Writing Black

Black history is American history

Episode 22
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Maiysha talks with renowned historian Peniel Joseph about his critically acclaimed book “The Third Reconstruction.” They also dive deep in the history of white resistance, why he thinks we are currently in the third reconstruction period, steps we can take to move forward, how the Black Lives Matter movement is very similar to past movements and more.

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[00:00:00] You are now listening to theGrio’s Black Podcast Network. Black Culture Amplified. 

Maiysha Kai [00:00:09] Hello and welcome to Writing Black. I am your host, Maiysha Kai, lifestyle editor at theGrio. And this week we have a really incredible guest. Historian, author, just a brilliant mind, Peniel Joseph. Who wrote this book, his latest I should say, “The Third Reconstruction.” Peniel, it’s such a pleasure to have you on the show. 

Peniel Joseph [00:00:36] Thank you so much for having me. 

Maiysha Kai [00:00:38] You know, I always like to explain to our guests, like, why we started this show. And, you know, it’s really so much about the craft, you know, the craft of writing and really like how identity intersects with the craft of writing. And, you know, as a historian, as an educator, an academic, you’re in a very, I think, specific position to discuss this, particularly as it pertains to exploring Black history, which were at such a crucial moment in American history in exploring Black history, which is American history. Right. So “The Third Reconstruction,” how did the concept for this book come about? 

Peniel Joseph [00:01:22] You know, I think a lot of historians and cultural critics and writers and artists started to talk about the third reconstruction right around the time of the Donald Trump election. Reverend William J. Barber has his own third reconstruction book, talking about Moral Mondays and sort of how the country needs to go back to its commitments to Black people that have always sort of been expressed commitments, especially since the Civil War, but not actually commitments that have been guaranteed. Right. So you think about Jim Crow segregation. You think about the abuses against Black women and children. Then just chronically, even after the first reconstruction. 

Excerpt from “The Third Reconstrution” [00:02:09] For Black America, reconstruction remains a blues inflected tone poem about the perils and possibilities of Black humanity, democratic renewal and the pursuit of citizenship and dignity amid the ruins of a world ravaged by racism, war and violence. 

Peniel Joseph [00:02:28] So I think like many folks, I as a historian thought about reconstruction, both the second reconstruction, my mentor, Manning Marable, late historian at Columbia University, had written a book called Race Reform and Rebellion Black America Second Reconstruction. And he had written that book in 1982. So and I knew Manning. I worked with Manning. Manning was a real inspiration. And, of course, you know, passed away in 2011, right on the eve of the publication of his Pulitzer Prize winning biography of Malcolm X. And so I thought about the 1940s, 50s, 60s and 70s as the second reconstruction, but I really went back to the first reconstruction. And so in a lot of ways, this book grows out of that. Grows out of like sort of and these are, you know, technically, when I went to graduate school, my my fields of expertize were sort of like Black History, 1865 to the present. Black feminism, which is really there in the book, which I had the opportunity to take with Sonia Sanchez and then, you know, sort of, you know, Black political, intellectual history and social movements and also comparative Black nationalism. So I was always very interested in Africa and the Caribbean. I’m Haitian, so I was always very interested in that. 

Peniel Joseph [00:03:51] And so in a lot of ways, the election of Trump and MAGA sort of forced all of us to sort of rethink our preconceptions about the country. And I think in doing so, I got deeper into the period of reconstruction, although I will say over the last, say, 15 years, even as I’m a historian of the civil rights movement and and sort of the 20th century, I had been really reading a whole lot on slavery and reconstruction. Just for my own elucidation, you know. So I was reading and especially, you know, the stuff by Thavolia Glymph and Daina Raimey Barry especially the stuff by Black women and sort of women authors in addition to the Eric Foners and the Steven Hahns. So I had I had, you know, Crystal Fleming. I had I’d been very much interested in this. Crystal Feimster there’s just so many different folks who who have influenced me and influenced sort of not only, you know, my reading, but how I read, you know, I think that’s that’s the whole thing, you know, like how I read has really changed in that way because of the influences of the authors who I read. 

Maiysha Kai [00:05:13] You know, I love that. I don’t think, you know, we talk a lot about how we write on the show, but we don’t talk a lot about how we read. So I actually love that. Can you get a little more specific about that? How does it change? How were you reading now? 

