Mississippi native Eddie Glaude, one of the world’s leading thinkers and teachers on race, keeps bearing witness about America’s ugly, unacknowledged history and how it will shape our future.
For years, Glaude, a faculty leader at Princeton University, has channeled his upbringing and his academic studies to inspire Americans to think deeply about where the nation has been and where it’s headed.
And this weekend, Glaude will come home to do more of it when he headlines the Mississippi Book Festival in Jackson. His most recent book “Begin Again” analyzes the past, present and future of America through the writings and life of James Baldwin.
This will be Glaude’s third trip home this calendar year. In May, he gave a stirring commencement address at Rust College, the historically Black institution in Holly Springs. A couple weeks earlier, he was in Jackson to deliver a powerful Medgar Wiley Evers lecture at the Two Mississippi Museums that attendees said was more akin to a sermon than a speech.
Touching on several Baldwin writings, a central theme of Glaude’s April lecture was that “the American idea is in trouble.”
“History matters because we carry it within us. And Mississippi is soaked in history,” Glaude said. “And as James Baldwin wrote, ‘It is in great pain and terror one that one begins to assess that history, which is placed one where one is and formed one’s point of view, because one enters into battle with that historical creation oneself.’”
Being largely unwilling to acknowledge our true past, Glaude says, is why so many Americans feel so uncertain about our future.
“We’re trapped in a history we refuse to know but carry within us,” Glaude said. “And Baldwin says this is the root of our unadmitted sorrow. The terrors and panic we experience have everything to do with the gap between who we imagine ourselves to be and who, deep down, we really are. The fact that we evade that question locks us into a kind of perpetual adolescence.”
Glaude continued: “I come from a tradition that offers a story of the country that forces it to confront its ugliness, to in fact urge the country to grow the hell up. We have to live close to the ground if we’re gonna change. We have to understand the power of everyday ordinary people, to imagine a better future. We have to tell ourselves the truth in order to release us into a different way of being in the world. We have to tell the truth to Gov. Tate Reeves, tell the truth to Joe Biden. As long as we view racial equality as a philanthropic enterprise, as long as we view racial justice as an act of charity, we’re in trouble still.”
Watch Glaude’s lecture at the Two Mississippi Museums on April 28: