New York Times Best-Selling Author & Award-Winning Historian
Dr. Keisha N. Blain is one of the most innovative and influential young historians of her generation. Her research and writing examine the dynamics of race, gender, and politics in both national and global perspectives. She completed a Ph.D. in History from Princeton University in 2014. She is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Pittsburgh, a columnist for MSNBC, and the president of the African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS). She is currently a fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University and a member of the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study. Read More >
A New Take on 400 Years of Black History | Amanpour and Company
Race in America: History Matters | The Washington Post
Four Hundred Souls | CBS This Morning
Russia's Decades-Long Involvement in American Racism
Charlotta Bass: Remembering First Black Woman to Run for VP in 1952 | Democracy Now
In 2016, Nigerian American activist Opal Tometi—one of the founders of Black Lives Matter (BLM)—stood before the United Nations General Assembly days after the police killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. She used the opportunity to describe three barriers to the cause of human rights: global capitalism, white supremacy, and the suppression of democracy. Like Tometi, Black women throughout US history have been at the forefront of challenging racism and white supremacy on the global stage. From Ida B. Wells to today’s BLM leaders, Black women have effectively used the language of human rights to address racial injustice in the United States and abroad. In this talk, Dr. Blain draws connections between past and present to demonstrate how Black women’s activism has been vital to the cause of human rights.
While mainstream historical narratives tend to focus on the political work of male activists such as Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lewis, Black women played instrumental roles in shaping the Civil Rights Movement. One of these individuals was Fannie Lou Hamer. A disabled and impoverished Black woman from Mississippi, Hamer played a vital role in expanding voting rights for Black Americans through her unsurpassed bravery and her skillful use of public testimony. After enduring a life-altering beating in a Winona, Mississippi, jailhouse, Hamer went on to help establish the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and electrified the nation when she delivered a moving speech at the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Her televised testimony, which described the violence that she and other Black Mississippians encountered when they attempted to cast a ballot, stunned a national audience and helped to propel the movement for Black voting rights. In this talk, Dr. Blain centers Hamer’s life and activism during the 1960s, revealing how they provide inspiration and practical guidance for social justice activists today.
Protests erupted in the spring and summer of 2020, following the police killings of George Floyd—a 46-year-old Black man in Minneapolis—and Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman in Louisville. The widespread demonstrations, which rapidly spread across the nation and the globe, brought increasing attention to a persistent problem in American society: police violence. Drawing on her extensive knowledge as a historian, Dr. Blain shows how the deaths of Floyd and Taylor follow a tragic pattern of racist, state-sanctioned violence that has shaped U.S. history for centuries. Beginning with the period of slavery and ending with the rise of Black Lives Matter, Dr. Blain follows the development of American policing, highlighting key historical moments as well as individual and collective efforts among Black activists to bring an end to police violence from the early twentieth century to the present.
Today, the wealth of the average Black family is only one-tenth that of the average white family—a problem that economists in 2018 found to be consistent for the last 70 years. In this talk, Dr. Blain explains how the racial wealth gap in the United States resulted from the deliberate actions of individuals and institutional policies since the nation’s founding. During the nineteenth century and the decades to follow, white planters and businessmen built generational wealth from the exploitation of Black Americans. Realtors, bankers, and government officials—with the backing of the state and legal system—worked to limit Black homeownership and economic mobility. Dr. Blain draws on American history to show how today’s racial wealth gap is no mere aberration—but the result of a continuous cycle of racist and exclusionary practices combined with discriminatory federal and state policies that denied financial resources to African Americans.
“The discussion last night was nothing short of amazing. I cannot express enough, how moved I was by last night’s program. I was actually moved to tears about some of the things she said. I truly believe that Dr. Blain’s answers to our various questions has helped to create not only awareness in myself, but hopefully awareness and potential change in the 58 other people who attended the event. I have had many thought-provoking discussions with my colleagues today, and this is just a small showing of how much change we really can bring about.”
“We want to extend many thanks to Dr. Blain for her fireside conversation as it was powerful, insightful and moving. The feedback during and post-program from the executives, KT Moore, Cadence team and all the attendees is that it was an honor to hear Dr. Blain’s perspectives, optimism and historical context. A “phenomenal conversation” and “I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to hear from someone taking action to create systemic change from a historical lens.” Also, I want to extend my deepest appreciation and understanding to Dr. Blain for her flexibility in running over the allocated time; the conversation flowed so well, naturally and transparently; and next time we have the opportunity to work with you, we will arrange to have her speak longer as there is never enough time to cover everything.”
“Thank you so much for your presentation on Wednesday. It was absolutely everything I wanted and more. You were just simply outstanding. I've received so many positive comments about what you taught us in the way you did it. So, thank you so much. It was such a privilege to work with you.”
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