Peniel Joseph [00:05:27] Yeah, I think I read in a lot of ways against the grain of sort of the archives and what you’re reading and you’re reading for things that are seen and unseen. 

Maiysha Kai [00:05:37] Mhm. 

Peniel Joseph [00:05:38] In the voices of the, the, the people who are being censored in those stories. So you’re, you’re always aware of sort of what’s there but also what’s missing and, and, and some of those missing sort of ellipses we’re never going to get back again. Right. You know, they’re permanently gone. Some of it we could sort of imagine and conjure. And I think that’s what’s so good about sort of being in the space of Black feminism, student of Black feminism, reading alongside. Within the context of the Black radical tradition. And I’ve been, you know, super fortunate to be on that journey for decades and decades. I’ve been able to just read extraordinary work. But that is helped me read and interpret differently, you know, and I think that in a way, the book is a product of that in terms of and I think I was always wanting to come out with a book like this, but it’s very it’s very hard. Not everybody has the genius of some of these, you know, writers and these authors who you read and admire. But what they do is, you know, you can’t do so you you’re trying to do it. You’re trying to do what you can do and be comfortable in that, you know? 

Maiysha Kai [00:06:54] Yeah. Yeah. I mean, as they say, comparison is the thief of joy. Right. But, you know, you mean you just gave us a laundry list of incredible thinkers and fun fact. I used to teach Eric Foner, his daughter, when she was like, Oh, really? I did. I did up near Columbia. So that’s a little that’s a little a lot of people don’t know. 

Peniel Joseph [00:07:13] And, you know, Maiysha, one person who I should mention is Saidiya Hartman. 

Maiysha Kai [00:07:16] Yes. 

Peniel Joseph [00:07:16] You know, I think Saidiya Hartman has been really influential for me and, you know, thousands of others. But I think, you know, reading not just, you know, Lose Yourself, but Scenes of Subjection, you know, which is really about racial slavery and sort of the Civil War and the aftermath, the way in which she reads against the grain and the way in which she looks at sort of the problem space to use a political theory, term, of of sort of reconstruction was really, you know, influential. But there’s been, you know, really a ton of people who I really, you know, love and admire, you know, in this space. You know, Kendra Field, Rhonda Williams, Yohuru Williams. You know, there’s just so many different authors. Hanif Abdurraqib, Kiese Laymon, Tressie McMillan Cottom. Just. 

Maiysha Kai [00:08:22] Three of my favorites. 

Peniel Joseph [00:08:23] You know, in addition to Bell Hooks and Audre Lorde and some of whom are really, you know, in the book, especially, their throughout, but really the chapters on dignity and leadership as well. 

Excerpt from “The Third Reconstrution” [00:08:37] Black women and queer activists have historically been some of America’s most committed reconstructionists. Audre Lorde, the Black lesbian, feminist theorist, poet and scholar activist is an exemplar on this score. Her commitment to a radically inclusive, yet politically expansive vision of abolition democracy set her on a course in the 1960s and 1970s that would, in striking ways, come close to being fulfilled by the BLM movement. 

Maiysha Kai [00:09:06] Well, I want to talk to you about that, like the the layout of this book. I think, you know, sometimes we open these books and it’s like there’s like 82 chapters and you’re like, okay. You got this, I mean, it’s a substantial book, but it’s concise in terms of just like how you decided to structure this conversation. You do this in six parts. Why? You know, and I’m going to read them off fairly quickly. The introduction is “A Nightmare is Still a Dream.” One is “Citizenship,” followed by “Dignity,” “Backlash,” “Leadership,” “Freedom” as the conclusion. And while I know those are spoke to me in specific ways, why was it important for you to structure the book this way? Why? Why was why did you want to why was this the framework for this conversation? 

Peniel Joseph [00:09:55] Yeah. No, that’s a great question. Maiysha. In a way, this book, again, is somebody who and you know, this would you know, those of us who are coming from academic backgrounds, whether we’ve taught at the university or not, by academic backgrounds, I mean the backgrounds we all came from. We’re at the dinner table, they’re talking about politics. They’re talking about culture and art. That’s really academic because sometimes people call it intellectual backgrounds. That is both liberating, but also it’s confining, right? Because a lot of times the framework that we’re taught and people expect you to stay within those boundaries and within those lines, you know, so if you’re an anthropologist, if you’re a Black woman feminist, if you are a religious scholar, you’re cultural critic, policy wonk, you stay in your lane. In a way, I wanted to get out of my lane in writing this book. And so what I wanted to do and those six parts were really I wanted to, you know, sort of this is how I conceptualize this period through all of my readings and research as a student, as a student, you know, and one of the reasons I think I’m still passionate and excited about all this is that I remain a student. And, you know, I’m in awe of so many different writers I like, you know, Lawrence Ralph, Amani Perry, you know, Eddie Glaude, you know, so many different folks who I just read, read, read Martha Jones and I read fiction as well. Right. 

