Lynn Burnett Project to Examine Examples of White Antiracism in U.S. HistoryHistorians in the News
tags: racism, teaching history, antiracism
This is a growing collection of short portraits of White antiracists in U.S. history. See the vision statement to learn about the broader project and how it can help us strengthen White racial justice efforts today. If you would like to support this project, you can do so here.
Here are a few ideas for how White antiracists and organizations can get the most out of this resource:
1. Keep a journal as you read about these figures. Create the following sections: Self-reflection; strategies and lessons; and mistakes to learn from. As you read, make notes in the self-reflection section about things you relate to, what inspires you, and ways you could imagine yourself growing. In the strategies and lessons section, note down ways that White antiracist organizing has been done effectively in the past, and also consider if any of those lessons could be adapted to your own organizing. Under the learning from mistakes section, reflect on what prevented White antiracist work from being as effectively as it could have been. Keeping a journal like this will be especially helpful if you do it with a group of friends, or better yet, with people you organize with!
2. White antiracist organizations can use this resource for a gallery walk exercise. Choose antiracist ancestors that would most interest your particular group, and print out their images and stories using this printable version. Then post the images on the wall with the stories next to them, and have the group spend some time walking around the space looking at different figures, followed by a group discussion.
Born into a progressive New York Jewish community at the end of World War II, Heather Booth was raised to understand the importance of fighting injustice. In 1964 she headed south to participate in the Mississippi Freedom Summer, where she helped organize the freedom schools and voter registration drives. At the age of 18 she thus stepped into a world of racial violence, where Black people took risks on a daily basis to organize for their freedom. The Black family hosting her was making themselves a target by doing so… an experience that led Booth to feel her privilege deep in her bones. Heather Booth also saw that women were in many ways the backbone of the movement, but that their efforts often remained invisible. The civil rights movement thus accelerated her already growing feminist consciousness. During the Freedom Summer, Booth met a young woman who had become suicidal due to an unwanted pregnancy. After returning to her campus in the North, Booth founded the Jane Collective, a clandestine student-run organization that connected women to doctors who were committed to the right to a safe abortion. She also joined the Students for a Democratic Society, where she led women in walk-outs when the men proved unable to hear their voices, and organized women’s groups on campus to tackle the misogyny that ran rampant in the University system. She also continued her racial justice efforts by leading the local Friends of SNCC chapter, travelling and raising funds in the North for SNCC’s efforts. In 1968 when SNCC became an all-Black organization, Booth threw her energy more fully into women’s liberation and antiwar organizing. Over the decades, Heather Booth grew into one of the nation’s leading organizers of progressive politics, creating numerous organizations and training programs. In 2000, SNCC leader Julian Bond hired her to lead the voter registration drive for the NAACP, which led to a strong Black turnout in the 2000 elections. Most recently she played a key role in the Biden/Harris get out the vote effort.