UVA Arts, University of Virginia

Vol 11 Winter 19 Library
From left: Michael Eric Dyson, Jamelle Bouie, Martha S. Jones, and Carol Anderson onstage at The Paramount Theater forAll of Our Rightsduring the 2019 Virginia Festival of the Book. Photo Credit: Peter Hedlund/Virginia Humanities
Virginia Humanities

Virginia Festival of the Book’s All of Our Rights

UVA alumnus and renowned political and social columnist for outlets including Slate, The Nation, and now The New York Times, Jamelle Bouie, hosted a powerful panel discussion at the 2019 Virginia Festival of the Book that looked at a variety of complex angles of what it means to be black in America’s ongoing democratic experiment, as it stands today. Titled All of Our Rights: America’s Legacy of Inequality, the event featured acclaimed writers and historians Carol Anderson (One Person, No Vote), Michael Eric Dyson (What Truth Sounds Like), and Martha S. Jones (Birthright Citizens). The discussion ranged from examinations of where the Civil Rights movement began and where it stands today; to the ways in which black people have been systematically marginalized through voter suppression; to issues of birthright citizenship—often returning to the inherent and troubling relationship between people and policies. The policies meant to get around legislation like the Civil Rights Act and Voting Act, to Dyson, spoke about the strange circumstance of having the conversation in Charlottesville. "Ironically, here we are in Charlottesville, where an unaccountable misery [was] unleashed on the world, and where white supremacy found a foothold into the process of history." The current moment, for all its instability and chaos, represents a revisiting of history rather than being, as so many term it, "unprecedented," Jones said. She equated it in some ways with the Jim Crow era. "The kind of vibrancy we are seeing now is because people are realizing how fragile American democracy is, and that grassroots movements are compelling people to have a real discussion about that democracy." She cited current discussions of expanding voting rights or reparations, as we seek to "break the back of systemic inequality in America." Anderson noted that conversations like this one are particularly important in our dizzying new news cycle reality. "Each day is a sort of political whiplash," she said, "where you have barely recovered from the previous day's events. I appreciate the opportunity to be here today and to dwell on this moment." Dyson also appreciated the opportunity, calling Bouie "one of the true superstars in journalism today," and expressing his appreciation for the fact that "we finally we have... a platform to think critically about these issues. It is proof that we can make a difference... that words matter and ideas percolate. You can never predict where in history a node, a moment, a modality will emerge, and a rupture will occur, when Rosa Parks will sit down so everyone can stand up. You can never tell. The answer to me is to keep doing the work. So, my advice to people like Jamelle and Ta-Nehisi Coates and others is to saykeep doing the work wherever you are. Keep writing. And keep thinking.”

From top left, clockwise: Jamelle Bouie, Michael Eric Dyson, Carol Anderson, and Martha S. Jones backstage at The Paramount Theater beforeAll of Our Rightsduring the 2019 Virginia Festival of the Book.
(Photo: Peter Hedlund/Virginia Humanities)

Explore all the offerings at the Virginia Center for the Book

Read the next story

The Legendary Ingramettes Take the Stage with Virginia Humanities