Peniel Joseph [00:11:26] And so I think that this period of time, I wanted to be able to produce something that was a learning and teaching tool, but also something that provided people hope. But also, you know, because I had been in the Black feminist space for so long, I thought I could really contextualize why it was so important. Black women’s roles, not just in the movement for Black Lives, but I really anchor, even in the introduction. Angela Davis And what does Angela Davis mean for three generations of folks, you know, and what does it mean, the essay about Black women and slavery written from prison? And how does that impact what we think of as abolition democracy, a term that Dubois gave us? But I really then look at, you know, sort of Ida B. Wells, you know, Angela Davis, Audre Lorde, then a contemporary Black sort of feminist activist framework as well. And what does it mean when we listen to that and we let it influence how we think about narratives and narrative wars and cultural wars, right? So I wanted to thread that together where you get Stacey Abrams and Amanda Gorman, but also Ida B. Wells and Audre Lorde, you know, Ruthie Gilmore, Cathy Cohen all at the same time and how that that threads through these three periods of of reconstruction and the kind of I think really transformative hope that that gives. Nikole Hannah and the 1619 Project. Right. And so yeah. So I was really happy to be able to do that because in a lot of ways as a writer, so much of that has always been in my head. As you you know, you want to get it out. 

Maiysha Kai [00:13:17] I’ve often heard it said and I’ve often said myself that, you know, great writers are often great readers. I mean, well, they they almost inevitably are great readers. And we will be right back with more Writing Black. 

[00:13:32] Introducing Dear Culture with Panama Jackson on theGrio Black Podcast Network. Bring your friends for the shenanigans and stay for the edutainment. As Panama Debates Culture Wars, Janet Jackson versus Michael Blackfessions, Blackmendations and everything Black. Listen today on theGrio mobile app for all the Black culture conversations you don’t want to miss. Also available wherever great podcasts are heard. 

[00:14:01] theGrio Black Podcast Network is here, and it’s everything you’ve been waiting for. News, talk, entertainment, sports and today’s issues all from the Black perspective. Ready for real talk and Black culture amplified. Be inspired. Listen to new and established voices now on theGrio Black Podcast Network. Listen today on theGrio mobile App and tune in everywhere great podcast are heard. 

Maiysha Kai [00:14:30] All right. Welcome back to Writing Black. You know, one of the things that, you know, going back to just the history itself, I, I find a lot of people don’t talk about reconstruction enough, even though it was like this ridiculous, obviously this hugely pivotal moment for us in particular. Let alone refer to a second reconstruction. Right. So and I also studied a lot of Black history and Black feminism in college, you know, and it’s so interesting to me. You know, obviously everything’s cyclical, right? So we talk about third wave feminism. You know, we’ve had, you know, Ibram X Kendi talking about, you know, the new Black renaissance, you know, all these kind of like cycles, cycle cycles. And with each, obviously there’s a different, what is the word I’m looking for? Pain point. A different risk level involved. You know, in the conversations that we’re having. Your book, of course, comes at a time we have just gone through. I mean, it’s almost as if the last two I mean, we’ve just gone through an incredibly traumatic two years and then an incredibly traumatic four years before that for different reasons. 

Peniel Joseph [00:15:51] Mm hmm. 

Maiysha Kai [00:15:53] Why do you feel like it’s so important to have this conversation now? And do you feel that there’s, you know, do you hold out hope for some breaking point where the promises that are made in each of these phases of reconstruction, to your point, do you hold out hope for that? Do you see these, you know, pushing these conversations as a way forward or do you see it as a way to kind of arm us personally? By us, I mean Black people and and those who are supportive of Black people with that information. 

