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What an 1870 Race Riot Tells Us About White Supremacy in America Today

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Image credit: Courtesy of The Atlantic

As part of Detroit Today’s exploration of The Atlantic’s ‘Inheritance,’ writer Adam Harris discusses the riots that took place in Eutaw, Alabama in 1870.

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Black History Month may be drawing to an end, but The Atlantic’s “Inheritance” project is just getting started. The multi-part initiative explores the legacy and experiences of Black Americans that have been left out of history books.

The reason history textbooks are written the way they are is to reinforce this story of American progress, when in reality we wasted these critical junctures where things could’ve been better.” — Adam Harris, The Atlantic

Writer Adam Harris is making his contribution to the project by talking about the historic riots that took place in Eutaw, Alabama in 1870.


Listen: Atlantic writer tells his grandfather’s harrowing experiences in Alabama.


Detroit Today Delves Into The Atlantic’s “Inheritance”


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Adam Harris is a staff writer at The Atlantic and the author of the forthcoming book, The State Must Provide.  Harris explains that the 1870 race riots that took place in Eutaw were initiated by whites to intimidate and suppress the Black vote. He says there are echoes of this throughout history and that there always seems to be a strategy in place to stop Black people from moving forward. 

America does not respond well to Black progress,” says Harris. ”Time after time when you see Black progress it is followed by these acts… to reinforce the status quo.”

When talking about America’s racist history, Harris points out that what is written in history books isn’t always a reflection of actual experiences. ”The reason history textbooks are written the way they are is to reinforce this story of American progress when in reality we wasted these critical junctures where things could’ve been better,” he says.

Web story by Allise Hurd.

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