By Keith Simmons

Featured image above: Screenshot images from the Long History of Race Relations in Florida virtual series.

In 2020, the country experienced a number of shooting deaths of African- Americans. From Ahmaud Arbery to George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, Americans responded to these deaths with protests and a desire to learn about the larger cultural and social dynamics that precipitated these murders.

To facilitate a better understanding of these tragic events, Florida Humanities created a four-part series of online conversations exploring Florida’s Black history from European settlement to today. Called “The Long History of Race Relations,” the series was designed by Dr. David Jackson, of the Graduate College at Florida A&M University, and Steve Seibert, former executive director of Florida Humanities.

“Humanities disciplines are perfectly suited to help us make sense of traumatic and heartbreaking events,” says Seibert. “Democracy is about forming a more perfect union. If we want to learn, to heal from trauma, so that we can make our democracy stronger, each of us must possess a desire to learn and a willingness to change toxic thought patterns.”

Following the success of the programs, a second, three-part series was held in March 2021 to celebrate Women’s History Month. This series focused on the often overlooked stories of Black women. Moderated by Dr. Tameka Hobbs, the programs explored the lives of such women as Eartha M. M. White, a Jacksonville-based entrepreneur who created multiple businesses, an orphanage for African-American children, and a home for the elderly.

More than 1,000 people tuned in for the seven programs. Nearly 2,000 additional views of the program’s video recordings were logged on YouTube. The development of a list of resources will enable audience members to continue the conversation.

“This series demonstrated the importance of having conversations on race and history often, and at an early age,” says Dr. Jackson. “To that end, we aim to further develop the work we started into an effective curriculum in a classroom setting.”

Florida Humanities is considering an additional “season” for the series, exploring new topics at the intersection of race and Florida’s history. Recordings of the series and other resources are available online at FloridaHumanities. org/RaceSeries.

Keith Simmons

Keith Simmons, Communications Director

2021 Summer FORUM Magazine

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2021 Issue of FORUM Magazine. Visit our collection at the USFSP Digital Archive by clicking here.