Peniel Joseph [00:16:25] You know, Maiysha, I think it does both. I think it does both because I think one of the arguments of the book is how central Black people are and then when you get really specific, Black women have been to rescuing democracy, saving different, overcoming an expansive vision of democracy, you know, alongside certain men like Frederick Douglass were really good. You know, so there’s there’s definitely been solidarity. But I wanted to highlight because a lot of times we don’t think about Black women in that in that context. But no, I think it is hopeful. I think we have to come to terms with and I think we have done this the last two years, but we’re facing a real backlash that when we push for Black citizenship and equality, when we center the voices of Black people, but then Black women, Black queer folks, we are actually saving democracy and expanding democracy, just like when we attack those voices, we’re diminishing democracy. Right. And so a lot of what I’ve tried to do in terms of “The Third Reconstruction” is sort of show, especially for people who are never going to have the opportunities that we have to read, all these big books, these big, huge books, you know, whether it’s Eric Foner or Steven Hahn or Martha Jones or, you know, so, so many different folks who write big, great books. But most of the public doesn’t read it. So it was trying to braid that argument in a concise way that shows why it’s so pivotal. And also push back in the sense of, you know, when I look at reconstruction from 1865 to 1898, following people like Martha Jones and others, you know, I talk about, you know, Black women’s centrality to that period, you know, to that period and to the politics of that period. I center Ida B. Wells as really more than just a criminal justice reformer, but really this this person who’s a democratic visionary, small d democracy, who’s an activist, who’s a social scientist, who’s a data collector. 

Excerpt from “The Third Reconstrution” [00:18:34] Ida B. Wells, a journalist and anti-lynching crusader, emerged as one of the nation’s most ardent reconstructionist, helping to advance Black power by organizing political clubs and educational networks and creating civic spaces that viewed women as equal partners on the road to freedom. 

Peniel Joseph [00:18:52] You know, I do all of that to sort of show that, you know, what we the stories we tell, it’s kind of like you see Hamilton and I’ve seen Hamilton with my daughter and all this stuff. 

“Hamilton” [00:19:03] The ten dollar, founding father, without a father. Got a lot farther, by working a lot harder. By being a lot smarter, by being a self. 

Peniel Joseph [00:19:12] We put Black actors in Hamilton, but a lot of times we won’t talk about our own Black founding mothers and fathers, you know, where we don’t have to invent Ida B. Wells, she existed. 

Maiysha Kai [00:19:27] Maybe I need to write the Ida B. Wells musical. All right. 

Peniel Joseph [00:19:32] I would definitely want. 

Maiysha Kai [00:19:33] You say Ida B. Wells to me and she’s like, you know, writ large in my life. 

Peniel Joseph [00:19:38]  No, no. You should write it, because I would want the person who makes the ton of money for the Ida B Wells Broadway and all the subsidiaries. I want it to be a Black woman.  You know, so. Yeah. So I wanted that to be a one in one book that shows you. And braids that history together and also shows us how it continued through these three periods of reconstruction. Obviously, there’s been more than those three periods, but those three periods tie together, you know, 1865 to 1898, 1954 to 1968. And it really 2008 to the present, because I think this period is continuing. And we we see both the progress with Obama and BLM, but also the backlash with January 6, Trump, MAGA, critical race theory, anti voter suppression. So we see it all. 

Maiysha Kai [00:20:38] Really sick kind of a replay of exactly what happened. 

Peniel Joseph [00:20:42] Yeah, exactly. 

Excerpt from “The Third Reconstrution” [00:20:43] And then as summer began, new generations of social justice warriors marched arm in arm with grizzled veterans of earlier movements. Together, they dreamed of a future capable of healing, a past resurrected that may in the last gasps of a dying man, George Floyd, who called for his mother at the hour of his death. 

Peniel Joseph [00:21:06] Our ancestors faced the same thing and sometimes we can’t compare, make an exact comparison, but we are facing some of the same trials and tribulations that they face. 

Maiysha Kai [00:21:18] Yeah, we’re definitely seeing, you know, this era’s version of that. Well, I can’t wait to hear more. We’ll be right back with more Writing Black on theGrio. 

[00:21:29] Black Podcast Network is here and it’s everything you’ve been waiting for news, talk, entertainment, sports and today’s issues all from the Black perspective. Ready for real talk and Black culture amplified. Be inspired. Listen to new and established voices now on theGrio Black Podcast Network. Listen today on theGrio Mobile App and tune in everywhere great podcast are heard. 

