Welcome to the conversation!

Welcome to the conversation!

Harriet Beecher Stowe's (1811-1896) best-selling anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852), made her the most famous American woman of the 19th century and galvanized the abolition movement before the Civil War.

The Stowe Center is a 21st-century museum and program center using Stowe's story to inspire social justice and positive change.

The Salons at Stowe programs are a forum to connect the challenging issues (race, gender and class) that impelled Stowe to write and act with the contemporary face of those same issues. The Salon format is based on a robust level of audience participation, with the explicit goal of promoting civic engagement. Recent topics included: Teaching Acceptance; Is Prison the New Slavery; Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North; Creativity and Change; Race, Gender and Politics Today; How to be an Advocate

This blog will expand the reach of these community conversations to the online audience. Add your posts and comments to keep the conversation going! Commit to action by clicking HERE to stay up to date on Salon and social justice news.

For updates on Stowe Center programs and events, sign up for our enews at http://harrietbeecherstowe.org/email.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Top Social Justice Stories of #2015

The end of the year is an apt time for reflection, critique, and forward thinking. And as 2015 closes its door, here is a look back at the top social justice stories of the year.

1. Black Lives Matter  
First emerging as a hashtag and organization in 2012, the Black Lives Matter movement took 2015 by storm with protests, demonstrations, and unwavering commitment towards justice on issues of police brutality, mass incarceration, and systemic racism. And though 2015 did not see substantive change on matters of police accountability, the Black Lives Matter movement grew in strength, power, and resolve.  

2. The Trans Rights Movement
After Caitlyn Jenner came out as a trans woman in a highly-watched interview with Diane Sawyer, gender identity and trans rights became a mainstream topic of conversation. As a result, Jenner became a celebrity and trans issues began to receive more attention and media coverage than ever before. Though just as Jenner has become arguably the most high-profile trans person, her celebrity has not been free from criticism. Many individuals in the trans community, trans women of color in particular, have critiqued Jenner over her lack of awareness on the intersections between race, class, and gender and the ways in which Jenner's wealth and whiteness do not make her experience representative.

Beyond Jenner, the trans right movement continues to grow, as 2015 saw the continued rise of trans celebrities like Laverne Cox, the hit television show Transparent, and the appointment of the first trans White House staffer. 2015 also saw the highest number of trans women killed in any year on record, proving that the work is not finished.  

3. Fight for 15
Fight for 15 is a grassroots, worker led movement to raise the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour. Originating from the fast-food industry, the Fight for 15 movement saw widespread and significant "wins" in 2015. New York City, Seattle, and Los Angeles all passed legislation to raise the minimum wage to $15.00. Across the nation, workers and allies in 500 cities went on strike to raise awareness to the plight of those living on minimum wage. With momentum growing, 2016 looks to see more advances for the rights and wages of workers.  

4. Same-Sex Marriage  
In a year seemingly characterized by hate-fueled tragedy, the Supreme Court's decision for marriage equality was a highlight. After decades of work by activists, the Supreme Court declared that per the U.S. Constitution same-sex couples have the right to wed. Immediately after the decision, he hashtag #LoveWins emerged, and dominated every social media platform for the following week.


5.  The Confederate Flag Comes Down in South Carolina
Following the racially motivated massacre at Emmanuel A.M.E. church in Charleston, the public display of the Confederate Flag and its symbolism came under debate. In response, activist Bree Newsome  ascended the flag pole in front of the South Carolina State Capitol and removed the Confederate Flag that had flown there since the 1960s. Weeks later, the flag was officially taken down as Governor Nikki Haley signed a bill to permanently remove the flag from state grounds.    

6. Student Activism
From football players at the University of Missouri going on strike, to a coalition of students at the University of California schools fighting for divestment from private prisons, 2015 saw a heightened level of student activism. Students like Jonathan Butler, who led a hunger-strike at the University of Missouri in protest of lack of action towards racism on campus, captivated the attention of the country and inspired many to join the fight for justice.  

What are your social justice related resolutions for 2016? What do you hope will happen in the coming year? Let us know in the comments! 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Resources for Talking Current Events at the Dinner Table

As the holiday season advances, conversations on current events with friends, neighbors, and extended family are almost inevitable. Need a primer to help get you through? Check out this resource from Showing Up for Racial Justice, which outlines several talking points on the Black Lives Matter movement, student uprisings, Islamaphobia, and police brutality. The resource also includes tips for managing difficult conversations.

Do you plan to have any conversations about current events or social justice this holiday season? How will you approach these conversations?  

This holiday season, come to the Stowe Center to participate in the new house tour experience, where you will learn about Stowe and the 19th century and engage in a facilitated conversation about how the past relates to today. A great, educational trip for the entire family! 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

#SalonsatLunch: Student Advocacy

Join us for our December Stowe Salon at Lunch on Student Advocacy! As protests are occurring on college and high school campuses across the country, reflect on the ways in which students can effect change.

From the University of Missouri to right here at SAND elementary school in Hartford, students and parents are advocating for just and equitable schools.

Stowe Salons at Lunch begin at 12:00 pm in the Stowe Visitor Center. Bring your lunch and your ideas!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

#StoweSyllabus: What We're Reading this Week

Articles and current events that got us thinking over the week! 

