame Jeffries: You don't want to get into the mind of Jefferson, man? Come on!

Bethany Jay: That's a dangerous place to be.

Ed Baptist: That's a whole industry, right? A whole publishing industry. And there's been some great books. You know, he includes this nice set of Lockean phrases that's a kind of a philosophical claim that says the real basis of authority is the will of the people, right? That's what he's sort of getting at there, you know? If everybody's got the right to decide what form of government they want to live under, well, we as the people of America—you know, the people that he wants to speak for anyway—we have the right to say "No more king," right? That's the purpose of that preamble, I think. This is a man who enslaved the mother of his children. You know, eventually, most of his children by her go free, they're able to obtain freedom, but they spend an awfully long time in slavery. And he writes this stuff repeatedly throughout his life about the possibility that a slave revolt or an organized political movement by free Blacks if slavery ends, would inevitably lead to some sort of race war, some sort of genocide. And he makes it clear that if that happens, he's on his side, right? He's not on his children's side. He's not on his children's mother's side, right? So he makes that very clear. So, you know, when we read the words, we have to read it in that context. And it's hard for me to see them as more than a philosophical preamble that he intends to use to kind of set up this claim for independence that's made by white colonists for a white country that's going to be run by white people, that is going to expand into and take land from Indigenous people, and which is going to have slavery for the foreseeable future.

Bethany Jay: And of course, Jefferson will then go on to write Notes on the State of Virginia, which has a good example of sort of early "scientific" in quotes, racism in terms of his descriptions of the difference between Black and white people, which I find to be a great teaching resource for my students as we talk about this era. But moving on, you know, Jefferson's ideas will become part and parcel of an antebellum entrenchment, of pro-slavery ideology, these arguments that continue to sort of elevate whiteness. And then on the other side, sort of critiques of that narrative from abolitionists, both Black and white. And I was wondering if you could talk with us a bit about that antebellum period, and where we see whiteness sort of hardening or adapting or being challenged.

Ed Baptist: Yeah, so the ways in which it's getting hardened in the antebellum period, and one of them said something pretty explicit about before in terms of the widening of the house of whiteness, right? Adding on more rooms to incorporate new immigrants, poorer white people as political equals. And so that's going on, and that's going to really intensify whiteness in certain ways. It's going to get connected with popular culture in certain ways. You know, there's minstrelsy, and white people who are kind of on the fringes of whiteness, mocking Black people as a means of incorporating themselves into whiteness.

Ed Baptist: And, of course, you know, at the same time revealing that they're much more fascinated with Blackness than they want to admit. So that's happening. The other thing, of course, that's happening is the expansion of the country, and the expansion of the country is predicated on the dispossession of Indigenous people, the genocide of Indigenous people, and an expanding, rapidly developing system of slavery on half of that land. And of course, we know the debate about whether it's going to be half of that land or none of that land or all of that land, you know, that ultimately leads to the Civil War.

Ed Baptist: There are coherent movements by the late 1830s, interracial movements of Black and white abolitionists who are seeking to make this question of expansion a moral question, and a moral question about whether or not the United States as a country is investing every single one of its citizens with a moral responsibility of expanding the depraved system of slavery. They create an enormous amount of political turmoil, and this is part of the process that leads to the so-called brothers' war, the Civil War, which is definitely two white brothers fighting in that conception.

Hasan Kwame Jeffries: How does understanding whiteness help us understand the Civil War, the great conflict, what it was about, and why you had this taking up of arms?

Ed Baptist: It's never the case that there's a kind of universal shift among Northern whites to seeing the war as a war for emancipation. It does become that, but not because Northern whites universally get religion on this subject and say, "You know what? Whiteness is a construct. What we're really about here is democracy and anti-slavery and so on and so forth." It's obviously far more complicated.