[00:22:00] Introducing Dear Culture with Panama Jackson on theGrio Black Podcast Network. Bring your friends for the shenanigans and stay for the edutainment. As Panama Debates Culture Wars, Janet Jackson versus Michael, Blackfessions, Blackmendations and everything Black. Well, listen, today on theGrio mobile app for all the Black culture conversations you don’t want to miss. Also available wherever great podcasts are heard. 

Maiysha Kai [00:22:28] And we are back with more Writing Black. You know, and now it’s like you start to think about things like, so how would that same backlash, you know, how does that manifest now in terms of, you know, a diminishing populace or threatening populace trying to control or contain or suppress, you know, other voices? And I’m like, does that look like, you know, a cyber thing? Does it look like, you know, what does that look like now? You know, which is terrifying. That’s terrifying to look over your shoulder. 

Peniel Joseph [00:23:05] I know it is terrifying. You know, my. Yes, it is terrifying. I always tell my students now that I teach the University of Texas that, you know, for those of us who used to imagine, you know, what would it be like to have lived back then, whether it’s the 1960s of 1860s, you’re in it. You know, you’re in it right now. And things have gotten so bad when we think about voter suppression and legislation to prevent folks from teaching about Black feminism and Black history and slavery, that, you know, anything is possible in a negative way, although anything is also possible in a positive way. But the election shenanigans, accusations of Black voter fraud, this was happening in the 1860s, you know, as early as 1866 and 1868. Black folks are getting an opportunity to vote even before the ratification of the 15th Amendment. And there are allegations of voter fraud. There’s violence against Black people going to the polls, which is why so many have to organize basically a martial military, paramilitary style movement, which includes Black men and women to protect themselves in the polls and where, you know, victims of violence in, you know, Georgia, Mississippi, Texas, throughout the Confederacy for not just exercising voting rights, but also for building up Black churches, Black schools, the kind of civics that we have manifested. 

Peniel Joseph [00:24:37] I mean, South Carolina, we were majority Black in South Carolina. If things had been allowed to progress, we would have had a Black governor in South Carolina, two Black senators. Yeah, we you know, Mississippi, we were 60% of over 26 of the 70 something counties. And we were we were running local places in Mississippi. And I will have to say and I sort of show this in the book with the backlash chapter. One thing people don’t understand is that when we think about Jim Crow segregation and what happened is we were overrun by overwhelming numbers. So we fought, you know, and we organize in the hundreds, sometimes single digit thousands in local municipalities. We were overwhelmed at times by forces of in the tens of thousands of militia, of violent terrorist. 

Maiysha Kai [00:25:32] Government sanction. 

Peniel Joseph [00:25:32] Of police officers. 

Maiysha Kai [00:25:35] Yes. 

Peniel Joseph [00:25:35] Government state sanctioned. But so one thing I wanted to show to is that we have been consistent and we haven’t been cowering. We haven’t been cowards. We’ve just been flat out outnumbered. And we weren’t outorganized. We weren’t outhustled. We somehow were not lazy and didn’t work hard enough for freedom or to protect our freedom. There’s not much you can do if you’re one person or even 100, and there are thousands out there armed with guns. I mean, you’re not going to win that. We’re just not going to win it. And so that’s what we were up against during Reconstruction. And we still managed to have archipelagos of freedom and sort of wealth and justice that we managed to carve out for ourselves as well. 

Maiysha Kai [00:26:21] Well, that’s a lot to think about. We’ll be right back with more Writing Black. 

[00:26:28] Introducing Dear Culture with Panama Jackson on theGrio Black Podcast Network. Bring your friends for the shenanigans and stay for the entertainment. As Panama Debates Culture Wars, Janet Jackson versus Michael Blackfessions, Blackmendations and everything Black. Listen today on theGrio mobile app for all the Black culture conversations you don’t want to miss. Also available wherever great podcasts are heard. 

[00:26:57] theGrio Black Podcast Network is here, and it’s everything you’ve been waiting for. News, talk, entertainment, sports and today’s issues pull from the Black perspective. Ready for real talk and Black culture amplified. Be inspired. Listen to new and established voices now on theGrio Black Podcast Network. Listen today on theGrio Mobile App and tune in everywhere great podcast are heard. 

