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.

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

#SalonsAtStowe Recap: What Makes a Family?

On Thursday May 21st, the Stowe Center presented What Makes a Family?, as part of the Salons at Stowe series. Salons at Stowe is a program series aimed at connecting history to contemporary issues and events. Leading the discussion were Anne Stanback of the Equality Federation and Dr. Elizabeth Rose of the Fairfield Museum and History Center.

Check out the notes below from What Makes a Family? and include your thought on the program and issues discussed in the comments below!

Maura Hallisey, Program Coordinator, Harriet Beecher Stowe Center:
What makes a family?
  • Broad question, lots of complexity 
  • Impacted by many things – politics, religions, beliefs, laws 
  • Definition of family has shifted over time
Two featured guests for the program:

Dr. Elizabeth Rose is a historian with interests in women, children, and social policy, past and present. She is the author of The Promise of Preschool: From Head Start to Universal Pre-K (Oxford University Press, 2010) and A Mother’s Job: The History of Day Care, 1890-1960 (Oxford University Press, 1999), as well as many articles on preschool, child care, and motherhood in several different books and journals. She has taught classes on the history of motherhood at CCSU, Wesleyan, and Vanderbilt and is currently the Library Director at the Fairfield Museum and History Center in Fairfield, Connecticut.

Anne Stanback is the Director of State and National Partnerships for the Equality Federation, the strategic partner to state-based organizations winning equality in the communities we call home. Anne’s primary focus is working with states to develop plans, strategies and resources to pass laws to protect LGBT people from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations.

Anne spent nearly 30 years working for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, including her work as the founding Executive Director of Love Makes A Family, the lead organization that successfully fought for the freedom to marry in Connecticut. She is a graduate of Davidson College and Yale Divinity School.Anne is originally from North Carolina and though she will always be a Southerner at heart, she has lived in Connecticut for 32 years, 30 of those with her wife, Charlotte Kinlock, and pets too numerous to list. She serves as the Moderator at Immanuel Congregational Church (UCC) in Hartford.

Dr. Elizabeth Rose:

Prospectives from history
  • For a historian endless topic 
  • Different kinds of family relationships in different time periods, certain things about today may be new or different but there are many experiences that are similar in looking to the pas
  • Lots of different ways people have created their own families 
  • Marriage – think of it as a private and personal relationship, something we choose and that has great personal meaning 
  • Marriage in fact needs to be publicly recognized in some way 
  • No other institution is so private and so public 
  • Why is the government involved in marriage at all 
  • Marriage has been a means of strengthening public authority 
  • Church in the middle ages 
  • States in the modern age 
America – colonial legislators saw marriage as a civil matter not a religious, boundaries between church and government
  • Marriage seen as metaphor or model for government itself 
  • MAN governed over household 
  • New government set up on the consent of the governed – marriage would also be based on consent 
  • Voluntary allegiance 
  • Public policy encouraging marriage, recognizing common law marriage, state had interest in encouraging people to marry, households that were governed by male head who had political representation
19th century
  • Who could marry and who couldn’t 
  • Enslaved people were not allowed to marry did not have civil status as full person 
  • Marriage represented indication of citizenship – slaves could not give consent as they did not own themselves 
  • Marriage seen as requirement for citizenship 
  • End of slavery, former slaves flocked to get married – reunite their families 
  • 1,000s of people looking for family members 
  • Importance of legal recognition of marriage 
  • Polygamy 
  • Intense hostility 
  • 1878 – congress has power to make polygamy a crime, religion not a justification 
  • polygamy linked to despotism and opposite of democracy 
  • Bans on interracial marriage 
  • 1948 CA became first state to declare this unconstitutional 
  • Have always been changes in understanding of marriage and definitions of marriage
Anne Stanback: 
LBGT families and how can they be legally recognized
What makes a family?
  • Love 
  • Whether or not the government or faith communities recognize families they are still a family 
  • End of next month supreme court will rule on the marriage case 
  • Does not mean churches will have to recognize marriages will have to recognize same sex couples 
  • Marriage will be redefined or changed 
  • Give over 1,000 rights, protections, and benefits to loving and committed couples 
Marriage is evolving
  • Being able to say that you are married gives a respect and dignity 
  • Made progress in the last 18 months – 37 states where same sex couples can marry 
  • 72% of americans in 1967 opposed inter racial couples 
  • Today only 30% of americans oppose same sex marriages 
How did this happen so quickly?
  • CT was 2nd state to allow same sex couples to marry 
  • Told our stories 
  • 2001 very controversial issue – very few elected officials that were willing to come out publicly and support 
  • People continued to talk about it 
  • Move from engaging peoples brains to engaging their hearts 
  • Civil union 
  • Needed to talk about something beyond rights and benefits 
  • Engage unlikely partners 
  • Clergy, people of faith 
  • Civil rights communities 
  • Republicans 
Coming out was/is important 
  • Hard to deny rights and equalities to someone you know 
  • Less of a threat to civilization and more friends and neighbors and co workers
Marriage equality model  
  • Still work to do 
  • Marriage is not the only way to have a family 
  • More than half the states in the country still do not have protection of LGBT in terms of housing, education, and employment 
  • Connecticut has always been a leader on many family issues 
  • Important that once marriage becomes legal we don’t close our minds and say we are done
Audience member:
When did gay marriage start?

