“Kennedy, Randall — Can You Say This Word?”

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Few words in the English language have caused so much pain, hurt and emotion as the N-word. It is arguably the most consequential social insult in American history. The long history of the pejorative use of the N-word has given it an unusual power that extends to the judicial system, literature and social settings.

Randall Kennedy, a professor of Law at Harvard University Law School, is the author of “Nigger-the Strange Career of a Troublesome Word.”  His book chronicles the history of this word, in an effort to diffuse and neutralize it.

Originally Broadcast: March 19, 2002

“Wilkerson, Isabel — America’s Great Migration: 1915-1970 Part Two”

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In part 2 of our conversation with Pulitzer Prize winner, Isabel Wilkerson, author of “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration,” we continue our discussion of the migration of almost six million black American citizens from the south to northern and western cities between the years of 1915 and 1970. Her book tells the untold experiences of the African-Americans who fled the south over three generations.

Wilkerson interviewed more than 1,000 people for her book. She is the first black woman to win the Pulitzer Prize and is a recipient of the George Polk Award and a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow. Her parents were part of the great migration, journeying from Georgia and southern Virginia to Washington D.C.

The book Isabel Wilkerson recommends is “The Ark of Justice,” by Kevin Boyle.

“Wilkerson, Isabel — America’s Great Migration: 1915-1970 Part One”

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In the years between 1915 and 1970 almost six million black American citizens from the south migrated to northern and western cities seeking freedom and a better life. Our guest is Pulitzer Prize winner, Isabel Wilkerson author of “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration.” Her book tells the untold experiences of the African-Americans who fled the south over three generations.

Wilkerson interviewed more than 1,000 people for her book. She is the first black woman to win the Pulitzer Prize and is a recipient of the George Polk Award and a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow. Her parents were part of the great migration, journeying from Georgia and southern Virginia to Washington D.C.

In the first of two interviews recorded from Isabel Wilkerson’s home near Atlanta, Georgia, on September 28, 2012, she begins with a description of the “biggest untold story of the 20th century.”

The book Isabel Wilkerson recommends is “The Ark of Justice,” by Kevin Boyle.

“Annie Barnes – Racism in America”

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Everyday Racism: A Book For All Americans

Racism has too long been a part of the American experience. The Civil War and the Constitutional amendments that followed, the Supreme Court decisions ordering the desegregation of schools, and the Civil Rights movements did not end racism in America. Annie S. Barnes, holds a Ph.D. in Social Anthropology from the University of Virginia and is a retired Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at Norfolk State University in Virginia. She is the author of “Everyday Racism, A Book for All Americans,” a book based on the racist experiences suffered by 146 black college students. Professor Barnes describes effects of racism on black people and what black people and white people can do to combat it.

Annie Barnes recommends “Driving While Black,” by Kenneth Meeks.

Originally Broadcast: February 27, 2001

Mello, Mark: Reflections on The Underground Railroad—What now?

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Imagine growing up in a tightly bound community of no more than 60 people who worked from dawn to dusk and who were subjected to unimaginable indignities and torture. Why? Because they were African Americans born into slavery in the United States prior in the first half of the 19th century. They hoped and dreamed of freedom, freedom to an unknown place; that freedom served as a guide for those who risked their lives to flee the bondage.

Freedom for some was found in the seaport town of New Bedford, Massachusetts, where escaped former slaves were welcome. New Bedford was the richest city in the world in the 1850s, a city run by Quakers and other abolitionists, who created a safe haven for black people from the south. The 1,000 plus men and women who found refuge in New Bedford were more than enough to hide the newcomers as they arrived. Often the men found work on the whaling ships that ventured forth around the world from the New Bedford harbor. More can be learned about whaling in New Bedford in a two part Radio Curious program here.

In this series about New Bedford as a safe haven on the Underground Railroad, we explore the lives of freedom seeking ex-slaves who safely made the journey to the south east corner of Massachusetts. In this, the second of a two part program, we continue our visit with National Park Ranger Mark Mello. Part of Ranger Mello’s work is that of a tour guide interpreting the history and stories of pre-civil war New Bedford. His interpretations focus on the bravery and dedication of New Bedford residents at that time.

I joined Mark Mello’s walking tour about the Underground Railroad’s connection to New Bedford in the Old Town Section on September 2, 2016. This edition of Radio Curious begins with Ranger Mello’s story of Nathan and Polly Johnson, a free black couple who lived and worked there–he as a pharmacist and she a confectionary.

The books Mark Mello recommends are “Fugitive’s Gibraltar: Escaping Slaves and Abolitionism in New Bedford, Massachusetts,” by Kathryn Grover; “Whale Hunt,” by Nelson Cole Haley; and “Leviathan,” by Philip Hoare.