Maiysha Kai [00:27:26] And we are back with more Writing Black. And you talk about like the population and just those ratios there, you know. What do you think of like, you know, this reverse migration movement in terms of people? I mean, you’re in Texas, right? So what do you think of that? You know, like there there it isn’t argued. I’m thinking of Charles Blow off the top of my head. He’s not the only one. But, yeah, you know, it has been argued that we should consolidate, right? That we should move south and make it happen. But, you know, it’s like I talked to my partner and he’s like, yeah, no, I’m not doing that. You know what? What do you think of that? I mean, from a historical perspective. But I do think that there is a there is a really interesting argument there. 

Peniel Joseph [00:28:12] Yeah, I think there is an interesting argument. I think the South is always going to be, in a way, Black people’s homeland. And I’m from New York City by way of Haiti. So that’s a deeper south when you get to Hait and Cuba and other places. I think that Black people are always moving where they think the opportunities are. And I think that what’s happened with the gentrification of the cities or the sort of colonization of cities in urban areas, is that Black people have been pushed out. A lot of people don’t understand that the reason they’re able to be pushed out is a lot of times we’re not able to own land and own homes. And even when we are, I can think about East Austin, the east side of Austin, Black people have been pushed out because the property taxes get too high. Their houses need repair and nobody’s going to give you a zero interest loan so you can take advantage of all these white people moving in, all this investment happening in your own neighborhood. 

Peniel Joseph [00:29:12] So I think that for the time being, for the foreseeable future, Black people are going to be returning to the south, especially cities like, you know, Charlotte, North Carolina, Richmond, Virginia. There’s different places that have a lower cost of living than the front line cities. So like Austin, for instance, has a high cost of living, not as many Black people as Houston, as Dallas and some other spots here in Texas. So I think, you know, people are moving to, you know, Jackson, Mississippi. They’re moving to parts of Alabama and other places where they feel that they can buy a home, make a living, and they’re organizing for political and economic power. That doesn’t mean we can’t be a presence or a force in the cities, but there is this reverse migration going on. One thing I would say in terms of Black political power in the south, a lot of times the southern states are the worst states for voting rights. 

Maiysha Kai [00:30:08] That’s the discouraging part. 

Peniel Joseph [00:30:11] Yeah, that’s that’s very discouraging. 

Maiysha Kai [00:30:13] And we will be right back with more Writing Black. 

[00:30:17] theGrio Black Podcast Network is here and it’s everything you’ve been waiting for news, talk, entertainment, sports and today’s issues all from the Black perspective. Ready for real talk and Black culture amplified. Be inspired. Listen to new and established voices now on theGrio Black Podcast Network. Listen today on theGrio Mobile App and tune in everywhere great podcast are heard. 

[00:30:49] Introducing Dear Culture with Panama Jackson on theGrio Black Podcast Network. Bring your friends for the shenanigans and stay for the edutainment. As Panama Debates Culture Wars. Janet Jackson versus Michael, Blackfessions, Blackmendations and everything Black. Listen today on theGrio mobile app for all the Black culture conversations you don’t want to miss. Also available wherever great podcasts are heard. 

Maiysha Kai [00:31:16] And we are back with more Writing Black. You know, this is usually the part of the interview where I ask you, you know what? I would ask my guests like, oh, well, you know, what do you read? What inspires you? You’ve given me a bevy of that information, and I hope that our listeners are taking notes. I know I’ll be playing it back and taking notes on a whole bunch of stuff that I wasn’t up on. But what I do want to talk about then instead is, you know, this is obviously this is just your latest book. I assume there will likely be many more to come, hopefully. But when we talk about, you know, as writers, as thinkers, as in your case being a historian as well and making sure that that word continues to be passed, that we particularly now, you know, with this anti CRT, I can’t I hope it’s reflexive. I always roll my eyes when I when I say CRT now, that’s terrible. No, with this, you know, push against telling Black history as American history, this push against telling it accurately. Do you feel a responsibility in that? If so, what does that feel like? How would you articulate that? 

Peniel Joseph [00:32:33] Oh, yeah, no, I definitely do. And I you know, I talk about that in chapter four, in the leadership chapter. I talk about 2020 and how it unfolded and how all of us were being utilized and called upon for our expertize. People like, you know, Ibram Kendi and Alicia Garza and others became bestsellers, you know, Layla Saad, White Supremacy and Me. 

Maiysha Kai [00:32:57] I mean, you watched some people whose books had come out years before become bestsellers. I I’m thinking about like Brittney Cooper, you know, I’m like. 