When in pursuit of positive change, better drop the ‘Why me’
Michel Martin, November 29, 2015, NPR

The other student activists
Melina D. Anderson, November 23, 2015, The Atlantic

Laquan McDonald and the system
Charles Blow, November 30, 2015, The New York Times

28 common racist attitudes and behaviors
Debra Leigh, November 29, 2015, Odin’s Blog 

Another Baltimore injustice
Todd Openheim, November 28, 2015, The New York Times

No meekness here: Meet Rosa Parks, ‘Lifelong Freedom Fighter’
NPR Staff, November 30, 2015, NPR

What are your reactions to the pieces? What articles, news pieces, or video-clips have you come across over the week? Let us know, below! 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015


Following Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday, the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving is deemed "Giving Tuesday," where individuals are prompted to donate money to their favorite charity or organization.
Giving Tuesday was started in 2012 by 92nd Street Y, a cultural organization in New York City. Since its inception, Giving Tuesday has used the power of social media and crowd funding to galvanize efforts towards charity giving.   

Who will you be giving to on Giving Tuesday? Consider making a gift to the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, where your donation will contribute to the continuation of dynamic programming, educational school trips, and the development of a new Stowe House tour experience. 

Beyond Giving Tuesday, what are ways we can work to infuse a spirit of contribution and giving throughout the year? Let us know in the comments below! 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Tough Thanksgiving Conversations?

Thanksgiving, a time for family gatherings, is often a time for tense conversations on politics and current events.  Check out this video below for some humorous tips to handle tough conversations. 

After the holiday, come to the Stowe Center to engage in our new tour experience, one that is built on dialogue, inquiry, and connecting the past to the present.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

#StoweSyllabus: What We're Reading this Week

Articles and current events that got us thinking over the week!

What is the biggest misconception about racism?
October 28, 2015, The Atlantic

She was guilty of being a black girl: The mundane terror of police violence in American schools
Brittney Cooper, October 28, 2015, Salon  

Obama tells federal agencies to ‘ban the box’ on federal job applications
Gregory Korte, November 3, 2015, USA Today

What are your reactions to the pieces? What articles, news pieces, or video-clips have you come across over the week? Let us know, below! 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

#StoweSyllabus: What We're Reading This Week

Articles and current events that got us thinking over the week!

History class and the fiction about race in America
Alia Wong, October 21, 2015, The Atlantic

How Texas teaches history
Ellen Bresler Rockmore, October 21, 2015, The New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/22/opinion/how-texas-teaches-history.html?smprod=nytcore-iphone&smid=nytcore-iphone-share&_r=0

How to confront friends who wear offensive Halloween costumes
Katie Dupere, October 24, 2015, Mashable

FCC moves to cut high cost of prisoner’s calls
Joel Rose, October 21, 2015, NPR

What are your reactions to the pieces? What articles, news pieces, or video-clips have you come across over the week? Let us know, below! 

#SalonsatLunch: Culture is Not a Costume

In advance of Halloween, join the Stowe Center for our October Stowe Salon at Lunch on "Culture is Not a Costume." Join us to discuss the ways in which costumes-whether for the stage or for tick or treating can degrade and denigrate.

For background reading, check out this article which discusses the ways Halloween costumes often appropriate and demean the cultures of others. The Salon at Lunch will begin at 12:00 pm in the Stowe Visitor Center. Bring your lunch and your thoughts! 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

#SalonsatStowe: Meet the Featured Guests

On Thursday, October 22nd the Stowe Center will host the second Salon for the month of October entitiled, "What's Language Got to Do With it?".

Language, both in terms of the words that we speak and the words we use to identify, holds social and political power. How is language used to both empower and demean? How has the use of language shifted over time? What are the implications of these shifts? Helping to facilitate conversation on this topic will be featured guests Robin McHaelen and Evelyn Newman Phillips. Learn more about both featured guests below! 

Robin P. McHaelen, MSW is the founder and current Executive Director of True Colors, Inc. She is co-author of several books and articles on LGBT youth concerns. Robin has a national reputation as a thought leader in LGBT youth concerns, programs and interventions. She is the recipient of numerous awards including the 2014 Human Rights Campaign’s Upstander Award for Leadership in LGBT youth issues, the 2011 UConn, Provost’s Award for Excellence in Public Engagement; the 2008 National Education Association’s Virginia Uribe Award for Creative Leadership in Human Rights and the 2008 Social Worker of the Year (National Association of Social Workers, CT Chapter).

Evelyn Newman Phillips, Ph.D., is a Professor of Anthropology at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, Connecticut. Her teaching is founded upon principles of critical pedagogy, where students are taught tools of inquiry so that they are empowered to investigate diverse situations, institutions, and society-at-large. Prior to her academic work, Dr. Newman Phillips served as a Peace Corps volunteer for 2 years in the African country of the Gambia.       

What questions will you ask the featured guests? "What's Language Got to Do With it?" will be held at the Stowe Visitor Center at 5:30 pm following a 5:00 pm social half-hour. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

#StoweSyllabus: What We're Reading This Week

Articles and current events that got us thinking over the week! 

Rethinking history class on Columbus Day
Melinda D. Anderson, October 12, 2015, The Atlantic

Time to abolish Columbus Day
Bill Bigelow, October 7, 2015, Common Dreams

Reconsider Columbus Day
Dr. Amanda Morris, October 6, 2015, Teaching Tolerance

How to get Americans to talk honestly about slavery
Jamelle Bouie with Levar Burton, October 8, 2015, Slate

What articles, news pieces, or video-clips have you come across over the past week? Let us know, below!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

#SalonsatStowe: Meet the Featured Guests

Tonight, the Stowe Center will present "Can We End Domestic Violence?", a Salon on domestic violence in Greater Hartford and the effects of domestic violence on children and families. The Salon is presented with the Aurora Foundation for Women and Girls in Greater Hartford.

Meet the featured guests for the Salon below!

