BU Center for Antiracist Research teams up with the Boston Globe to launch The Emancipator | UB today

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Shortly before Ibrahim X. Kendi arrived from Washington, D.C., last June to launch the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research, he was introduced by university president Robert A. Brown to the boston globenew editorial page editor Bina Venkataraman via email. The anti-racist scholar and prominent opinion journalist hit it off, discovering a common interest in Boston’s history as a hub of 19th-century anti-slavery publications, including William Lloyd Garrison’s abolitionist journal. the liberator.

On Tuesday, Kendi and Venkataraman announced bold plans to reinvent these 19th-century print journals for 21st-century digital audiences. The center collaborates with the World editorial team, Global notice, to publish the emancipator, an independent anti-racist multimedia platform. Anti-racism scholar Kendi, BU’s Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Humanities and also professor of history at the College of Arts and Sciences, and Venkataraman, who served as a White House science policy pundit of Obama, are the co-founders of the new Platform. The mission, they say, is to help reframe today’s national conversation about race.

Video by the boston globe (Anush Elbakyan, Shelby Lum/World Staff)

The time of The emancipator, which is expected to launch this summer, is remarkable. It comes as President Joe Biden tackles racial inequality amid the growth of white supremacist groups and domestic terrorism, and with opposition from many Republicans who remain loyal to former President Trump, despite his role in the incitement of the January 6 attack on the US Capitol by white rioters waving the Confederate flag.

Republicans are also stepping up efforts to curb the black vote. Meanwhile, with the coronavirus pandemic disproportionately impacting communities of color, new data shows blacks and Latinos are being vaccinated at lower rates than whites. This is all happening against the backdrop of the trial of Derek Chauvin, the white former Minneapolis police officer charged with killing George Floyd last May by kneeling on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Floyd’s death and the police killings of a long list of other black people sparked nationwide Black Lives Matter protests last summer.

“In our time, slavery has become racism,” says Venkataraman. “Anti-racist ideas, debates, comments and solutions are needed now as much as anti-slavery comments and ideas were needed to help end slavery in the United States.”

With the support of the center and the World, and through philanthropic fundraising, The emancipator will be a microsite of bostonglobe.com, accessible free of charge, unlike the newspaper’s main news site, which requires a paid subscription. Scholars and journalists will contribute a range of content, from written and video editorials to data visualizations and virtual conversations and debates. Students from BU’s College of Communication will also bring materials. Moreover, in a return to the roots of this new publication, The emancipator will feature editorials from the abolition era, annotated by scholars and writers for their relevance to current public debates.

While Kendi and Venkataraman got to know each other via email last summer, they talked about the role played by The Liberator, Frederick Douglas’ The North star, and other anti-slavery publications to promote the emancipation of slaves. They both saw a connection between 19th century abolitionist journals, which called for immediate emancipation, and Boston’s potential, through journalism and scholarship, to become a center for conversation and debate on this what can be done to bring racial justice to America. today.


launch The emancipator is an opportunity for journalists – and readers – to engage with something historic.

—Bina Venkataraman, boston globe

Due to pandemic protocols, the two continued to exchange ideas via email and during a World Op-Doc virtual public event on June 19, 2020 (Juneteenth, as it’s known). Eventually, Venkataraman recalls, “He said to me, ‘We should start a newsletter.’ I said, ‘We should start a publication.’

“As an academic and a journalist, we have common interests, but also, we don’t agree on everything,” she says. UB today. “We thought this could be the basis for a really interesting collaboration, where we’ll bring together the best in scholarly and opinion journalism.”

While The emancipator will be incubated in Boston, Venkataraman says, it will “organize the voices of scholars, thinkers, activists, and journalists across the country.”

Combining scholarship and journalism

The emancipator takes its name from the anti-slavery newspaper – the first of its kind in the United States, according to historians – founded in 1820 by Elihu Embree, a white man from Jonesborough, Tennessee, who had freed the slaves who worked his land. From the publication of The emancipatorit is first issue, “it was very hard for people to believe that slavery, 45 years later, would be no more,” Kendi says, “just as I think there are a lot of people today who can’t not imagine there could be a nation without racism and inequality.This reinvented platform will marry the best of scholarship and journalism to analyze, comment on and seek the truth about the racial issues of our time.

The center and Global Notice will each conduct their own search for a co-editor. The pair will work together to build, staff, launch and manage the site. One of the co-editors will be employed by the World and the other through the center.

“Boston has a long tradition of newspapers dating back to the 19th century,” says Venkataraman, who also oversees the Worldthe “Ideas” section of . “Launch The emancipator is an opportunity for journalists – and readers – to engage in something historic: a platform for opinion and idea journalism based on evidence, knowledge and data to move conversations forward on racial justice in a way that brings about progress.

In addition to Kendi and Venkataraman, The emancipatorThe founding team of includes World MSNBC columnist and contributor Kimberly Atkins (LAW’98, COM’98) and Monica Wang, associate director of storytelling at the Center for Antiracist Research and associate professor of community health sciences in the School of Public Health.

Atkins will write a column for the emancipator, as well as “UnBound”, a bi-weekly newsletter. The name of the newsletter is taken from the first edition of The Liberator, on January 1, 1831, where Garrison, who was born in Newburyport and became a crusading journalist and one of America’s most influential anti-slavery advocates, implored “New England,” as he wrote, to join the abolitionist movement: “Do you not hear your brother states resounding / cries from Afric for her sons to be untied? »

Garrison William Lloyd. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

“These abolitionist journals didn’t just say what, who, and when,” says Atkins. “They brought together the leaders of the day and members of the community to focus on the issue of abolitionism – to discuss its importance, to take the arguments against and to refute them, to push for bold policies and broadening thinking about these things. That’s the energy we bring to this project – a forward-thinking, innovative approach to addressing systemic racism and delivering anti-racist solutions, ideas, and proposals.

The emancipatorThe focus will be broad, she says, and will not focus solely on criminal justice, as conversations about racial justice so often are. “Of course, that’s an important aspect of it,” she says, “but it’s only one element of racist policies and programs and ways of thinking that The emancipator will address.

The project will be supported by an inaugural advisory board made up of eminent journalists and academics, including at least three Pulitzer Prize winners, Nikole Hannah-Jones, the New York Times Review writer who founded the 1619 project; Annette Gordon-Reed, Harvard historian and author; and Jose Antonio Vargas, journalist and defender of the human rights of immigrants. Also on the board are Emily Ramshaw, CEO and editor of The 19th, an independent, nonprofit newsroom that reports on gender, politics and policy; Eddie Glaude, James S. McDonnell Professor Emeritus of African-American Studies at Princeton; and Sewell Chan, Los Angeles Times editorial page editor.

BU’s Wang says faculty affiliated with the center – and others from multiple disciplines at BU, including law, data science, computer science, engineering, public health and social sciences – as well as d Other institutions will be invited to submit op-eds related to their race-related research, including offering solutions to pressing issues, such as the need for greater diversity in STEM fields or biases in algorithms. health.

“We think the city of Boston is a pioneer in this regard,” says Wang. “How can we lead the way in presenting anti-racism data-driven opinions, ideas and solutions to promote equity in government, industry, media, the non-profit world and other spheres of influence?

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