Anne Stanback:
  • First legal marriage in Netherlands in 2000 
  • Massachusetts in 2004 
  • As far back as the middle ages there may have been something like same sex marriage
Audience member:
When was the shift from children as workers to children as part of the family?

Dr. Rose
  • Economic setting 
  • Colonial family – lots of children, needed people to work on the farm, some children might die before they reached adulthood 
  • Overtime economic functions move out of the household, mans works takes him out of the home, children are not economically useful, they become the opposite 
  • “Pricing” the priceless child 
  • Sentimentality attached to the idea of childhood, innocence late 10th century ideals associate with middle class families and urban families, associated with education become more important and more prolonged and the idea that children are not supposed to work 
  • Families move into the factory, men woman and children working in the mills
People had idea that family and economics are separate but in fact they are directly related

Marriage has never been restricted to those are are swearing to have children

-definition of family moves away from requiring people to have children

Audience member: 
Assuming court acts in favor, such euphoria that we’ve won, what will activist groups do to focus on other things?

Anne Stanback
  • It's not about marriage at all but about trying to get protections for employment and housing 
  • Any political work requires a lot of public education, especially true for the transgender community 
  • Decade or so behind people understanding sexual identity 
  • Scare tactics – bathrooms 
  • Freedom for all americans 
  • Commitment to transgender community 
  • More than just lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender
Audience member:
Did corporations have something to do with rapid movement?

Anne Stanback
  • Absolutely 
  • Each group impacts another 
  • Corporations recognize they need to recruit everyone to get the best people 
  • They have the ears of legislators
Audience member:
Has zoning ever been used to say what is or isn’t a family?

Dr. Rose:
  • Been used to control what types of people live in certain areas 
  • Exclusionary zoning
  • Move towards voluntary kinships 
  • Golden Girls phenomenon
  • Birthrate continues to drop
  • Marriage itself is decreaing – becomes an aspirational thing, cant married till you’ve arrived at a certain emotional and economic stability
  • Family is a lived experience and a metaphor
  • Can mask power relations but also be a powerful relationship 
Audience member:
I work in the mental health field and have never worked with a client who didn’t feel failed by the idea of a nuclear family. We need to change the definition of family.

Anne Stanback:
  • Coming out is important in many forms 
  • People kept quiet for many reason
  • Criticism of marriage equality movement
    • -seen as holding up one model and only one model as a result there have been cases where states get rid of domestic partnership
  • Need more options
“Conflicted” middle
  • At war with true values and the “naturals” they’ve been raised with 
  • Not trying to change values, trying to tap into the right values 
  • Use the right words 
  • Need more research into language that is used
Audience member:
Are there some groups of people that are very resistant to the change?

Anne Stanback
  • Less so than has been stereotyped 
  • Latino families are more supportive than white communities 
  • More associated with the frequency in which they go to church
Need to bring everyone into the conversation!

Inspiration to Action:  
-Educate yourself on the history behind marriage and family
-Learn about the marriage equality movement
-Vote for officials who support equity in families
-Advocate for intersectional approaches to family advocacy
-Watch the Golden Girls- advocate for shared housing and fair zoning policies  

Have any more action steps to add? What do you think about the changing definition family? Let us know below! 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

#SalonsAtStowe: Meet the Featured Guests

On Thursday, May 21st the Stowe Center will present "What Makes a Family?" a Salon on the ways in which the definition of family has shifted over time and place and is influenced by prevailing laws, policies, and religious concepts. Leading the discussion will be Anne Stanback, Director of State and National Partnerships at the Equality Federation and Dr. Elizabeth Rose, historian and Library Director at the Faifield Museum and History Center.

Meet the featured guests below!

Anne Stanback 

Anne Stanback is the Director of State and National Partnerships for the Equality Federation, the strategic partner to state-based organizations winning equality in the communities we call home. Anne’s primary focus is working with states to develop plans, strategies and resources to pass laws to protect LGBT people from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations.

Anne spent nearly 30 years working for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, including her work as the founding Executive Director of Love Makes A Family, the lead organization that successfully fought for the freedom to marry in Connecticut. She is a graduate of Davidson College and Yale Divinity School.Anne is originally from North Carolina and though she will always be a Southerner at heart, she has lived in Connecticut for 32 years, 30 of those with her wife, Charlotte Kinlock, and pets too numerous to list. She serves as the Moderator at Immanuel Congregational Church (UCC) in Hartford.

 Dr. Elizabeth Rose is a historian with interests in women, children, and social policy, past and present. She is the author of The Promise of Preschool: From Head Start to Universal Pre-K (Oxford University Press, 2010) and A Mother’s Job: The History of Day Care, 1890-1960 (Oxford University Press, 1999), as well as many articles on preschool, child care, and motherhood in several different books and journals. She has taught classes on the history of motherhood at CCSU, Wesleyan, and Vanderbilt and is currently the Library Director at the Fairfield Museum and History Center in Fairfield, Connecticut.

Who decides what constitutes a family? How has the definition of family changed over time?
Has your definition of family changed over time? What do you plan to ask at the Salon? Let us know! 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

#SalonsatStowe Continue the Conversation: @jelani9 #Hillman2015 Speech

On April 30th, the Stowe Center presented Writing about Race with Dr. Jelani Cobb of the University of Connecticut. The conversation, a part of our Salons at Stowe series, predicated on Dr. Cobb's writing on contemporary issues of racial justice both in Ferguson, Baltimore, and beyond. On May 5th, Dr. Cobb was awarded the Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis journalism. His acceptance speech honored the lives of Trayvon Martin, Amadou Diallo, Jordan Davis, Tamir Rice, by crediting these individuals for his work.  Watch his speech below:

Dr. Cobb states "I write with the hope that we can move from contingent citizenship to actual democracy." What do you think he means by that?

If you missed the Salon on April 30th, check out the interview notes below!

Katherine Kane, Executive Director, Stowe Center:
How and why did you start writing?

Dr. Cobb:
First, thank you for inviting me here. Especially given the context in which we are meeting. I’m so happy to see you are honoring Ta-Nehisi-we are good friends. We went to Howard University together. I started writing because I was a part of a community he and I were both a part of. in Washington D.C. Some of us were college students, some of us not, but we were all interested in the written word. We were trying to address the issues that we saw as relevant. The more personal side of it is that, I always talk about background with people, and my earliest memory, earliest thing I recall, is my father teaching me the alphabet. I was really small when he taught me the alphabet. My dad was a big guy and I remember the enormity of his hands helping me trace the letters. He would always bring home writing tablets. At the time, I didnt really understand the multi-layers of this. My dad is from Hazelhurst, Goergia, and only went to the third grade. He grew up in the great depression and when he was 8 he went to work. Him tracing my hands, was him showing me expectations and allowing me to be in spaces he wasnt allowed to be in.

The other factor in my writing is hip hop. There are always things written about the implications of hip-hop culture and invariably there will be a piece on rap in Baltimore in a bad way. But the first thing I wrote was rap. I grew up in Queens, NY and the hip hop community was big there. Run DMC were my older brother’s classmates, LL Cool J was my classmate in 8th grade and when I went to college I picked English as a major and realized there was a connection between writing raps and writing essays and books

Is there a connection between writing lyrics and speaking? As a commentator, you speak on television a great deal. 

Dr. Cobb:
My mom was a fan of debate. We always watched 60 minutes and we would always have to have an opinion that came from that as well. And some of it is that to be taken seriously as an African American you have to have sharp speaking skills.

 Any of you in audience have debates?
[Lots of people nod]

You wrote a book on President Obama. How were you drawn to this topic?

Dr. Cobb:
I was interested in Obama, because we had no indication that the country was prepared to elect a Black president in mass numbers. Talk to political scientists, sociologists, no one had any indication that this would happen. You could count on one hand the number of black people who won state wide elections and thus there was no indication that someone could win 50 states. Also the things that happened that year suggested the country stepped out of its history, even though it really just took a pivot. Political scientists say that in times of economic strife racial tensions rise. In September 2008, the economy tanked and Obamas numbers went up. I wanted to try to deconstruct this. In the same month Obama was inaugurated, three African American unarmed men were killed by police. There are lots of things we can talk about domestically, internationally, about Obama’s presidency, but one prominent strand is going to be the existence of a black presidency with great bouts of police activity that resulted in deaths of unarmed black men. When he came in office, some things were kind of predictable, but we didnt know how they would play out. He is the only black president, and also the only president to have to show his birth certificate. He has a lot of firsts and not all of them are good.

One of the things we are interested here at the Stowe Center is the connection between history and now. You were an English major, but still studied history? And now you are a history professor and a journalist.

Dr. Cobb:
I minored in history, so history was always there. And when I graduated I thought do I want to be a historian or do I want to be a journalist? During the week I am a historian and on the weekend journalist. I am interested in what is happening in the present and how it ties to the past. We are very ahistorical in our approach to things. Being able to confront our past will help us change trajectory. I am teaching class at UConn on Ferguson next semester, and one of the things I point out to students in Ferguson is that it is a predominately black community that used to be a predominately white community. We are approaching the 80th anniversary of the Harlem Riot in 1935. And Harlem was a community that used to be all white and quickly became all black. And in Detroit in 1943 there was a riot. In 1920 Detroit was 96% white, and in 1940 the black population had quadrupled. People were concerned, you started seeing signs that you would think would be in Mississippi. 

You write about the “deja vu of history”. There are always report released that say American students don’t know history. How do you as a professor and how do we as a site communicate the importance of our history?

Dr. Cobb:
One it requires creativity. We need to step outside of the traditional ways we do history. We need to hook people on an interesting story. In history, theres tragedy, moments of great possibility, incredible triumphs, all those things are in the narrative. One of the things I do on social media, is to drop things in. Like yesterday, I tweeted that it was 23 years since the LA riots as a result of the police officers .

I sometimes go to the FBI site and show people that the FBI has files on certain people and I’ll tweet out links to those. Now thats also the idealistic approach, because we dont just ignore history out of boredom. Texas wants to change all the text books to get rid of “trans Atlantic slave trade” and replace the term with “triangular trade.” Ignoring history does not absolve us, it indicts us. Ed Baptist, writer of The Half Has Never Been Told, talks about how central slavery was in building the American economy. And there are some people who say, “well, that was a long time ago.” And Ta-Nehisi once said to a comment like that, well “the Revolutionary War was a long time ago too.” There is a substantial plurality when you talk about discrimination that say whites were the most discriminated against. You have people who say the Civil War was not about slavery. It is difficult to confront that we as a nation went to war to decide whether to keep an institution that was about holding people as property. 

Here we are in New England the home of abolition [laughs]. I’m being sarcastic. People have forgotten that the north had slavery.