Peniel Joseph [00:33:04] Absolutely, you know, and so I think that yes, I mean, trying to utilize whatever voice I have in the public for for this kind of pedagogical evolution I think that the whole country is undergoing around. And I call these narrative wars about like, what is the story we tell to each other about ourselves. Right. And I think the reason why the 1619 project irked certain people so much, certain white people, but other conservatives who are not white so much is that it told us a different story. It told us a different story. And that story can still be a story that leads to some kind of consensus, because one of the problems that we face post Shelby Holder is that we don’t have a consensus once they ended voting rights in the way it had existed for the previous almost 50 years, we’ve really lost the national consensus on Black citizenship and dignity that, however imperfect, was better than MAGA and Trump. Okay, so that’s, you know, however imperfect that was, it was actually better. 

Peniel Joseph [00:34:09] So we need a new consensus. So I think the role of all of us who are educators and who are interested in being part of that debate is to to to tell a different story. And that’s what I tried to do in the third reconstruction and prioritize different actors. But it’s still towards building consensus because there’s no reason why we can’t say, you know, Angela Davis, Tamika Mallory, have great conceptions of freedom and democracy that we can’t get behind. Right. The only reason is just like what happened with Justice Kentaji, where, you know, they’re asking her crazy questions. You know, she’s this overqualified Black woman, overqualified, more qualified than any of those senators, more brilliant than any of those folks asking questions. Yet they’re poking and prodding just because of racism. And they don’t like her identity. That’s that’s why, you know, and they don’t like her whole her whole life. You know, many of those folks would be upset that she’s interracially married, that she’s got this beautiful Black daughter right there, you know, daughters and and that she’s confident enough to think that, yes, she deserves to be on the Supreme Court of the United States. And that’s why I get into this idea, Maiysha, with the reconstructionist versus redemptionis. That polarity still carries the day 100 and it’ll be 160 years in 2025 since the end of the Civil War. And really, 160 years later, the country is divided between reconstructionist and redemptionist. The silver lining is this they’re actually more reconstructionist than ever. That’s the truth. In another historical context, if we pitted Trump against Biden, Trump would have won decisively, in another historical context. Okay, so the very fact that you can have not just Barack Obama, but but Black Lives Matter, that you can have Stacey Abrams, who’s unbelievably brilliant, that you can have these these these Black women who are shaping. 

Maiysha Kai [00:36:17] Cori Bush. You can have. Yeah, absolutely. 

Peniel Joseph [00:36:20] It’s remarkable. And that should give us hope even as we know that there’s this anti democratic oligarchy, there are racists, there are white supremacists who who want redemption to win the day. 

Maiysha Kai [00:36:34] All right. Well, stay tuned for more Writing Black. 

[00:36:40] Introducing Dear Culture with Panama Jackson on theGrio Black Podcast Network. Bring your friends for the shenanigans and stay for the edutainment. As Panama Debates Culture Wars. Janet Jackson versus Michael, Blackfessions, Blackmendations and everything. Black. Listen today on theGrio mobile app for all the Black culture conversations you don’t want to miss. Also available wherever great podcasts are heard. 

[00:37:08] theGrio Black Podcast Network is here, and it’s everything you’ve been waiting for. News, talk, entertainment, sports and today’s issues all from the Black perspective. Ready for real talk and Black culture amplify. Be Inspired. Listen to new and established voices now on theGrio Black Podcast Network. Listen today on theGrio Mobile App and tune in everywhere great podcast are heard. 

Maiysha Kai [00:37:38] All right. Welcome back to Writing Black. “The Third Reconstruction, America’s Struggle for Racial Justice in the 21st Century.” I’m looking forward to finishing this book. I’m going to because I admit I did not finish it yet. 

Peniel Joseph [00:37:54] I understand. People are overwhelmed. 

Maiysha Kai [00:37:55] You know. 

Peniel Joseph [00:37:57] One book, Maiysha, that I didn’t say I love is Heather McGhee, The Sum of Us. 

Maiysha Kai [00:38:03] Wait, say it again for me. 

Peniel Joseph [00:38:05] Heather McGhee. The Sum of Us. 

Maiysha Kai [00:38:07] The Sum of Us. 

Peniel Joseph [00:38:07] It’s called The Sum of Us. 

Maiysha Kai [00:38:10] Heather McGhee, The sum of Us. 

Peniel Joseph [00:38:10] And it’s a brilliant book. A Black woman. Yeah, everybody should read that. It’s really talking about how racism impacts all people and why we can’t have nice things because of racism. Great book. 