Karen Jarmoc is the Chief Executive Officer of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Karen has previously worked as the executive director for the Network Against Domestic Abuse, Inc. in Enfield, Connecticut where she oversaw shelter, hotline, court and community-based supports and services to victims of domestic violence in the region. As a former member of the House of Representatives in Connecticut, Karen helped spearhead legislation to improve the state’s response to victims of domestic violence and worked with others to successfully secure funding for 24/7 coverage within the state’s domestic violence shelters.   

Garry Lapidus, PA-C, MPH, is the Director of the Injury Prevention Center at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center/Hartford Hospital and Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Public Health at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. Mr. Lapidus is a Board of Director member for the Hartford Interval House, the largest of CT’s battered women’s shelters and a member of Men Make a Difference, Men against Domestic Violence. In 2015, he was appointed by the Connecticut legislature to co-chair the Task Force to study the state-wide response to family violence and its impact on children. 

What will you ask the featured guests? "Can We End Domestic Violence?" will begin at 5:00 pm with a social half-hour. Discussion will begin at 5:30 pm. The Salon will be held in the Stowe Visitor Center. See you there!    

Thursday, September 10, 2015

#SalonsatStowe: Unpacking White Privilege

Join us for the first Salon of the Fall! Tonight's topic is "Unpacking White Privilege" with Professor David Canton from Connecticut College and Andrea Kandel from the National Conference for Community and Justice.

Check out Peggy McIntosh's White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack as well as On Racism and White Privilege for background reading!

The Salon will be held in the Stowe Visitor Center beginning at 5:00 pm with a social half-hour, followed by an open discussion on white privilege.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

#SalonsatStowe: Meet the Featured Guests

The first Salon at Stowe for Fall 2015, "Unpacking White Privilege" will be held September 10th at the Stowe Visitor Center. Leading the conversation will be featured guests Dr. David Canton and Andrea Kandel.

Learn more about the featured guests below!

Dr. David A. Canton is an associate professor of history, and Interim Dean of Institutional Equity and Inclusion at Connecticut College. Canton believes that African-American urban history illustrates the impact of racism, classism, and sexism in the black community. It also provides insight to the origins of 20th century black urban poverty, civil rights struggle, black class formation, and black community development.

Andrea Kandel is the Executive Director of the National Conference for Community and Justice. The National Conference for Community and Justice is a human relations organization that promotes inclusion and acceptance by providing education and advocacy while building communities that are respectful and just for all.

What will you ask the featured guests? Why do you think it is important to talk about white privilege? Let us know in the comments below! 

"Unpacking White Privilege" will begin at 5:00 pm with a social half hour in the Stowe Visitor Center. The discussion will begin at 5:30 pm. See you there!

#StoweSalonatLunch: School Integration and Segregation

For the final Stowe Salon at Lunch for the summer, participants gathered for a discussion on school integration and segregation. As the topic of school integration and segregation is broad and one that intersects with issues of race, housing, and poverty, two different texts were used to frame the discussion: This American Life's podcast The Problem We All Live With and Jelani Cobb's Class Notes: What's really at stake when a school closes?

The discussion began with a participant sharing information on Sheff v. O'Neill, the landmark Connecticut Supreme Court case that sought to address the inequities in public school education between Hartford and suburban schools. A result of the case was the creation of "magnet" schools, or schools with often specialized focuses, that draw in students from a regional area, not just a singular neighborhood, and an open choice program for enrollment in  public suburban school. Students in the Greater Hartford region are now given access to magnet schools, many of which are located in Hartford, and students in Hartford are now given access to suburban, non-magnet schools. Gene Leach, a parent of a plaintiff in the Sheff v. O'Neill case, explained that diverse schools help all students-both white students and students of color.
Though the concept behind Sheff v. O'Neill was applauded, several participants questioned the implementation of the court case's goals. In order to attend a magnet school or a suburban school as a Hartford resident, a student must enter an electronic based lottery. The lottery will then ultimately decide whether a student attends the school which they desire. Participants explained that the lottery takes time and not all families, including many in Hartford, fully understand and participate in the process. Many students in Hartford and other areas thus remain in segregated neighborhood schools, which often lack the resources that magnet schools and suburban schools possess.

The conversation concluded with participants acknowledging that there is much to learn and much to do on the issue of education reform and integration.  

How can we ensure that all students receive equitable education? What are the benefits of diverse, integrated classrooms? Are you interested in learning more about school choice in Greater Hartford? The Stowe Center has handouts and literature from Regional School Choice Officer in the Visitor Center. Come and grab a copy!

Stowe Salons at Lunch will continue in the Fall with the first program on Wednesday, September 23rd!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

StoweSalonsatLunch: School Integration and Segregation

In honor of back to school season, the final Stowe Salon at Lunch of the summer will be on the topic of school integration and segregation.

Check out these two pieces for background information! Class Notes: What's really at stake when a school closes by Jelani Cobb, and The Problem We All Live With, from This American Life.

Did you attend a diverse, integrated school? Do your children? What are the best models for school reform? How do we achieve equity in education? 

#StoweSalonsatLunch Recap: The Mutual Interest in Ending Racism

On August 19th, Discovery Center staff Jason Fredlund and Derek Hall guest-facilitated a Stowe Salon at Lunch on the topic of "the mutual interest in ending racism." The conversation focused on the ways in which people of all backgrounds can be invested in anti-racism work. To begin the conversation, Jason and Derek defined both racism and mutual interest.

Racism=Prejudice + Power (people of color have never had historical, societal power and therefore cannot be racist)
Mutual Interest=Personal + Shared investment

Both then went over guidelines for the discussion:

-Use “I” statements
-Intent vs. Impact
-Brave space
-Lean In and embrace discomfort, empathy, and connection

After the introduction, Jason and Derek led the group in a facilitated activity:
Close your eyes if you feel comfortable and think back to a time in your life where you’ve experienced pain. When was this experience? Where were you? Who were you with? How did you respond? How might you respond differently? And what kept you going, what kept you moving towards a positive resolution?

