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Freedom Writers: Black Leaders on the Idea of America

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Monday, February 7, 2022 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET
Code: 1J0152
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Farah Jasmine Griffin

Though the guarantee of equality, liberty, and justice for all is enshrined in the Constitution, Black Americans have long confronted the gap between that promise and the realities of their lives. The autobiographical writings and historic speeches of Frederick Douglass, Malcolm X, and Barack Obama vividly reflect how these Americans have grappled with the founding ideals of the United States since they were conceived and written into the nation’s identity.

Farah Jasmine Griffin, William B. Ransford professor of English and comparative literature and African American studies at Columbia University, examines how each of these thinkers and leaders have built upon the promises and failures of America’s founding documents to provide a framework for their own political vision. She also offers insights into the ways they engage the concepts of their predecessors in their own works.

Griffin’s new book Read Until You Understand: The Profound Wisdom of Black Life and Literature (W. W. Norton & Company) is available for purchase.

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This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.