Dr. Cobb:
The tentacles of history stretched from Louisiana to NYC to Boston, everyone was intricately connected to slaver. 2/3 of our entire exports in the 19th century was cotton. And well what were they using the cotton for? Where were those textile mills for? When we start thinking like this we get out of South Carolina very fast. What banks were financing this? Slavery is not something that can exist in isolation. Ive been in this awkward situation with white people will admit to me that their family owned slaves and that they feel bad about it. I feel bad about it too, but not for the same reasons. Like Ben Affleck who says he wanted to hide that his family held slaves. If you are trying to confront issues in American history, then we need to care less about individual genealogy. Lets talk about what weve done nationally. Take the environment. No one person messed up the environment. What have we done nationally?

You’ve been on the ground in Ferguson and been in Baltimore. Your journalism is bumping up against your study of history. Now that your experiences in Ferguson have some distance, what particular things do you think now?

Dr. Cobb:
Like is often said, the seeds of the conclusion were present at the beginning. When the Ferguson report was released, I went back to my notes, and these were things the people were telling me the first week I was there. We would start talking about Brown, but then would pivot to housing, to education, to ticketing. In Ferguson they have a program with a judge on Saturdays to help with outstanding warrants/tickets. It is one of the municipality’s most popular programs. They get about 2,000 people. This is what is happening there. This community is making money off of ticketing. When the Department of Justice report came out later, it just pulled the cover off of what has been going on for a long time. 

What I know now more, is how Ferguson is related to bigger trends. It is related to trends of communities going from white to black very, very quickly. There is a lot of conversation around Ferguson and the political structure of the municipality. Ferguson is 2/3 black, but 1 out of 6 on the council is black. They had a black superintendent of schools who was ousted 6 months before the shooting over leniency towards letting St. Louis students going to school in Ferguson. I was talking with a lot of political scientists about this trend and Brenda Carter of Yale and the Reflective Democracy Campaign, pointed out that American actually looks like Ferguson. Non-Hispanic whites hold 90% of all political positions, even though they are only 63% of the population. So people of color who are 37% of the population, don’t have the luxury to say oh “this is just how Ferguson looks,” because it is how American looks too.

 And now this week, we are seeing a similar situation being played out in Baltimore. But, Baltimore has a different political makeup than Ferguson and other places.

Dr. Cobb:
The Mayor of Baltimore, Stephanie Rowlings-Blake, had as much of a tailwind when she won as possible. She won with 84% of the vote. Baltimore tends to have lopsided elections in that way. During her first year, the legislature switched municipal elections to president election years. And so she was pegged to be re-elected in 2015, but then they pushed in back in 2016. So when we think about Obama, we can think about the entire power of his office.
The television show The Wire, analyzed all aspects of Baltimore life. You see everything that is going on from the media to politics to industry and see everything that is going on in these contexts. There is no single synopsis [of Baltimore].

And until we had a black presidency, we could not understand the limitations of a black presidency [or political leadership]. That being said, there is a difference between being a good leader and a bad leader. The problems in Baltimore are much bigger than any single demographic. Much of white population moved out to the suburbs and left behind a largely black population which was far less employed. When we talk about the riot in 1968, the white population was already declining and going to the suburbs. The fabric of the American city was changing.

I know one person in the audience is from Baltimore, anyone else have ties?

Audience member:
My husband is from Baltimore, so it is very personal for me.

Cassandra Butler, Stowe Center Trustee:
I think you alluded to it earlier, but I would like you to expand on the role of being an African American in public office, on Barack Obama. You said it has to do with class and that he was “dealt a bad hand”?

Dr. Cobb:
At the time Barack Obama was elected, the U.S. was in two wars, lots of money, was being spent towards those wars, and the economy had tanked. It is a kind of neat comparison to look at black mayors where they were popping up. Cleveland, Gary, Newark-those are cities where industries have left. I went to South Africa and met with members of parliament and one said when Mandela came to power, the thing we had to adjust to was thinking that South Africa was a rich country with poor allocation to realizing that if we did redistribute evenly there would be a lot of poorer people.
It is kind of a neat comparison to look at Black mayors where they were popping up. Cleveland, Gary, and Newark and to think about those cities where industries have left. I went to South Africa, met a retired member of parliament from when Mandela came to power. He said the thing we had to adjust to, is we thought South Africa was a rich country with poor allocation, we found out though if we distributed evenly, there would be lots of poorer people. We are confronting declining tax bases in a lot of areas- except in Atlanta, but in Detroit and other former centers of industry. 

