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How Do Oppressed People Build Community?


May 20, 2020 • 5:00 pm PDT

Throughout the first half of the 20th century, Hattiesburg, Mississippi, was a city of opportunity for African Americans. Leaving the surrounding cotton fields behind, they built churches, schools, clubs, and businesses; they were tied together by Friday night football games, dance halls, a newspaper, and charitable organizations. At the same time, Hattiesburg, like the rest of the South, was a place of systemic segregation and violent racism. How did Hattiesburg’s African American residents forge deep bonds amidst institutional oppression—and why did many of those bonds fail to survive after segregation was outlawed? What lessons can communities facing seemingly insurmountable inequality and discrimination draw from Hattiesburg today? University of North Carolina historian William Sturkeywinner of the 10th annual Zócalo Public Square Book Prize for Hattiesburg: An American City in Black and White, visits Zócalo to discuss the community Hattiesburg built, how it helped birth and bolster the Civil Rights movement—and why those successes may ultimately have destroyed it. Professor Sturkey will be interviewed by historian David W. Blight, Sterling Professor of American History at Yale University.

The lecture and interview will stream live online; viewers will be able to submit questions via live chat.

Jai Hamid Bashir, winner of the ninth annual Zócalo Poetry Prize, will deliver a public reading of her poem “Little Bones” prior to the lecture.