Sandra Kamusukiri as Maria Stewart: A Visit With a Free Black Woman – Boston 1840

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Maria W. Stewart, as characterized by professor and scholar Sandra Kamusakiri, was a free black woman who lived in Boston, MA, from the 1820s to the early 1840s. She was the first American born woman to lecture in public on political themes and likely the first African-American to speak out in defense of women’s rights. A forerunner to Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth, she was intensely religious and regarded as outspoken and controversial during her time. For more than a century, Maria W. Stewart’s life contributions remained obscured, illustrating the double pressures of racism and sexism on the lives African-American women. I met with Mariah W. Stewart in the person of Professor Sandra Kamusukiri during the 1996 Democracy in America Chautauqua, held in Ukiah, California.

Maria Stewart recommends “The Fair Sketches of Women,” by John Adams and “The Bible.”

Originally Broadcast: November 27, 1996

Wilkerson, Isabel: America’s Great Migration: 1915-1970 Part Two

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In the years between 1915 and 1970 almost six million black American citizens from the south migrated to northern and western cities seeking freedom and a better life. Our guest is Pulitzer Prize winner, Isabel Wilkerson author of “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration.” Her book tells the untold experiences of the African-Americans who fled the south over three generations.
Wilkerson interviewed more than 1,000 people for her book. She is the first black woman to win the Pulitzer Prize and is a recipient of the George Polk Award and a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow. Her parents were part of the great migration, journeying from Georgia and southern Virginia to Washington D.C.

In part one she discussed what she called the “biggest untold story of the 20th century.”  In part two of our conversation, recorded from her home near Atlanta, Georgia, on September 28, 2012, Isabel Wilkerson describes the inspiration behind her narrative non-fiction story of the six million African-Americans who migrated from the south between 1915 and 1970.

Wilkerson, Isabel: America’s Great Migration: 1915-1970 Part One

Click here to begin listening

In the years between 1915 and 1970 almost six million black American citizens from the south migrated to northern and western cities seeking freedom and a better life. Our guest is Pulitzer Prize winner, Isabel Wilkerson author of “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration.” Her book tells the untold experiences of the African-Americans who fled the south over three generations.

Wilkerson interviewed more than 1,000 people for her book. She is the first black woman to win the Pulitzer Prize and is a recipient of the George Polk Award and a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow. Her parents were part of the great migration, journeying from Georgia and southern Virginia to Washington D.C.

In the first of two interviews recorded from Isabel Wilkerson’s home near Atlanta, Georgia, on September 28, 2012, she begins with a description of the “biggest untold story of the 20th century.”

The book Isabel Wilkerson recommends is “The Ark of Justice,” by Kevin Boyle.

Fuller, Alexandra: Growing Up White in Africa

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In the late summer of 2003 Radio Curious visited with Alexandra Fuller who, as a child lived in Rhodesia, Malawi and Zambia in southeast Africa between 1972 and 1990.  After her father sided with the white government in the Rhodesian civil war, he was often away from home.   Fuller’s resilient and self-sufficient mother immersed herself in their rural and rugged life. She taught her children to have strong wills and opinions, and to whole-heartedly embrace life, despite and because of their difficult circumstances.  Alexandra Fuller, author of “Don’t Let’s Go To The Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood,” known as Bobo to her family, developed a love of reading and story telling early on in her life.

When I spoke with Alexandra Fuller in September 2003 her home was in rural Wyoming.  We visited by phone and began our conversation when I asked her how she choose the title for her book, “Don’t Let’s Go To The Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood.”

The book Alexandra Fuller recommends is “Echoing Silences,” by Alexander Canigone.

Totten, Dr Samuel: Genocide in South Sudan

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Once again we focus on the continuing genocide in the northeast African countries of Sudan and South Sudan. When the nation of South Sudan gained its independence from Sudan on July 9, 2011, the hopes for peace and safety of its citizens were high. That reality however has not come to be. The people of this area, especially those from the Nuba Mountains, continue to flee for their lives amidst an ongoing deadly famine.

Professor Emeritus, Samuel Totten, Ph.D., a genocide scholar, now retired from the University of Arkansas, is our guest for the fifth time on Radio Curious. Professor Totten, who has visited Sudan and South Sudan multiple times in the past decade, hopes to visit there again the end of July, 2018. In this program, he describes recent conditions in this remote part of Africa; the heroic efforts of others who have devoted their lives to the betterment of the people of South Sudan—told in the book he edited in 2017, “Sudan’s Nuba Mountains People: Accounts by Humanitarians in the Battle Zone”—and the plans for his pending trip there. He also explains what motivates him to risk his life by doing this work.
When Dr. Sam Totten and I visited by phone from his home in Fayetteville, Arkansas, on July 9, 2018, we began when I asked him to describe the location of Sudan and South Sudan on the African continent.

The book Sam Totten recommends is “The Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency,” by Barton Gellman.