These questions provided a foundation for exploring participants' personal investment in working towards ending racism. When engaging in anti-racism work gets difficult or painful, what can keep you going? What does mutual interest look like?

Participants, namely white participants, shared the ways in which racism affects their personal lives and prevents learning, relationships, and understanding. Participants of color shared the ways ins which racism impacts their familial relaitonships. One participant qualified racism as a "distraction" and did not want her child to have to navigate the distractions to success that racism poses. Another mother expressed that racism and police brutality makes her question her children's safety, especially that of her sons.

Derek explained that when he has these conversations with mainly white audiences, participants characterize their investment in anti-racism work as intellectual. Participants for example say, "Racism impairs our ability to get to know one each other or to get to learn from each other." Yet, when he has these conversations with mainly people of color, reasons for involvement in anti-racism work is more emotional and about survival. Derek posed that we need to work to identify emotional reasons, not just intellectual, to be invested in anti-racism work. For example, Jason exclaimed that as a white person he feels as if his humanity cannot be fully realized if the humanity of others is oppressed. It is from this perspective where he then begins his work.

Both Jason and Derek left participants with a challenge to examine their inner circle of friends and family and have conversations about race, privilege, power, and racism. It is in these personal relationships where change can be made.

Were you at the discussion? Have anything to add? What does mutual interest look like? How can both people of color and white people work together to end racism? How does ending racism benefit everyone? Share your thoughts below! 

Join us tomorrow for the final Stowe Salon at Lunch for the summer! In honor of back to school season, we'll be discussing school integration and segregation. Check out these two pieces for background information! Class Notes: What's really at stake when a school closes by Jelani Cobb, and The Problem We All Live With, from This American Life.

Monday, August 24, 2015

International Day for the Remembrance of the Salve Trade and its Abolition

August 23rd marks the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition honoring the Haitian uprising that began on that day in 1791. The uprising marked the beginning of the Haitian Revolution which lasted until 1804.

The Haitian Revolution (1791-1804) 

 The International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition commemorates rebellions, uprisings, and resistance to slavery around the world.

What do you know about the slave trade and its abolition? Why is it important to have a day of remembrance for the slave trade and abolition? 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

#StoweSalonsatLunch: The Mutual Interest in Ending Racism

Join us for another Stowe Salon at Lunch on Wednesday, August 19th! This week's topic is "The Mutual Interest in Ending Racism." Check out Paul Kivel's piece The Cost of Racism to White People for a jump start to the conversation.

What is the mutual interest in ending racism? How can different people come together to work for racial justice? Join us and share your thoughts!

Can't make it? Follow along on twitter with #StoweSalonsatLunch.

Monday, August 17, 2015

#SalonsatStowe Recap: Race and Housing Discrimination

On Wednesday August 12th, participants convened for a conversation on Race and Housing Discrimination as a part of the Stowe Salons at Lunch series. The conversation focused on housing discrimination in real estate, neighborhood segregation, and as related, school segregation. Susan Campbell's piece Discrimination Lives on In Real Estate provided context and background information for the conversation.  

To begin, the below cartoon was passed to participants. One participant commented that "All we are missing up North is a Confederate flag." Other participants responded by saying that the North, though people do not often think of it, is just as segregated and racist as the South. Participants

Matt Davies, Newsweek
What do you think of the cartoon? 

The opening conversation on the presence of segregation in Hartford and in Connecticut transitioned into a conversation on housing discrimination in real estate. One participant posed the question: "Does housing discrimination still happen? Are people of color directed towards certain neighborhoods?" Participants responded with their personal experiences.

One participant recalled her experience trying to purchase a home in the West End of Hartford: "I wanted to live on the north side of Farmington Avenue [predominately white area], but they [realtors] kept pushing me to the south side of the street. People still come up to me and and are surprised when they see that I, a black woman, owns a home."

Another participant shared a story of being the only black family on a small suburban street: "When we moved to the street in the 1970s, some of our neighbors put their houses up for sale. There was an economic fear that people's houses would become devalued if the neighborhood diversified."

María Cristina Cuerda, Fair Housing Specialist with the Connecticut Fair Housing Center, who was in attendance, provided additional context. As a Fair Housing Specialist, María works directly with clients who believe they have been victim to unfair or discriminatory housing practices. María noted that housing discrimination based on race still exists and that the Connecticut Fair Housing Center is working to create a required class that all potential real estate agents must take on discrimination. 

In response to María's point, one participant questioned if a mandated class would make any difference. As a former real estate agent, this participant noted that she witnessed discrimination occur even after agents had been trained or given classes on bias. "What will it take to get real estate agents to stop acting in this way? Do we need stricter punishments?"   

The conversation then turned to education as participants repeatedly posed the notion that if we live in segregated communities then our children will go to segregated schools. One participant shared that her and her husband are grappling with where to raise their kids. She expressed, "As someone who grew up in a time where the rhetoric was very much, everyone is equal, don't pay attention to race, be color blind etc. it is good that we are now beginning to actual reckon with the problems and racism that has always existed. My husband and I are talking about housing and education now. Where do we want to raise our kids so that they grow up in a diverse environment?"

To end the conversation, participants brainstormed several actions steps that can be taken following the discussion. Participants noted that we all have the capacity to stand up and speak out when we witness any type of discrimination as well as the capacity to continually learn about others and about housing and school policy.

Were you at the Stowe Salon at Lunch? Anything you would like to share? How can we desegregate our communities? How can we end discrimination in real estate? Let us know below! 

