On May 25, 2020, a black Minnesota man, George Floyd, was killed after a white police officer suffocated him while a group of officers looked on.
Sam Hose. Thomas Moss. Elias Clayton. Keith Bowen. Jesse Thornton. William Little. Jeff Brown. They are just seven names of thousands of black Americans murdered by lynching, many of which were included last week in a report from Bryan Stevenson's Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) that identifies victims of lynching between the end of Reconstruction in 1877 and 1950. It's a list that could go on for pages and, yet, still to this day remains incomplete. The history of lynching remains widely unknown today, especially among many white Americans.
In a blog post up now on the New York Times Learning Network, Facing History and Ourselves Senior Program Associate Laura Tavares pairs an article about the recent report documenting the history of racial lynching in America with an excerpt of To Kill a Mockingbird
We have all seen the images of fires burning in my hometown of Minneapolis. Pain and outrage have overflowed in protests resulting from the police killing of George Floyd on Monday of this week. Officer Derek Chauvin, who kept his knee on Floyd's neck, despite his outcry that he couldn't breathe and that they were going to kill him, has now been taken into custody, charged with murder and manslaughter.
In an interview with Facing History and Ourselves, Sociologist Claude Steele explained that “stereotypes are one way in which history affects present life.” Stereotypes about race are among the most common. The challenge many of us face is that there are few opportunities to talk about the impact of stereotypes, where they come from, and how to break them down. Schools can provide opportunities for these important discussions, yet teachers too often lack both resources and professional development to help them navigate what can be difficult terrain.
The roots of violence and injustice are complex and mired in societal and political specifics around the globe. Facing History and Ourselves teaches that rigorous study of history can help us make choices for a better future. Each history has its own lessons, but all of them give us a platform from which to ask fundamental questions, in communities and in schools: how did identity impact the choices people made in the past? How do we, today, engage with each other across difference?