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How a Calendar Reveals the History of Racial Violence and Degradation in America

A new calendar for 2024 aims to educate the public about the history of racial injustice and its legacy in the United States. The calendar, created by the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), features historical entries for each day of the year, as well as 12 short essays that highlight some of the most significant and disturbing events and issues in the nation’s racial history.

The Purpose of the Calendar

The EJI is a nonprofit organization that works to end mass incarceration, excessive punishment, and racial inequality in the U.S. The EJI believes that a deeper and more accurate understanding of the nation’s history is essential for addressing the current problems of racial injustice and violence. The EJI’s founder and executive director, Bryan Stevenson, said that the calendar is a powerful tool for learning and dialogue. “We want to change the narrative about race in America,” he said. “We want to confront the truth of our history and its impact on the present.”

The EJI has been producing and distributing the calendar since 2013, and has reached millions of people across the country, especially in schools, libraries, community centers, and nonprofit organizations. The calendar has won several awards for its design and content, and has received positive feedback from educators, students, activists, and others who have used it as a resource for teaching and learning.

How a Calendar Reveals the History of Racial Violence and Degradation in America

The Content of the Calendar

The calendar is a full-color wall calendar that includes historical entries for each day of the year, as well as 12 short essays that cover topics such as slavery, lynching, segregation, voting rights, police brutality, and mass incarceration. Each entry and essay is researched and written by the EJI staff, and is accompanied by an image or a video. The calendar also provides links to more information and resources on the EJI’s website.

Some of the entries and essays in the calendar are shocking and disturbing, as they reveal the extent and brutality of the racial violence and degradation that has plagued the nation for centuries. For example, the entry for January 1st tells the story of how enslaved people in Texas were not informed of their emancipation until June 19, 1865, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued. The entry for February 12th recounts how a mob of white men in Florida lynched a pregnant black woman named Mary Turner in 1918, after she protested the killing of her husband. The entry for March 25th describes how a group of white men in Alabama raped and assaulted a black woman named Recy Taylor in 1944, and how none of them were ever prosecuted. The entry for April 4th marks the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, and how his death sparked riots and protests across the country.

The calendar also highlights the achievements and contributions of black people in the U.S., as well as the resistance and resilience of black communities in the face of oppression and violence. For example, the entry for May 17th celebrates the landmark Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, which declared racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional. The entry for June 19th commemorates Juneteenth, the oldest national celebration of the end of slavery in the U.S. The entry for July 2nd honors the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

The entry for August 28th remembers the March on Washington in 1963, where King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. The entry for September 15th mourns the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963, which killed four young black girls and injured many others. The entry for October 16th recognizes the Million Man March in 1995, which brought hundreds of thousands of black men to Washington, D.C., to demand justice and equality. The entry for November 4th celebrates the election of Barack Obama as the first black president of the U.S. in 2008. The entry for December 1st recalls the beginning of the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955, which was sparked by Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat to a white passenger.

The Impact of the Calendar

The EJI hopes that the calendar will inspire and challenge people to learn more about the history of racial injustice and its legacy in the U.S., and to take action to create a more just and equitable society. The EJI also hopes that the calendar will foster dialogue and understanding among people of different backgrounds and perspectives, and that it will help to heal the wounds of the past and the present. The EJI’s motto is “Truth and Reconciliation,” and the calendar is one of the ways that the EJI pursues this goal.

The calendar has been praised by many people who have used it or seen it, and has also generated some controversy and criticism from those who disagree with its message or approach. Some of the feedback that the EJI has received includes:

  • “The calendar is a powerful reminder of the history that we often forget or ignore, and the history that still shapes our lives today. It is a valuable resource for teaching and learning, and for sparking conversations and actions that can make a difference.”
  • “The calendar is a disturbing and depressing collection of horrors and tragedies, and it does not reflect the progress and achievements that have been made in the U.S. It is a divisive and biased tool that promotes a negative and victimizing view of black people and a hateful and guilty view of white people.”
  • “The calendar is a courageous and necessary project that exposes the truth of the history of racial violence and degradation in the U.S., and the history that cannot be ignored or erased. It is a transformative and healing tool that honors the lives and stories of black people and challenges us to confront and change the systems and structures that perpetuate racial injustice and violence.”

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