Audience member:
There have been studies that have shown that race does not matter. That someone of one skin color is no smarter, no better than someone else. Race isn’t real.We should talk more about class. And why do people categorize Obama as black? He has a white mother, why doesn’t that make him white?

Dr. Cobb:
Race doesn
t exist as a discrete biological function. But if you go to a movie theater a shout fire, and people get battered and bruised, but then you turn the lights and say “oh, it was a lie, there is no fire” the people who were hurt are still hurt. Race is a lie, but we use it to make people feel subordinate. We need to grapple with the legacy of race.

On Obama’s identity, fine to say he is multiracial, but most black people are multi-racial and many white people are too. My great-great grandmother is white. But if I get pulled over while I’m driving, I’m not going to say “Oh, Officer you made a mistake. I am actually white.” say most Black people, and many white people are..get pulled over cant say officer, I’m actually white. And ideas of class have allowed us to avoid talking about race. New Deal, the GI Bill, all these things helped certain people. And once people, white people, seized to be poor, they are now Americans in full. If you’re black there is a sense of resentment when you achieve. I dropped my friend off at the airport in a Mercedes convertible. An Officer comes up to me and just yells “what kind of f****** idiot you are leaving your lights on in the day?” and then just drives away. If a white person who grew up in Appalachia and gets a Mercedes they are considered a success story.

Isnt that the issue of the stereotyping? We had this idea that people who live in poor areas, therefore we expect less on the positive side, and more on the negative side?

Dr. Cobb:
Heres the thing we never get to, is that white people are not culpable for the actions of other white people. I was on a subway in DC, and a black person gets on, listening to some hip hop in his ear phones, screaming out like every iteration of mother****** possible. Now, I’m 63”, and when I got off that train I was like 57”. You have to consciously put off that this person is not representing me. We can’t make these grand assumptions based on race. 

Just want to follow that up with what happened in Newtown. It was not cast that white people were all made to be like this one person.

Dr. Cobb:
People take the proportionality argument, that there is a higher percentage of black crime, per number of people. But if we took all of the black people out of this country, it would still be much more violent than most other counties in the Western world. A white person may be scared to walk in a black neighborhood, but if a man from Holland came to the U.S. it wouldn’t be unreasonable for them to be scared of white people here.  

Audience member:
First question, your mother made you watch 60 minutes. Whats her background? Bourgeois?

Dr. Cobb:
Mother started college when she was 52.

Audience member:
I am British West-Indian, and I listened to his question [man who said class matters, race is not real] and I am thinking, when I grew up I never had to identify as a race. That wasn’t on our birth certificates. The U.S. should not separate people by race on their birth certificates.

Audience member:
I was born in New York and there is no race on the birth certificate..

Dr. Cobb:
I dont think you can say something is bourgeois that is educational, what that implies is only a certain class of people have these interests which is not true. My father only went to the third grade because there were no opportunities. I think you can be poor, you can be uneducated, and still want to learn, still be engaged in learning.

Audience member:
I’m a first generation American, and when my father emigrated here from Ireland he only had a sixth grade education and was a Union brick layer. My mother was a cafeteria worker and every Sunday they would gather their 5 kids and we would all watch 60 minutes. It was where we, as not necessarily enfranchised people, thought we were learning the truth.  

Dr. Cobb:
I saw Morley Safer once in the airport and I ran him down and said, I’m a professor and a journalist and my mom made me watch you. I have to get your autography. It’s important to have access to educational resources in whatever form. I sent out  a tweet once at like 3:00 am, asking people to tell me when they got their first library card. It crashed my twitter! I still think of my public library as a huge factor in my life.  

About difference in complexion; Barack Obama being bi-racial, he has to choose how to self-identify. He is identified by other people as Black. I had the fortune to attend two civil rights events and learned so much. Science says there is no distinction, but everyday there are privileged white people vs. disadvantaged people of color. It is not a little thing its life or death, to discount the impact of visual racial difference. 

