Boats, by William H. Johnson, c. 1933. Smithsonian American Art Museum, gift of the Harmon Foundation, 1967.
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“They say we’re headed toward a civil war,” writes Ben Jealous, executive director of the Sierra Club and former president of the NAACP, in Never Forget Our People Were Always Free: A Parable of American Healing. “Who is they? Historians, sociologists, television pundits, and the last guy with whom I had a real conversation at my favorite Jimmy Buffett-style waterside bar. He was an amiable older man wearing a T-shirt that celebrated his status as a veteran. Just past seventy, he’d spent half a century moving up the ranks in a grocery store. He and his wife approached where we were sitting before paying my date and I a compliment. We quickly fell into a warm conversation about life, kids, whiskey, and boats. As we were preparing to leave, the conversation paused. The man looked at me and said, ‘You know, this country we both love so much? It’s headed toward a civil war or a revolution, I don’t know which.’ The only difference between the two, of course, is who wins. I honestly don’t know what to make of it all.”
This week on the podcast, Lewis H. Lapham speaks with Ben Jealous, author of Never Forget Our People Were Always Free: A Parable of American Healing, about Jealous’ personal history and his career, and how both inform what he makes of our current moment.
Thanks to our generous donors. Lead support for this podcast has been provided by Elizabeth “Lisette” Prince. Additional support was provided by James J. “Jimmy” Coleman Jr.