Maiysha Kai [00:38:23] Well, that’s a whole ‘nother conversation we’ll have to have you back for. Why we cannot have nice things. Peniel Joseph. 

Peniel Joseph [00:38:32] Because of racism. 

Maiysha Kai [00:38:33] Because of racism, right. And sexism, too. 

Peniel Joseph [00:38:38] And sexism. Queerphobia. 

Maiysha Kai [00:38:38] And homophobia. All that.

Peniel Joseph [00:38:39] All those things prevent this from having nice things. 

Maiysha Kai [00:38:40] Right. 

Peniel Joseph [00:38:41] All of it. Yeah. 

Maiysha Kai [00:38:42] Peniel Joseph, thank you so much for joining us on Writing Black. This is this is a really, really great conversation, I have to say. On a personal note, you know, this brought me back to them. I felt like I was back in the classroom at Sarah Lawrence with I don’t know if you know Komozi Woodard, but like, I just felt like I was back there. 

Peniel Joseph [00:38:59] Just finished speaking with him. Komozi is a friend. 

Maiysha Kai [00:39:01] Yes, yes, yes. And I just was like, you know. 

Peniel Joseph [00:39:04] Brilliant. 

Maiysha Kai [00:39:05] Brilliant man. I’m so blessed to have studied under him. So, yeah, you know, I have to say thank you so much for that because it was just very affirming. And I hope that our listeners will enjoy that and we will hopefully have you back because you are prolific, my guy. So hopefully we’ll have you back and we will be right back with more Writing Black. 

[00:39:27] TheGrio Black Podcast Network is here and it’s everything you’ve been waiting for news, talk, entertainment, sports and today’s issues all from the Black perspective. Ready for real talk and Black culture amplified. Be inspired. Listen to new and established voices now on theGrio Black Podcast Network. Listen today on theGrio Mobile App and tune in everywhere great podcast are heard. 

[00:39:59] Introducing Dear Culture with Panama Jackson on theGrio Black Podcast Network. When you’re friends for the shenanigans and stay for the edutainment as Panama Debates Culture Wars, Janet Jackson versus Michael, Blackfessions, Blackmendations and everything Black. Listen today on theGrio mobile app for all the Black culture conversations you don’t want to miss. Also available wherever great podcasts are heard. 

Maiysha Kai [00:40:26] And we are back with more Writing Black. Well, you know, it’s really rare that we have a guest on with such a breadth of knowledge as Peniel Joseph, who’s going to give us really basically a virtual book list. But I still have a few of my favorites to share, as I do every week. You know, I love to do these thematically. You know, I mentioned Charles Blow. If you have not read, I believe it’s “The Devil You Know,” is the name of the book you should. That was really what I was basing our conversation on, reverse migration on. But also, you know “How the Word is Passed” by Clint Smith. This is a bestseller, “A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America.” And, you know, another guest of ours here on Writing Black and admittedly, I’m a little biased on this guest because he’s my cousin. But Keith Boykin, “Race Against Time: The Politics of a Darkening America.” Both these books, you know, take a unique perspective on political history in the United States and how it’s gotten us where we are. Obviously, there’s a breadth of books like just a huge, you know, span of books that you should dig into if you want to know more. And at this point, we all should. We should all be trying to get as much of our real history as we possibly can, because that is how the word is passed. And as Peniel said. The narrative, we need to remain in control of it. So that’s it for this week of Writing Black. Thanks so much for joining us for this week’s episode of Writing Black. As always, you can find us on theGrio app or wherever you find your podcasts. 

[00:42:19] Introducing Dear Culture with Panama Jackson on theGrio Black Podcast Network. Bring your friends for the shenanigans and stay for the edutainment. As Panama Debates Culture Wars, Janet Jackson versus Michael, Blackfessions, Blackmendations and everything Black. Listen today on theGrio mobile app for all the Black culture conversations you don’t want to miss. Also available wherever great podcasts are heard. 

[00:42:48] theGrio Black Podcast Network is here, and it’s everything you’ve been waiting for. News, talk, entertainment, sports and today’s issues all from the Black perspective. Ready for real talk and Black culture amplify. Be inspired. Listen to new and established voices now on theGrio Black Podcast Network. Listen today on theGrio Mobile App and tune in everywhere great podcast are heard.