The LEH is accepting applications for Louisiana libraries interested in hosting “Generations of Struggle: Perpectives on Race and Justice from Reconstruction to the Present.” The 4-week program centers on the experience of African Americans since the Civil War. Participating libraries will receive $1,000 grants to hire discussion leaders for conversations on three critically acclaimed works:
- A Slavery By Another Name, a documentary film that spans 1865 to 1954, and traces the development of the post-Reconstruction criminal justice system, Jim Crow, and segregation.
- A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines, a novel about centered on the lives of African American men in a small Louisiana town that earned Gaines a National Book Critics Circle Award.
- Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, a memoir that received a 2015 National Book Award.
The discussion programs will serve to sustain the conversations that began with the public programs funded through the LEH’s support of “Purchased Lives.” This continued engagement is crucial in deepening the humanities-based conversation around race in Louisiana and the nation. The LEH developed the syllabus for “Generations of Struggle” in partnership with Cheylon Woods, Assistant Professor and Archivist/Head of the Ernest J. Gaines Center at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and Dr. Kara Tucina Olidge, Executive Dirctor of the Amistad Research Center at Tulane University.
The program is made possible through a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
About the film and books:
Slavery by Another Name recounts the tragic years following the Civil War when a brutal criminal justice system created insidious new forms of forced labor in the South. The film spans eight decades, from 1865 to 1945, covering the development of Jim Crow and segregation, and the institutionalization of policies that continue to shape contemporary race relations.
A Lesson Before Dying tells the story of Jefferson, a young black man convicted of murder and sentenced to death in the fictional community of Bayonne, Louisiana, in the 1940s, and Grant, a black school teacher who believes he can educate Jefferson before he dies. The book takes an unblinking look at segregation’s caste system as it manifests in social relationships, economic prospects, and criminal justice institutions. The conversations between Jefferson and Grant offer an intimate window into the effects of injustice on young black men in America.
Between the World and Me is framed as a letter from Coates to his teenaged son. The book takes the form of a memoir tracing the author’s evolving views on African American history, the criminal justice system, and the aspirations of a rising generation of post-Civil Rights era black Americans. Between the World and Me an especially appropriate text for intergenerational reading groups. For an older generation, the book forces a reconsideration of the gains of the Civil Rights movement; for the younger, Ferguson-inspired generation, the book embodies many of the themes of the recent protest movements, in particular the adversarial relationship between African Americans and the criminal justice system.
-Week 1: Intro to syllabus, distribute books and web address for viewing the film.
-Week 2: Discuss Slavery By Another Name, intro to Gaines
-Week 3: Discuss A Lesson Before Dying, intro to Coates
-Week 4: Discuss Between the World and Me, discuss connections between all 3 works