Come to the next Stowe Salon at Lunch! We'll be discussing the "Mutual Interest in Ending Racism." Read The Cost of Racism to White People by Paul Kivel to get started! Wednesday, August 19th at 12:00 pm. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

#StoweSalonsatLunch: Race and Housing Discrimination

This Wednesday at 12:00 pm, joins us for a Stowe Salon at Lunch on the topic of race and housing discrimination.

Where we live impacts so much of our life experiences. And though efforts have been made towards integration, studies show that our schools and communities are more segregated than ever. What role does racism and discrimination play in housing?

Check out former Stowe Center trustee and current Central Connecticut State University professor Susan Campbell's recent piece in The Hartford Courant on housing discrimination in Hartford and share your thoughts below!
Discrimination lives on in real estate
Susan Campbell, August 6, 2015, The Hartford Courant

Do we live in segregated communities? What does your neighborhood look like? Come to the Stowe Salon at Lunch and discuss!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Stowe Salons At Lunch:Voting Rights at 50. More here!

Today is the 50th Anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act.

Lively discussion yesterday - check out  the Stowe Center's Twitter feed .

 Look what happened in Texas yesterday Is this a hopeful sign?

And look whats happening to felony disenfranchisment in some states.

For more background, see the NYT piece, The Dream Undone and related commentary.

Friday, July 31, 2015

#StoweSalonsatLunch Recap: Race in Popular Culture

On Wednesday, July 29th, the Stowe Center presented the fifth consecutive Stowe Salon at Lunch program. This week's topic focused on race in popular culture. Inspired by the recent episode, or some may say feud, between Taylor Swift and Nicki Minaj concerning Minaj's omission from the Video Music Awards "Best Video of the Year" award, the discussion predicated on general questions of "who is celebrated in popular culture?" and "who is represented in popular culture?"

Participants discussed the ways in which award shows and the commercial industry surrounding mediums of pop culture celebrate certain identities and body types, namely white, thin bodies.  

Taylor Swift and Nicki Minaj via Getty Images 

One participant offered a historical perspective on issues of race in popular culture, arguing that the media, whether music, television, film, or books, has long been a tool to reaffirm the status-quo and maintain a social hierarchy where white people are privileged and people of color are not. Depictions of people of color in popular culture, created  often by large, corporate entities, thus occupy reductive, stereotypical representations as to maintain a narrative of white supremacy. The participant went on to explain that within this media culture many artists of color will also conform to the status-quo and engage in representations that are stereotypical out of necessity or a desire for fame and popular acceptance.      

Other participants offered that in the 1960s and 1970s black musicians and musical groups were the most popular of the day, and that perhaps a situation like that between Taylor Swift and Nicki Minaj would not have happened. Another participant offered elaboration on this point, explaining that though black culture has always been popular in America, black people, whether in the '60s or today, have been subjugated to unfair and racist policies and actions.
August 2015 Ebony Magazine cover

Several participants lamented on the supposed negativity of the conversation. That music and popular culture at large should be a tool for unity, peace, and progress, seems to have been lost. Yet others offered a different perspective. Participants argued that critical analysis of popular culture can be an effective tool for understanding the world around us.   

What are your thoughts on the depiction and representation of race in popular culture? What do you think of the Ebony cover? Continue the conversation in the comments! 

Join us next week on August 5th for another Stowe Salon at Lunch on the topic of voting rights. Check out this article from New York Times Magazine on the evolution of voting rights since the Voting Rights Act was signed into law 50 years ago. Is the vote still open and accessible? Join us to discuss! 

Monday, July 27, 2015

#StoweSalonsatLunch Recap: White Privilege

On Wednesday, July 22nd, participants gathered at the Stowe Center for the fourth Stowe Salon at Lunch on the topic of white privilege. Michelle McFarland, Branch Manager of the Hartford Public Library's Mark Twain Branch, facilitated the conversation which included participants both new and old to Stowe Center Salons. Pastor John Metta's I, Racist sermon served as an anchor for the conversation and Michelle led with this excerpted quote:

"Here's what I want to say to you: Racism is so deeply embedded in this country not because of the racist right-wing radicals who practice it openly, it exists because of the silence and hurt feelings of liberal America.

That's what I want to say, but really, I can't. I can't say that because I've spent my life not talking about race to White people. In a big way, it's my fault. Racism exists because I, as a Black person, don't challenge you to look at it.

Racism exists because I, not you, am silent." 

Michelle used this quote to both thank participants for engaging in a conversation about privilege and race and to remind participants that progress will never be made without the willingness to talk, listen, and learn from those with different perspectives. 

The conversation predicated on the what it means, in lived experience, to have white privilege and to lack white privilege. Participants shared stories, discussed factors of structural racism that influence individuals, and even addressed political campaigns in which issues of racial justice are not openly discussed.   

One participant expressed that there is a "toxic" nature of white supremacy in the United States, and that even though as a white person he was raised to treat others equally and to engage in movements for racial justice, he still experiences and witnesses moments of bias. The participant continued and explained that this "toxic" nature seeps into every institution in the United States- education, the media, law, and policing. 

Participants also worked to distinguish between overt and explicit acts of racism, like the Ku Klux Klan and the Confederate Flag, and less-obvious, but still profound institutional acts of racism, like red lining, mass incarceration, and education inequities. Focused was paid to fighting not just explicit racism, but institutional and systemic racism.  

The conversation concluded with a discussion on the notion of progress. Participants reflected on whether progress has been made in the last fifty years or if the United States has regressed in terms of justice and equality. The questions was posed-has progressed been made? What can we do to contribute?    