I am from Baltimore born and raised, and am old enough to be 9 years old in 68 . We just have this cycle of oppression and riots. As a historian where do you see this going?

Dr. Cobb:
So here
s the two things I think- and historians look backward for a reason,  it is easier to sort out what did happen vs. what is going to happen. Look at how we’ve progressed. You can make all the moral arguments you want about women being more franchised now, but it wasn’t until an external need- WWII- that this was expedited. Take the racial example of this. There's an old southern adage "keep the negro in his place." That place was at the bottom-there was clarity on who is at the bottom. But then we see what happens when you create an underclass-you have crime, poor academic performance, etc. But now it is in societys benefit to be competitive internationally. We want  everyone to know calculus now even though we didnt want that previously. I heard this joke once that went like "now people are happy to see rappers in first class because they think they can fight." Things often change when there is an external need.

I saw you at St. Josephs University on a panel and thought you were outstanding. And you laid out the problem there, just like you’re doing tonight for the audience. What role do we have as an audience, what can we do?

Dr. Cobb:
It would be presumptuous of me to tell people what to do. I try to talk with young people who are interested in journalism and contribute my time. I contribute resources to the same library where I got my first library card. I try  to make a difference where I can. As for corporations and the broad community, generally I think when much is given, much is required.

This audience is interested in your perspective on things like this, on ways people can make change.  

What role do white people play in the race conversations? A lot of times white friends stay silent. How do you feel that they should approach the situation?

Dr. Cobb:
It's not good when people that are not in a particular group tell others in that group how to handle things. It's like men telling women how to handle sexism or it would be like telling David Ortiz how to hit a fastball. You have to defer to peoples personal experiences. It is very important when we see racially how this works when you see something like Orange is the New Black and start talking about mass incarceration. When really cute, educated white girls are getting wrapped up in prison, now they start paying attention. With freedom rides, when they put white people on buses, there was attention. I think there is a subversive power to this. I was in New York with a friend named Renegade (ask Ta-Nehisi about him when you see him) and we were waiting for a cab. And then this white woman walks next to us and starts to hail a cab too. We thought, now we are never going to get a cab. And sure enough a cab pulls up to her and she opens the door and says "you both wanted a cab, here."

This doesn't always happen like that though. I was in New York, with Renegade and Ta-Nehisi and we were walking on the street, and an older white women walked up and she just did an about face. Who would have thought two essayists, and a poet would scare someone?

Bringing it back to Hartford, my son goes to a magnet school.  One day one of my son’s friends came to visit him at school. She is from Burlington. She was so unnerved by people recognizing racial difference out loud. The magnet school is diverse, but she is from an all white school and wasn’t used to recognizing race. She was taught to be color blind. My son’s friend came from Burlington, she was so unnerved by people recognizing differences in race. [If you are a person of color] you can help this girl, white people to recognize and appreciate difference. 

 See, I don't want to help like that or teach. That girl will be fine if she never learns to not be color-blind, because she is protected, privileged to not recognize race. 

I went to a program about race and really was confronted with what it means to have privilege, to live in a racist society. It is important to validate people's feelings, to listen, to learn if you do not come from the same background as another person. 

The dangerous side of the oppostite end of pendulum is that people feel its not their place to have this conversation. Men dont feel comfortable talking about sexism so no one talks about it because people think theyll get jumped on. How new is it that the henchman of the status quo sever somebodys spine and kill them? Another question is we have photographs, coffee table books of lynching, and now we are seeing acts of police violence being documented. What has that done to the movement?