Ed Baptist: Initially, because there's such an intense commitment among Northern whites to the distinction, the political distinction between white and Black as just a way in which they themselves get meaning in their lives, understand their own status, understand their own privileges, their own rights, right? And because the North is divided almost 50/50 between Democrats and Republicans, the Republican president intentionally projects the war in rhetoric as if it's a war that is not about slavery and is not about race. It's about the outcome of the election of 1860, and it's about the question of how the territories are going to be divided up, the Western territories, which have been taken from Mexico and from Indigenous people and so on.

Ed Baptist: And of course, all those questions involve slavery and race, but perhaps if you don't speak them out loud, they won't exist. But this leads to some really unsustainable policies that both Lincoln and his generals attempt to implement in the first year of the war in 1861, to fight the war without making it a war against slavery. So they want to prevent the war, or they at least say they want to prevent the war from becoming an all-out war against slavery itself that's going to bring the house of cards tumbling down from inside. So you have generals in Virginia in May and June of 1861 arresting enslaved people who are liberating themselves by coming to the Union lines and giving them back to their slaveowners who come to claim them. And you have these public proclamations in places like Kentucky and Missouri in which Lincoln countermands—in Missouri, for instance, he countermands a statewide emancipation order that a Union general attempted to implement as a kind of war tactic to destabilize the power of the Confederates. Of course, this can't stand. This doesn't last, not just because the ways in which it's probably objectively bad strategy, but because African Americans refuse to let it stand. They keep coming over, right? They keep coming over. They keep trying to enlist in the Union army from the northern side. Frederick Douglass and other northern African Americans who by that point had built up an entire set of media, right? You know, they've got newspapers, they've got orators traveling around. Their message is getting out through Black churches across the North. And they've got links to white abolitionists who can put the same message out. The message keeps coming: look, it's crazy to fight this war as a war to protect slavery. This should be a war to destroy slavery, which is the main power that the South has.

Ed Baptist: So partly because the North is really struggling militarily, Lincoln agrees in the fall of 1862, he issues the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, probably the most momentous executive order in US history. And that, in effect, makes the war also a war to end slavery.

Bethany Jay: If the crux of whiteness pre-Civil War rests on the difference between enslaved and free, you know, emancipation really disrupts that. And so I was wondering if you could speak to how the mechanisms of the post-Emancipation era preserve the power of whiteness.

Ed Baptist: Yeah, if whiteness is created out of the attempt to build consent to elite white rule, that system of political whiteness depends on saying there are white people and there's everybody else. White people have the power to kill, to dispossess, to take. And conversely, you cannot kill or dispossess or take from them. And especially enslaved people and those who we can treat as if they're presumed to be enslaved, which is all people of apparent African descent in the United States, even those in the North. So that's the situation in 1860. And that, to some extent, it depends on this really violent system of slavery, because that's one of the justifications. Well, we can't take away the power of ordinary white people to stop, question, search, seize, if necessary, kill anybody who's presumed to be enslaved. We can't take away that power because then the system of slavery falls apart, right? Or then Black people might organize a slave revolt. If we cannot use that as the just-so story, that this is why we have to have this system, because ostensibly everybody's equal now, everybody's free now, then what do we have? You know, what is it to be white?

Ed Baptist: And so immediately as the Confederacy falls, and as formerly enslaved people are effectively freed, as the system of slavery crumbles, there's an effort on both the local level to reconstitute something that has as many of the features of slavery as possible. And there's also that effort on the national level, because Andrew Johnson has become the president. And Johnson immediately begins to spout a rhetoric which may sound very familiar to us, particularly from 1965 onward, if we know something about Southern politics and Southern political rhetoric, or perhaps even more recently on the national level, which is a rhetoric that says if the federal government does anything to enforce the rights of formerly enslaved people, what the federal government is actually doing is taking rights away from white people. That by taking away the power of whiteness, they're actually actively hurting white people, and they need to be stopped. And the best way to stop them is to violently put African Americans back in their place, or certainly that's what a lot of his Southern listeners seemed to conclude.