Michelle finished the conversation with a call to action and quote from Bayard Rustin, Civil Rights and gay rights activist: “The proof that one truly believes is in action.”  

What does white privilege mean to you? Have you heard the term before? Where? Have you read Metta's I, Racist? What are your thoughts? 

Join us for the next Stowe Salon at Lunch on the topic of race in popular culture. Wednesdays at 12:00 pm in the Stowe Visitor Center!       

Monday, July 13, 2015

"A New Day Dawns" in South Carolina after the Confederate Flag is Removed

After weeks of activist work and protest, on Friday July 10th, officials at the South Carolina statehouse removed the Confederate Flag that had flown in front on statehouse grounds since 1961. The flag was removed after intense debate in both the South Carolina House and Senate and subsequent vote over the status of the flag. In the early morning hours of Thursday July 9th, South Carolina House members sent a bill to Governor Nikki Haley ordering the immediate removal of the flag from statehouse grounds.    

Activist Bree Newsome, drawn here as a superhero, removes Confederate Flag herself weeks before it was officially removed

Confederate Flag taken down in Charleston, South Carolina

An emotional vote and debate for many, the removal of the flag inspired poet Nikky Finney to pen "A New Day Dawns" on the symbolic importance of taking down the Confederate Flag. 

It is the pearl blue peep of day. All night the Palmetto sky was seized with the aurora and alchemy of the remarkable. A blazing canopy of newly minted light fluttered in while we slept. We are not free to go on as if nothing happened yesterday, not free to cheer as if all our prayers have finally been answered today. We are free, only, to search the yonder of each other’s faces, as we pass by, tip our hat, hold a door ajar, asking silently who are we now? Blood spilled in battle is two-headed: horror and sweet revelation. Let us put the cannons of our eyes away forever. Our one and only Civil War is done. Let us tilt, rotate, strut on. If we, the living, do not give our future the same honor as the sacred dead – of then and now – we lose everything. The gardenia air feels lighter on this new day, guided now by iridescent fireflies, those atom-like creatures of our hot summer nights, now begging us to team up and search with them for that which brightens every darkness. It will be just us again, alone, beneath the swirling indigo sky of South Carolina, working on the answer to our great day’s question: Who are we now? What new human cosmos can be made of this tempest of tears, this upland of inconsolable jubilation? In all our lifetimes, finally, this towering undulating moment is here. 

What do you think of the removal of the Confederate Flag? What are your reactions to Nikky Finney's peom? What do you think she means when she writes "Our one and only Civil War is done. Let us tilt, rotate, strut on"? 

Do you have more thoughts about the Confederate Flag and other symbols of white supremacy? Come to the next Stowe Salon at Lunch on Wednesday July 15th from 12:00-1:00 pm. We'll be discussing the Confederate Flag, its meaning and power, as well as the implications of its removal. Join us! 

Read more here: http://www.thestate.com/living/article26928424.html#storylink=cpy

Friday, July 10, 2015

#StoweSalonsatLunch: Charleston Part 2 Recap

In continuation of the first Stowe Salon at Lunch on July 1st, participants gathered once again to discuss the implications of the shooting in Charleston and the current politics surrounding racism and race relations.

The conversation began with an excerpt of Mellody Hobson's (Chairperson of the Board of Directors at Dreamworks Animation) viral TEDtalk, "Color Blind or Color Brave?" 

"You see, researchers have coined the term “color blindness” to describe a learned behavior where some people pretend they don’t even notice race. If they happen to surround themselves with people from their own race, it’s purely accidental. But color blindness doesn’t mean that we’re exhibiting a lack of prejudice. Color blindness means that we’re ignoring the problem." 

From the excerpted quote, the conversation delved into the meaning of the terms "color blind" and "color brave" and the ways in which explicit conversations about race can be brought to spaces, particularly white spaces, in which these discussion do not happen. One participant asked the group why there is such a fear to engage in these discussions. In response, one participant offered that for white people, who occupy political, social, and economic privilege due to their racial identity, these discussions threaten this state of privilege. To acknowledge that there are certain privileges granted based on race requires and work towards racial equity, requires white individuals to release some of the power granted by their skin color.
When one women expressed that she often feels guilty as a white person when discussing American history, several participants of color in the discussion expressed that one should not feel guilty, but rather take those emotions and propel them into action on issues of racial justice and equity. Drawn from these points was the topic of black liberation, and the question of what a movement focused on black liberation would look like. One participant noted that a movement focused on liberation would not concern itself with matters of white guilt.

The conversation ended with a call to action and a question of when direct action, not just conversation, will begin on matters of racial equity. One participant exclaimed that changes [political, economic] need to start soon or else people will take matters into their own hand:"People of color will do more than march and who will be the John Browns who join them?"

Join us at the Stowe Center next week on July 15th for the third installment of the Stowe Salons at Lunch series. The conversation will focus on the Confederate flag and symbols of white supremacy. What are the power of these symbols? What do they mean for racial equity? What do they say about the history and present state of the U.S.? 

Monday, July 6, 2015

#StoweSalonsatLunch: Charleston Recap

On July 1st, the Stowe Center presented the first Stowe Salons at Lunch, a program in which members of the public gather for a facilitated conversation on a pressing current events issue of the week.  The first Stowe Salon at Lunch focused on Charleston and the related issues of white supremacy, privilege, violence against people of color, and racism. Unlike traditional Salon programs, where featured guests serve as experts of the topic being discussed and curate the discussion accordingly, this conversation was fueled by the stories, experiences, and knowledge of participants. Stowe Center Executive Director, Katherine Kane, began the conversation by asking "How does what happened in Charleston connect to Hartford and Connecticut?"

