Created Equal: Why memories about Black life and history matter today 

This week on “Created Equal,” we revisit a conversation host Stephen Henderson had in 2021 with contributors to The Atlantic’s “Inheritance” project.

The Atlantic's "Inheritance" project set out to create a more complex narrative of Black history in the United States.

In February 2021, The Atlantic launched “Inheritance,” a multi-year reporting project about American history, Black life and the resilience of memory.

Through extensive reporting and data collection, the project set out to piece together the blank pages of Black history in the United States with essays, poetry, interviews and more.

On today’s episode of Created Equal, host Stephen Henderson revisits a conversation he had about “Inheritance” with the project’s managing editor, Gillian B. White, and Atlantic staff writer Clint Smith, who contributed to the project.

White told Henderson in 2021 the goal of “Inheritance” was to create a more complex narrative of Black history, which has been oversimplified for too long.

“The truth, complex and ugly as it may be sometimes, is the best thing (Black people) can inherit,” she said.

This conversation originally aired on Detroit Today, Feb. 12, 2021. 

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Gillian B. White is a contributing writer at The Atlantic and the senior vice president of Capital B News. She says even though Black people worked to create the foundation of the United States, their experiences are absent from the history books.

“Everything has been filtered through the lens of white people… and white supremacy,” she said. “We’re not just focusing on history in the rearview… we are talking about the ways that Black people have affected history and affected change in ways that are evident now and will impact the future.”

Clint Smith is a staff writer for The Atlantic and author involved with the Inheritance Project. He says one of the most important resources for the project came from the 1936-1938 Federal Writers’ Project when the Works Progress Administration interviewed 2,300 formerly enslaved people.

“So often stories we hear around slavery are about exceptional remarkable people… who escaped slavery. But part of what I argue is that these Federal Writers’ Project stories are so important because they tell the stories of ordinary people,” he said.

Listen to Created Equal with host Stephen Henderson weekdays from 9-10 a.m. ET on 101.9 WDET and streaming on-demand.

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