Ed Baptist: 1865 and 1866, you have this wave of mass violence against formerly enslaved people in the South. In 1866 in New Orleans, over 50 people are killed in the so-called New Orleans riots, which really is a massacre of people who have come to hear speeches by pro-emancipation Louisiana politicians who are speaking outside a constitutional convention that's going to decide what kind of constitution the state of Louisiana is going to have. Is that constitution going to allow any political role—voting, the ability to run for office, the ability to serve on juries and so on and so forth, any political role for Black people along the lines of what white people have enjoyed in the United States since 1787. And the white people who roll up on these speeches and these gatherings of African Americans, they pretty clearly are voting no. There's going to be no political role. They kill over 50 people. In Memphis, similar death toll, the same summer of 1866, very similar set of circumstances.

Bethany Jay: You know, as we're thinking about violence as a reaction to the potential of Black political power, you know, that makes me think of white womanhood sort of during this period, and I'm reminded of Rebecca Latimer Felton. 1897, she's speaking at the Georgia Agricultural Society, and she says, quote, "If it takes lynching to protect women's dearest possession from drunken, ravening beasts, then I say lynch a thousand a week if it becomes necessary."

Ed Baptist: Right, right. The reunion between the white North and the white South is in part accomplished by deploying these ideas in the popular press of white womanhood as imperiled in the South, right? So the claim that if you free Black men, the first thing they're going to go do is rape white women. That justifies killing Black men. Now we know from Ida Wells-Barnett and others who researched lynchings, that lynching very rarely was in response to an actual rape. And so white women, sometimes with their active participation, are constructed as the kind of repository of morality in the political community, which is why they're not supposed to vote in the 19th century.

Bethany Jay: Mm-hmm.

Ed Baptist: We'll put them over here to the side, and they're going to advise their husbands and, you know, pray for them and so on. And therefore, they could be effective actors in the political system without making the republic unvirtuous. It can sound like white women are just sitting there, and white men are saying all this stuff and, you know, doing all this killing, but white women aren't really actively involved. But what we actually see is that white women—especially elite white women in the South—go on a sort of a 50-year campaign to enshrine the memory of the Confederacy as a defeated but morally victorious force in history. And so they are actively involved, and in some cases actively leading campaigns to create these Confederate monuments all over the South. They provide enormous amounts of financial resources for that, organizational resources. Organizations like the United Daughters of the Confederacy provide opportunities for women who technically can't participate in politics to actually participate in something that is very political, which is this sort of justification of the Confederacy and of slavery and so on and so forth. And so they are actively involved in this kind of reconstitution of whiteness in the South.

Bethany Jay: Learning for Justice has a special opportunity just for educators. After listening to this episode, You can earn a certificate for one hour of professional development. All you have to do is go to learningforjustice.org/Podcast PD. PD for professional development. That’s podcastPD, all one word. Then enter the unique code word for this episode: binary, all lowercase. You’ll also find a link in the show notes.  It’s a great way to get even more out of Teaching Hard History

Hasan Kwame Jeffries: You know, the Reconstruction Acts are intended—one read of them—to make it possible to bring in African Americans into the body politic—certainly the Fourteenth and the Fifteenth Amendments. While they eliminate slavery, Thirteenth Amendment, the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments don't eliminate whiteness, and certainly the political usages of whiteness. Why is that the case? Why are they ineffective in eliminating those political usages of whiteness?

Ed Baptist: I think they're ineffective ultimately because the federal government and Northern whites choose not to enforce the law that they have written. And while Reconstruction certainly had plenty of white defenders in the North, support for it is never quite as strong as even the votes for something like the Reconstruction Acts would suggest. You have all kinds of political dynamics that drive those votes, right? You have the opposition to Andrew Johnson among more conservative Republicans. So white support in the North is just never that strong. And Northern politicians, national politicians who are charged with the responsibility to enforce the law simply didn't do it. They briefly do it from 1867 to basically 1872 or '73.