Participants responded by sharing stories of experience racism in Hartford, Connecticut, and other Northern states, including one guests describing that though she grew up in the South, she experienced "real racism" when she moved to Connecticut. She noted that though symbols like the Confederate flag are prominent in the South, segregation based on race and class is a defining feature of Northern cities and towns.

Matt Davies, June 22, 2015, Newsweek

The conversation shifted to discuss white supremacy and white privilege and the ways in which white individuals can often ignore the realities faced by people of color. One such reality is the violence, whether by police or by white supremacists like Dylan Roof, towards people of color. Participants also noted the unfair burden and assumption often placed on people of color to forgive attackers, whether they be Dylan Roof in Charleston or Darren Wilson in Ferguson. One participant proclaimed, "I am so sick of being expected to forgive after something like this happens. Did anyone ask white parents to forgive after Newtown?"

Participants also discussed the ways in which implicit bias (the subject of the next Salon at Stowe), or unconscious attitudes that affect our understanding and perception of others, result in the perpetuation of stereotypes toward people of color. One participant noted that "If a black person wears baggy pants or has tattoos, then people will make assumptions that they are a thug or a criminal, no matter what that person actually does. Even if they are not wearing baggy clothes, people [white people] will make assumptions, often negative, just because of how they look."  

The conversation ended with a guest proclaiming a simple, yet understated solution directed towards white people: "Just listen. Listen to those who have different life experiences than you, and believe what they are saying."

Did you attend the fist Stowe Salon at Lunch? Will you attend the next one? What steps do you think can be taken to improve our cities, state, and nation? What will you add to the discussion?  

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Beyond July 4th, 1776

Though July 4th, 1776 marked the ceremonial start of independence for the United States and some Americans, the date has also marked other notable events, speeches, and actions that have culminated to move the U.S. closer to liberty and justice for all Americans. 

Below are some examples of U.S. history beyond July 4th, 1776 gathered from the Zinn Education Project

July 4th, 1827: New York abolishes slavery
A gradual emancipation law started in 1799 ended on July 4th, 1827, when the last of enslaved persons were emancipated. Despite the abolition of slavery in New York, the state, like many others in the North, benefitted economically from the continuation of slavery in other states. 

July 5th, 1852: Frederick Douglass delivers "The Meaning of the Fourth of July to the Negro"
At an event commemorating the fourth of July in Rochester, New York, Frederick Douglass delivered  a speech addressing the paradox of celebrating "independence" in the U.S., when not all were free.  

William Lloyd Garrison, Henry David Thoreau, Sojourner Truth, and other abolitionists gathered for a rally sponsored by the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society.  

Broadside from rally, via Zinn Educaiton Project. 

When you hear "Independence Day" what do you think? How can we continually work as a country to bring liberty and justice for all Americans? Learn more about July 4th in United States history at the Zinn Education Project.  

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Talking about Charleston? Come to the first #StoweSalonsatLunch

This Wednesday, July 1st, the Stowe Center will present the first Stowe Salon at Lunch, a brown bag lunch discussion on the pressing issues of the week. For the first program, the topic of conversation will be the shooting in Charleston. 

President Obama singing "Amazing Grace" at Rev. Clementa Pinckney's funeral. Rev. Pinckney was killed in the attack at Charleston's Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.  

The attack on Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, or "Mother Emanuel" as it is known in Charleston, elicited conversations on white supremacy, racism, and history, as well as triggered the removal of Confederate flags from public sites across the South. 

What was your reaction to the shooting in Charleston? Amid months of attention and protests paid toward the killing of unarmed black men by police officers, what does this attack say about the current status of race and racism in America? 

Do you have something to say about Charleston? Add your voice to the conversation tomorrow. To help prepare for the Salon check out 2015 Stowe Prize Winner Ta-Nehisi Coates's piece "What this cruel war was over"  and the CT African American Affairs Commission's official statement on Charleston.      

Stowe Salons at Lunch will take place every Wednesday from 12:00-1:00 pm in the Stowe Visitor Center throughout the summer. Bring your lunch and engage with us on the important issues of the day! 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The #ConfederateFlag and the Power of Symbols

As a museum, the Stowe Center is continuously engaged in the process of interpreting historical objects and symbols. These objects and symbols are more than material entities; they tell stories about the past and lend insights into the cultural, political, and social climate of the period in which they appeared.    

The recent killing of nine individuals in Emmanuel A.M.E. Church by in Charleston, South Carolina ignited a discussion over whether the Confederate Flag, a long-kept symbol of the antebellum period and slavery-defined south, should still fly in public. Proponents of the initiative to take down the flag argue that though it is a symbol, it is one that holds tangible power in spreading ideas of exclusion and discrimination and implying that the ideals of the Confederacy are acceptable.

State workers in Alabama take down a Confederate Flag after orders from the Governor. 

Beyond the Confederate Flag, countless other objects and symbols of history dictate complicated narratives and ideologies.  After the publication of Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, merchandise was created that depicted Uncle Tom both as Stowe intended and then as a subordinate, weak enslaved man. These caricatures contributed to the creation of the pejorative "Uncle Tom" and served as symbolic support for the continued subjugation of black individuals during reconstruction and Jim Crow. Today, these objects serve as a reminder of the continued use of the slur "Uncle Tom" and the connection between the political climate of the 19th century and today.        

What cultural, political, or social power do symbols like the Confederate flag have? Can the removal of the Confederate Flag contribute to larger cultural or political change? How? 

