This event takes place in person at Charis and on crowdcast, Charis' virtual event platform. This event is free, but registration is required for virtual attendance. Click here to register to attend virtually. Please read the in-person event guidelines at the bottom of this page to be sure you can participate in the event.
Charis welcomes Blair LM Kelley in conversation with Dr. Bettina L. Love for a discussion of Black Folk: The Roots of the Black Working Class. An award-winning historian illuminates the adversities and joys of the Black working class in America through a stunning narrative centered on her forebears.
There have been countless books, articles, and televised reports in recent years about the almost mythic “white working class,” a tide of commentary that has obscured the labor, and even the very existence, of entire groups of working people, including everyday Black workers. In this brilliant corrective, Black Folk, acclaimed historian Blair LM Kelley restores the Black working class to the center of the American story.
Spanning two hundred years—from one of Kelley’s earliest known ancestors, an enslaved blacksmith, to the essential workers of the Covid-19 pandemic—Black Folk highlights the lives of the laundresses, Pullman porters, domestic maids, and postal workers who established the Black working class as a force in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Taking jobs white people didn’t want and confined to segregated neighborhoods, Black workers found community in intimate spaces, from stoops on city streets to the backyards of washerwomen, where multiple generations labored from dawn to dusk, talking and laughing in a space free of white supervision and largely beyond white knowledge. As millions of Black people left the violence of the American South for the promise of a better life in the North and West, these networks of resistance and joy sustained early arrivals and newcomers alike and laid the groundwork for organizing for better jobs, better pay, and equal rights.
As her narrative moves from Georgia to Philadelphia, Florida to Chicago, Texas to Oakland, Kelley treats Black workers not just as laborers, or members of a class, or activists, but as people whose daily experiences mattered—to themselves, to their communities, and to a nation that denied that basic fact. Through affecting portraits of her great-grandfather, a sharecropper named Solicitor, and her grandmother, Brunell, who worked for more than a decade as a domestic maid, Kelley captures, in intimate detail, how generation after generation of labor was required to improve, and at times maintain, her family’s status. Yet her family, like so many others, was always animated by a vision of a better future. The church yards, factory floors, railcars, and postal sorting facilities where Black people worked were sites of possibility, and, as Kelley suggests, Amazon package processing centers, supermarkets, and nursing homes can be the same today. With the resurgence of labor activism in our own time, Black Folk presents a stirring history of our possible future.
Blair LM Kelley, Ph.D. is an award-winning author, historian, and scholar of the African American experience. A dedicated public historian, Kelley works to amplify the histories of Black people, chronicling the everyday impact of their activism. Kelley is the Joel R. Williamson Distinguished Professor of Southern Studies at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and the incoming director of the Center for the Study of the American South, the first Black woman to serve in that role in the center’s thirty-year history.
Kelley is the author of two books. The first, Right to Ride: Streetcar Boycotts and African American Citizenship (UNC Press), awarded the 2010 Letitia Woods Brown Memorial Book Prize from the Association of Black Women Historians, chronicles the little-known Black men and women who protested the passage of laws segregating trains and streetcars at the turn of the twentieth century. Kelley’s newest book, Black Folk: The Roots the Black Working Class (Liveright), draws on family histories and mines the archive to illuminate the adversities and joys of the Black working class in America in the past and present. Black Folk was awarded a 2020 Creative Nonfiction Grant by the Whiting Foundation, and the 2022-23 John Hope Franklin/NEH Fellowship by National Humanities Center.
Kelley received her B.A. from the University of Virginia in History and African and African American Studies. She earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in History, and graduate certificates in African and African American Studies and Women’s Studies at Duke University.
Dr. Bettina L. Love is the William F. Russell Professor at Teachers College, Columbia University and the bestselling author of We Want To Do More Than Survive. In 2022, the Kennedy Center named Dr. Love one of the Next 50 Leaders making the world more inspired, inclusive, and compassionate. A co-founder of the Abolitionist Teaching Network (ATN), whose mission is to develop and support teachers and parents fighting injustice within their schools and communities, they have granted over $250,000 to abolitionists around the country. She is also a founding member of the Task Force that launched the program In Her Hands, distributing more than $15 million to Black women living in Georgia. In Her Hands is one of the largest guaranteed income pilot programs in the U.S. Dr. Love is a sought-after public speaker on a range of topics, including abolitionist teaching, anti-racism, Hip Hop education, Black girlhood, queer youth, educational reparations, and art-based education to foster youth civic engagement. In 2018, she was granted a resolution by Georgia's House of Representatives for her impact on the field of education. You can preorder her new book Punished for Dreaming: How School Reform Harms Black Children and How We Heal.
In-person event guidelines:
All attendees must wear a face mask at all times inside the building
We will begin seating people at 7:00 PM ET.
This event will be live-streamed via crowdcast. Click here to register to attend virtually.
As a reminder: If you are not feeling well, please do not come to the event.
If you have any questions regarding these guidelines or to request specific accessibility accommodations, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call the store at 404-524-0304
If you would like to watch the virtual event with computer-generated captions, please watch in Google Chrome and enable captions. If you have other accessibility needs or if you are someone who has skills in making digital events more accessible please don't hesitate to reach out to email@example.com. We are actively learning the best practices for this technology and we welcome your feedback as we continue to connect across distances.
By attending our event you agree to our Code of Conduct: Our event seeks to provide a harassment-free experience for everyone, regardless of gender, gender identity and expression, age, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, ethnicity, religion (or lack thereof), class, or technology choices. We do not tolerate harassment in any form. Sexual language and imagery are not appropriate. Anyone violating these rules will be expelled from this event and all future events at the discretion of the organizers. Please report all harassment to firstname.lastname@example.org immediately.
An award-winning historian illuminates the adversities and joys of the Black working class in America through a stunning narrative centered on her forebears.
Winner of the 2020 Society of Professors of Education Outstanding Book Award
Drawing on personal stories, research, and historical events, an esteemed educator offers a vision of educational justice inspired by the rebellious spirit and methods of abolitionists.
NOW A NEW YORK TIMES AND A USA TODAY BESTSELLER
“I am an eighties baby who grew to hate school. I never fully understood why. Until now. Until Bettina Love unapologetically and painstakingly chronicled the last forty years of education ‘reform’ in this landmark book. I hated school because it warred on me. I hated school because I loved to dream.”