Ed Baptist: And when the Klu Klux Klan emerges, and it creates this huge wave of violence in the late 1860s in the South, they pass three different enforcement acts which give power to the federal government to break up criminal conspiracies, to try individuals who are abrogating the Fourteenth Amendment rights and Fifteenth Amendment rights of individuals, to try them at a federal level. But the Supreme Court, in the wake of the Colfax Massacre, 1873, over 100 African Americans, members of a militia who were defending a courthouse from a white militia which charged that the election which Republicans had just won was corrupt, and mostly because they didn't like the result, as far as I could tell, so over 100 members of the Black militia are killed. Probably the majority of them are tricked into surrendering, then are held overnight and are executed, murdered in cold blood. And the Supreme Court rules that, in fact, the federal government does not have the power to enforce the Enforcement Act of 1870 against individuals, only against state governments. So in effect, what the Supreme Court is doing is allowing this sort of state outside a state to exist, right? And to effectively determine who's going to be the state government. Who's going to have the official power, that's going to be determined by a kind of state outside of the state. And the state outside of the state is armed white people. It's a kind of a parish state or a real state, you know, a greater America or something like that. A great again America. A great again Louisiana, great again South. And that is a force that's set free by the Supreme Court.

Hasan Kwame Jeffries: You've laid out quite brilliantly for us the ways in which colonial-era whiteness informs revolutionary-era whiteness, and the way revolutionary-era ideas of whiteness inform antebellum-era ideas and then manifest during the Civil War, that then change and are reapplied in new ways during the postwar era, post-Emancipation era. I'm wondering if you could share a word on the ways in which this Jim Crow-era whiteness inform the world in which we live today. I mean, what's the legacy of that articulation of whiteness today?

Ed Baptist: Yeah. I mean, that's obviously a really complex question. I mean, we can find lots of demonstrations of the lightness is better idea among and between African Americans. It seems to me that it is impossible to pull that out from the ways in which that's about access, at least in some part, to some of the privileges and benefits that white people might be more willing to share with those whom they've been taught to think of as looking more like them, right? And so I don't think we can consider that question outside of the everyday grinding impact of racism on Black people's lives and their material circumstances and so on and so forth.

Ed Baptist: And obviously, there's a psychic dimension to this as well. You know, the repetition of images and so on, the extent to which one does or doesn't resemble a supposedly highly-valued phenotype. But that being said, the hegemony of whiteness in the political scale is no longer assured because the number of people who can plausibly identify as white, and who are willing to make that be the basis of their political identity is declining. And so instead of deciding which group of white people are going to rule, we're now in a moment where the question is: are white people going to actually rule in the United States? Or are we going to actually finally after centuries have democratic politics, small-d democratic politics? And so that's the moment we're in.

Ed Baptist: You know, that's the question behind so many of our divisions and debates right now. If this question gets answered in this way, no, white people acting on the basis of whiteness are not going to make the core decisions in the US in the future. If that becomes clear that that's the case, then we will have a transition in history that, you know, rivals in certain ways Emancipation. Yeah, I think that's a momentous shift that is potentially in the wind. And that drives, obviously, right? This is obvious, right? This drives all the attempts to restrict voting. It drives all the gerrymandering. It drives the debate not just between the Democrats and the Republicans. It drives debates within the Democratic Party. It drives debate on the left where you have white leftists who are not really comfortable being part of a movement in which they're not only the minority, but they don't have an outsized vote. These are uncharted waters for white Americans.

Bethany Jay: We've had such a wide-ranging discussion and, you know, as teachers in the classroom, it's always best to have our students kind of discover this history for themselves in the sources. Do you have go-to sources that you can use for examining this kind of topic in the classroom?