Dr. Cobb:
The reason those photographs of lynching exist, it was one of the things people took pictures of. Audio technology, photograph recordings, one of the first things that was recorded was a lynching. These things have been documented by the pertinent technology of their eras. The other side of that- white people were lynched absolutely. It was a white phenomena for many years. People wouldn't lynch slaves, property, got in trouble. Those spectacular elements of lynching came about as a means of intimidating the black population at large, those things are not new at all. In Storrs, we have the spirit rock, and some students painted Black Lives Matter on it and within hours the word black was spray painted over. We have have not systematically devalued all lives. If the behavior we saw in lynching, happened to white person, we would say that is psychopathic. Saying black lives matter is subversive. Talk about Michael Brown stole cigars, Freddie gray arrested...what this means if you are a black person, if you have run a foul of any of these elements, simply by saying black lives matter fundamentally you cannot be treated in certain ways. Those are the things we are grappling with now and have been back to 1619, which I why I sit down and write. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Case for Reparations with #2015StowePrize winner @tanehisicoates

There is less than one month until the 2015 Stowe Prize honoring journalist and blogger Ta-Nehisi Coates. Coates is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and is known for his critical analysis on contemporary racial politics, culture, and history. His June 2014 cover piece The Case for Reparations ignited attention and conversation on the pervasive implications of slavery, Jim Crow laws, and housing discrimination.

American history education is largely approached with a sense of distance, where people, events, and policies are solely situated in the past. Little attention is paid to the ways in which history is linked the the politics of the present. Coates's piece examines the relationships of the past to the present and exposes the hypocrisies and inequities of which many social structures were built.

Read The Case for Reparations and let us know what you think. In what context have you heard the term reparations? What do you think can come from a national conversation on reparations? Who would engage in this conversation? Who wouldn't and why? Share your thoughts in the comments and join us on June 4th for the 2015 Stowe Prize!  

2015 Stowe Prize Schedule

Inspiration to Action Fair 3:00-4:00 pm, Immanuel Congregational Church, Free and open to the public 

A Conversation on Race with Ta-Nehisi Coates, 4:00-5:30 pm, Immanuel Congregational Church, Free and open to the public
Reservations for the Inspiration to Action Fair and to A Conversation on Race can be made here: http://stoweprize2015.brownpapertickets.com

Stowe Prize Big Tent Jubilee, 6:00-9:00 pm, Stowe Center, Ticketed event
Contact Monica Parker at mparker@stowecenter.org for details  

Monday, May 4, 2015

#SalonsAtStowe: Meet the Featured Guests

This Thursday, the Stowe Center will present Thinking Regionally Part 2: Providing Greater Access to Opportunity. The Salon will include an overview of the second edition of the Metro Hartford Progress Points report, a snapshot review of the barriers and opportunities within the Greater Hartford region. The report is a product of the Metro Hartford Progress Reports Partnership, a collective effort of local organizations and initiatives working to strengthen understanding of the issues facing the Greater Hartford region. Featured guests for the program include Dr. Xiangming Chen of Trinity College and Susan Dunn of the United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut, two participating organizations in the partnership.  

Meet the featured guests below!

Dr. Xiangming Chen
Director of the Center for Urban and Global Studies, Trinity College

Dr. Xiangming Chen has been serving as the founding Dean and Director of the Center for Urban and Global Studies (CUGS) at Trinity College since July 1, 2007. Chen leads CUGS in developing and strengthening meaningful and synergistic linkages of teaching, research, and service in urban and global studies, broadly defined, between Trinity’s academic programs and its various forms of experiential learning on campus, in Hartford, and globally.A native of Beijing, China, Chen graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University and received his Ph.D. in Sociology from Duke University.

Susan Dunn
President and CEO, United Way of Central and Northeastern CT, former Board Chair of the Stowe Center

Susan Dunn joined the United Way in 1990 as communications director. On November 8, 2006, Dunn was named president and chief executive officer. During her United Way career, she has been responsible for the annual fundraising effort, leadership giving, communications and public relations, along with administrative responsibilities for the organization. Among Dunn’s community activities, she currently serves on the board of the National Conference for Community and Justice of Connecticut and Western Massachusetts—Connecticut Chapter, is a corporator of Hartford Hospital, and is past president of the board of trustees of the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center.
Susan Dunn is among the first women graduates of Fairfield University in Fairfield, Connecticut, with a Bachelor of Science degree in marketing, cum laude.

How can cities and suburbs work together to improve resources and foster stronger communities? How do we provide greater access to opportunities across the Greater Hartford region? Come to the Salon and share your thoughts! 

Thinking Regionally Part 2 will begin at 5:00 pm with a social half hour and the conversation will begin at 5:30 pm. See you there!