Out of the Silence:
It’s been sixty years since the Supreme Court ended school segregation, but America’s schools are more segregated today than they were in 1968. Racism and inequality are woven too deeply into American society to be excised by a court order or dismantled by an act of Congress. Over the last few years, a new civil rights movement has arisen. Rooted in the first Obama campaign and Occupy Wall Street, it has been spurred on by calls for prison reform and internet videos of police violence. Though it is the latest offensive in a battle stretching across decades and centuries, it is a twenty-first century movement, coalesced around a hashtag, #BlackLivesMatter.
While I watched, and at times participated in, the new movement, I was researching the desegregation of Clinton High, one of the first tests of Brown versus Board of Education. I soon realized that unless we change how we talk about history—creating a newer, messier, more inclusive story of our past—future generations will refight the same battles we are waging (again) today.
Out of the Silence will interweave three narrative strands: the rise of resegregation; the desegregation of Clinton High and my personal journey as a white Southern woman working on issues of race and inequality.
“In 2011, she founded SisterReach, a nonprofit whose mission is to advance reproductive autonomy, especially for women of color. Since 2016, the group has partnered with local churches to offer comprehensive sex ed for women and teens. … ‘The wombs of black women built this country,’ she says. ‘Unfortunately, that’s not reflected in our culture or in our laws.'”
“Rachel Martin left her hometown for eight years, then returned to find everyone talking about a dish she’d never heard of or eaten in the Nashville of her youth: hot chicken. Today, we learn how Nashville’s signature dish stayed hidden for decades in the city’s black communities — and then suddenly became a global obsession.”
Featured on KCRW’s Good Food (interview begins at 10:40)
Featured on the BBC’s Food Chain (interview begins at 6:05)
“Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years (1954-1965), the documentary series that changed the public’s perception of the Civil Rights movement, debuted 30 years ago. This oral history is based on interviews with more than a dozen people who were involved in making Eyes on the Prize, or whose work has been influenced by the series.”
“Rural towns struggle with widespread poverty, limited opportunity, and low college-attendance rates. What role do schools play in improving the quality of life?”
Featured on the Michelle Meow Show
“Growing up, I wanted to get as far away as possible from Tennessee’s shameful Confederate past. It took a stint up north—and a longing for southern cooking—before I made peace with my hometown.”
“In 1956, Theresser Caswell and 11 other black students were the first to desegregate Clinton High School in Clinton, Tennessee. Their enrollment signaled a shift toward racial equality in America, but, as many of the Clinton 12 found out, the decision was not embraced by all.”
“Only about half of the city’s roads currently have sidewalks, and no one knows where to find the money to cover the rest of them.”
“Protesters at UNC have been fighting to remove commemorative markers honoring white supremacy; activists have focused on Silent Sam, a statue of a Confederate soldier — erected on the 50th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation — guarding the school’s historic quad. But Sam is just one of the ways white supremacy has been woven into the university’s fabric.”
“In the African country, an ambitious program uses video conferencing to train underfunded and overwhelmed teachers. But is it enough?”
“As the crucible of desegregation enveloped one small Tennessee town, a white minister implored his congregation to do the right thing. The violence and abuse that followed haunted Paul Turner to his dying days.”
“Swedish in a Southern Drawl,” Graze
Longform version. “We never ate like Tennesseans, but on Christmas Eve, my food became unrecognizable to my friends. That was when Grandma took over and we became Swedish. But it’s been almost fifteen years since her death, and my sister has in-laws she needs to visit. Now, we cook Swedish every other year, the alternate holidays when it’s our turn to have Ruth.”
“We never ate like Tennesseans, but on Christmas Eve, my food became unrecognizable to my friends. That was when Grandma took over and we became Swedish. But it’s been almost fifteen years since her death, and my sister has in-laws she needs to visit. Now, we cook Swedish every other year, the alternate holidays when it’s our turn to have Ruth.”
Casting Scarlett: Reflecting on Gone with the Wind, O Say Can You See? Stories from the National Museum of American History
“Today is the 75th anniversary of the announcement that Vivien Leigh would play Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind. Guest blogger Rachel L. Martin reflects on the decision to cast Leigh and the film’s complicated legacy.”