In 2016, Dr. Earl Lewis convened a meeting on slavery among 40 principle collaborators—scholars, organizations, and instiutions—at The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Out of this meeting came the "Slavery and Its Aftermath" initiative at the Center for Social Solutions. This project aims to tackle America’s original sin—slavery. In 2019, our country confronts a 400th anniversary of a "peculiar institution." The first people of African descent appeared in colonial Virginia in 1619. Their arrival triggered the introduction of the system of chattel slavery, a system that defined nearly all aspects of life for more than two centuries. The effects of slavery resonate today: be it on college campuses whose current health stems from its early investment in the institution; be it in casual conversation, when verbal adversaries retreat to the refrain, “my people owned your people”; be it in the names on buildings, streets and monuments – slavery and its aftermath cast a long shadow.
The Slavery and Its Aftermath Initiative aims to connect scholars, organizations, and institutions doing work on slavery in American life. The initial phase of this project will attempt two things: 1) with the aid of professional historians, to produce a data-base to consolidate and disseminate knowledge about slavery; and 2) to create new pairings of museums, public sites, theaters, media, civic organizations, colleges and universities to coordinate the presentation of programming on and about slavery for a five-year period. By bringing together, for example, the Public Theater in New York, with the new Civil War Museum in Richmond and the Equal Justice Institute in Montgomery, we have the possibility of connecting unlike audiences to discuss and confront a long chapter in American history. The project envisions a curated series of festivals as a tangible product. Importantly, at the outset, we intend to design measures of the impact of the undertaking.