November 22, 2017

American Heartbreak:  Slavery’s Lasting Ecology of Inequality

By Mindy Fullilove

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In 1619, colonists in Jamestown, Virginia bought the first African slaves to be brought to what eventually became the United States. To mark this impending major anniversary of an event lamented by the poet Langston Hughes as “the American Heartbreak,” teachers and students at The New School have launched a project called “400 Years of Inequality.” It’s a university-wide conversation, including a recent week of “curriculum disruptions” in classes ranging from music to mathematics, designed to explore slavery’s enduring impact on American life, history, and the social structure of inequality.

One of the faculty members leading this effort is Dr. Mindy Fullilove, professor of Urban Policy and Health at the Parsons School of Design.  Last month, as part of an ongoing “Race in the U.S.” lecture series at The New School, she described the origins and effects of what she calls our “ecology of inequality,” and also suggested ways to mark a “people’s observance” of American slavery’s 400th anniversary. Here are some excerpts from her talk.