What it Means to be an American

“Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed.”

That’s from Langston Hughes’s poem, “Let America Be America Again.”

MPR News Host Kerri Miller asked intellectuals, artists and musicians and activists to speak about what it means to be an American. Professor Eddic Glaude participated in the series.

Every conversation in the series kicked off with this iconic line, and expanded in new directions.

 

“There’s something about the South that is so fundamentally American. Right? That the soil is soaked with the blood of our contradiction. That the region is haunted. And it’s haunted by its past and present. And so you have this amazing civility. The smile. Southern hospitality is real. Once you cross over into my home state people are smiling.”

“I went to Bozos, this wonderful seafood place, Kerri, when I was home for my homecoming recently. I usually go home to take my mama to the fair. And I came home a week early and I was going to get me this wonderful 12-inch seafood po’ boy. And I walk into this place, and this real grisly, stereotypical southern white man says, ‘Hey, don’t I see you on television?’ And I said yes. And he said, ‘Boy, you look as good in person as you do on television.’ And then he said, “I don’t agree with much of what you say, but keep saying it.” -Eddie Glaude Jr.

Glaude grew up in Mississippi. He is now a Professor of Religion at Princeton where he chairs the Department of African American Studies. His newest book is “Democracy in Black.”

A writer that influenced him: James Baldwin

 

 

America’s Racial ‘Value Gap’: A Two-Part Conversation with Bill Moyers

I’m holding in my hand what has been called “one of the most daring books of the 21st century,” a “book for the ages,” “bracing,” “unrelenting.” The title is Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul, and it breathes with prophetic fire.

Its power comes because the author does not begin with “pristine principles or with assumptions about our inherent goodness.” Rather, its view of democracy, as he writes, “emerges out of an unflinching encounter with lynching trees, prison cells, foreclosed homes, young men and women gunned down by police and places where ‘hope, unborn, had died.’”

Democracy in Black is rich in history and bold in opinion, and inconvenient truths leap from every page. For example, and I’m quoting the book again, “black people must lose their blackness if America is to be transformed. But of course, white people get to stay white.”

The book opens in Ferguson, Missouri, with the author talking to three, dynamic young black women, newly born to activism, and it closes in the intimacy of the reader’s heart, where each of us wrestles with the question of whether we can indeed change the habits of racism and create together a new politics based on a revolution in values.

The author is Eddie Glaude Jr. Glaude was raised in the Deep South, in Moss Point, Mississippi, and still remembers the Ku Klux Klan burning a cross at the fairground. He’s now a professor of religion and African-American studies at Princeton University, where he also chairs the Center for African-American Studies. This is his third book, and he’s a member in good standing of the black establishment, which he rigorously calls to account in Democracy in Black. – Bill Moyers

Part I

Part II

Black Lives Matter and Black Liberation on A History of Capitalism Podcast

 

 

 

Woodrow Wilson And Renaming Our History

On Point with Tom Ashbrook on WBUR

Guests

Joshua Guild, professor or history and African American studies at Princeton University. (@jbguild)

Julian Zelizer, professor of history at Princeton University and fellow at the New America Foundation. Author of “The Fierce Urgency of Now.” (@julianzelizer)

From Tom’s Reading List

CNN: Erasing Woodrow Wilson’s name is not that easy — “The truth is that the record of most political leaders is complicated. Most presidents and legislators have complex and often contradictory records that are difficult to judge. With Wilson, the question that has emerged for many observers is how to weigh his record of racism against the fact that he was one of the most progressive presidents at that point in history.”

New York Times: What Woodrow Wilson Cost My Grandfather — “Wilson, a Virginia-born Democrat, is mostly remembered as a progressive, internationalist statesman, a benign and wise leader, a father of modern American political science and one of our nation’s great presidents. But he was also an avowed racist. And unlike many of his predecessors and successors in the White House, he put that racism into action through public policy.”

The Nation: Woodrow Wilson, Princeton, and the Complex Landscape of Race — “ The past surrounds us at every turn: in the laws and cultural practices that have shaped our institutions and personal experiences, in the material culture of our everyday surroundings, in the very names we put on buildings. The protesters at Princeton remind us of that. They remind us, too, that history is dynamic.”