Are you interested in talking more about Charleston? Attend the first Stowe Salon at Lunch on July 1st! Every Wednesday from 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm in the Stowe Center Visitor Center, we'll be engaged in a discussion on the pressing issues of the week. Bring your lunch and join us!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Reflecting on the Past and Present 150 Years After #Juneteenth

June 19, 2015 marks the 150th anniversary of “Emancipation Day,” the symbolic ending of slavery in the United States, in which the last of enslaved persons were freed. Since 1865, the day has been celebrated as "Juneteenth" a combination of June and 19. Despite its historical significance, Juneteenth is not largely celebrated nor remembered. In "Juneteenth is for everyone" Kennet C. Davis writes: 

"Still, 150 years after its birth, Juneteenth remains largely unacknowledged on America’s national calendar. Many Americans are unaware of its existence, or its roots. Sadly, that ignorance of Juneteenth reflects a deeper issue: the continued existence of two histories, black and white, separate and unequal."

                                         Emmanuel A.M.E. church in Charleston, South Carolina

The 150 anniversary of Juneteenth comes days after an act of terror took the lives of nine individuals in the historic Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The church was founded by Denmark Vesey a former enslaved person who plotted a rebellion in 1822. Vesey served as partial inspiration for Harriet Beecher Stowe's second anti-slavery novel, Dred

What do you think Davis means when he writes about the "continued existence of two histories"? What does Juneteenth mean in 2015? In light of recent tragedies and acts of violence against the black community, how can we work to recognize the layers of American history and work to address its implications?

What does Juneteenth mean in 2015?

Friday, June 12, 2015

City of Hartford residents! Do you love Hartford and the Stowe Center?

Check out the part-time, paid, durational Community Engagement Coordinator position in the Center's Education and Visitor Services team. http://bit.ly/19tpMzs

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

.@tanehisicoates and @johndankosky talk "The Case for Reparations" on @wherewelive

On June 4, the Stowe Center presented the 3rd Stowe Prize for Writing to Advance Social Justice to Ta-Nehisi Coates, national correspondent for The Atlantic. Coates participated in a public program with WNPR's John Dankosky, where he spoke on his work, his family, and his landmark piece "The Case for Reparations."  WNPR recorded the program for use in their series "Where We Live," which aired Monday morning. Listen to the program here!

A packed house at Immanuel Congregational Church for the Stowe Prize public program

Did you attend the Stowe Prize public program? Did you listen to the segment on Where We Live? What do you think? What did you think about the issue of reparations before? And after? Let us know! 

Monday, June 8, 2015

James Tillman and The Power of Conviction

In conjunction with the Mark Twain House & Museum and Community Partners in Action, the Stowe Center presents The Power of Conviction tonight, an author event with James Tillman, co-author Jeff Kimball, and moderator John Motley. The Power of Conviction focuses on Tillman's story in the Connecticut criminal justice system through his wrongful conviction, appeals, and ultimate exoneration after 18 years.

James Tillman, after his release 

Originally convicted in 1989 for multiple charges of sexual assault, larceny, kidnapping and robbery, Tillman began to receive legal aid in 2005 from The Innocence Project, a non-profit organization focused on overturning wrongful convictions through use of DNA testing. Through use of advanced DNA testing that was not available at the time of Tillman's original conviction, Tillman was proved innocent and was exonerated in 2006.

Since the conception of the Innocence Project, 329 individuals across 37 states have been exonerated through DNA testing. What do these statistics say about the success of the U.S. justice system? How can Tillman's story contribute to the fight for criminal justice reform?

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Sunday, May 31, 2015

2015 #StowePrize with @tanehisicoates on June 4th

This Thursday, June 4th, the Stowe Center will present the Stowe Prize for Writing to Advance Social Justice to Ta-Nehisi Coates, national correspondent and blogger at The Atlantic. Coates's landmark piece, "The Case for Reparations", drew national attention last May, and earned the title of one of the most emailed pieces of the year.

Beyond "The Case for Reparations," Coates has written most recently on Ferguson and Baltimore, respectability politics, and his experiences learning French.


Coates follows Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, the 2011 Stowe Prize winners, and Michelle Alexander, the 2013 Stowe Prize winner.

The Stowe Prize will be presented at the 5th annual Big Tent Jubilee on Thursday, June 4th. Prior to the Big Tent Jubilee, the Stowe Center will present the Inspiration to Action Fair from 3-4 pm, a networking event of local community and activist organizations, and "A Conversation on Race with Ta-Nehisi Coates" from 4-5:30 pm, a public program with Coates and John Dankosky of WNPR. Both programs are free and open to the public and held at Immanuel Congregational Church.

Will you be attending the Big Tent Jubilee? The Inspiration to Action Fair or Stowe Prize Public Program? Let us know! 

Monday, May 25, 2015

The History Behind #MemorialDay

Known to many as the "unofficial" start to summer, the origins of Memorial Day speak to something much different than barbecues, the beach, and hot dogs. First celebrated on May 1, 1865, the holiday began when a group of former and emancipated enslaved individuals gathered to honor the lives of fallen Union soldiers. In 1868, General John Logan declared May 30th as "Decoration Day," a commemorative holiday designed to honor fallen soldiers by dressing or "decorating" graves. "Decoration Day" celebrations differed by region and culture; while the Federal government created national cemeteries for soldiers in the North, those is the South relied on retelling and recreating stories of now passed family members. It was not until the 20th century and when America faced an outside, international threat, did Memorial Day become the national holiday it is recognized as today.

19th Century Memorial Day gathering

Today, Memorial Day exists to honor those lost in war. Yet, do we remember the origins of Memorial Day? How can we work to honor all of those lost in American wars? And while honoring those that have fallen, how can we work to improve the current lives veterans? Roughly, 12% of all individuals facing homelessness are veterans. On this Memorial Day, what can we do to improve services to veterans? Check out the links below to learn more and let us know what you will do!  

U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs  

National Coalition for Homeless Veterans