Ed Baptist: Well, I'm definitely going to bring up "Freedom On the Move," which is a project that both Hasan and I work on. It's this archive of "runaway" ads, so-called ads placed by enslavers who are trying to get people recaptured and brought back into slavery. And it's a great opportunity for students to learn how to read things both with and against the grain, right? So with the grain, you know, what are the assumptions that are sort of built right into the legal system that makes these ads reasonably effective as a way to catalyze the system of policing that existed in the South and elsewhere in the United States in the 19th or 18th century?

Ed Baptist: But I would recommend reading those alongside some of the slave codes, like in South Carolina and in Virginia as well. And if possible, dig up some of the ones from colonial New York, so students understand that the policing of enslaved people's movement, presumed enslaved people's movement, was a major concern of people who were passing laws in the 1700s. And of course, if you want, you can compare the 19th century updates of those as well, if your ads are from the 19th century. But I think they're going to show you the evolution of a system that also has a great deal of continuity from the 1700s onward. So that's one thing. Another thing that's interesting, Bethany, you brought up Thomas Jefferson's Notes on the State of Virginia.

Bethany Jay: Mm-hmm.

Ed Baptist: Yeah. So if you pair that with I believe it's William Hamilton's speech. I mean, you can find this at Blackpast.org. It's about 1810. It's one of those occasions when they're, I think, marking the abolition of the international slave trade. And so these are Black activists in New York City, and he gives a speech where he just absolutely roasts Thomas Jefferson's arguments in the Notes on the State of Virginia, and he says, "Look. First of all, the argument that there's a physical superiority?" He says, "This is too ridiculous. You know, every day we see there's no difference," right? It's great to see the contestation of it right there as a centerpiece of Black political organizing, just the destruction of those arguments from so early on.

Bethany Jay: And of course for the listeners, all of these will be linked in the show notes to this episode, but I recently came across a source by—it was a pseudonym published under the name Ethiop, who was William Wilson, "What Shall We Do With the White People?" And it was published in 1860. And it's great. It's just this very satirical, turning all the questions that have been asked, you know, are they fit for self-government? You know, we need to consider this very grave question. In the same vein as the speech that you're talking about, just a great example of this very clear argument against all of this sort of nonsense that's being parroted.

Ed Baptist: Yeah.

Bethany Jay: Well, Ed, thank you so much. Obviously, the tendrils of the Jim Crow era, the implications of these constructions of whiteness extend into today and have continuing implications. And we're so happy that you could come here and talk with us about this very long history. Thank you so much.

Ed Baptist: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Bethany Jay: Dr. Edward E. Baptist is a Professor of History at Cornell University. He is the author of several books, including The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism, which won the 2015 Avery O. Craven Prize from the Organization of American Historians. Dr. Baptist is also the co-editor of New Studies in the History of American Slavery, and he is the co-creator of Freedom On The Move, a database of runaway slave advertisements. We’ll put the link in the show notes.

Bethany JayTeaching Hard History is a podcast from Learning for Justice—the education arm of the Southern Poverty Law Center—helping teachers and schools prepare students to be active participants in a diverse democracy. Learning for Justice provides free teaching materials about slavery, Reconstruction, the civil rights movement and more. You can find award-winning films and classroom-ready texts at learningforjustice.org. 

Bethany Jay: Most students leave high school without an understanding of the Jim Crow Era and its continuing relevance. This podcast is part of an effort to change that. In our fourth season, we put Jim Crow under the spotlight—examining its history and lasting impact.

Bethany Jay: Thanks to Dr. White and Dr. Baptist for sharing their insights with us. This podcast was produced by Mary Quintas and senior producer Shea Shackelford. Russell Gragg is our associate producer. “Music Reconstructed” is produced by Barrett Golding. And Cory Collins provides content guidance. Amelia Gragg is our intern. Kate Shuster is the series creator. And our managing producer is Miranda LaFond. 

Bethany Jay: If you like what you’ve heard, please share it with your friends and colleagues. And let us know what you think. You can find us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. We always appreciate your feedback.

Bethany Jay: I’m Dr. Bethany Jay—Professor of History at Salem State University—and your host for Teaching Hard History.

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