Museum of America in the Pandemic Year, 2020

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Jun 12: Rayshard Brooks is shot and killed by police in a Wendy’s parking lot in Atlanta. The restaurant is burned down the next day. The shooter is later charged with murder and his partner charged with aggrieved assault. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signs a package of bills aiming to reform parts of policing in the state, including banning chokeholds and repealing a decades-old state law that has kept police disciplinary records secret. The bills also include measures making it easier to sue people who call police on others without good reason. Trump reschedules his Tulsa rally that was set for Juneteenth and  rolls back health care protections for transgender people.

From the cutting room floor...

If racism is a virus in American culture, we have seen attempts to eradicate it before. The federal government under President Grant’s Attorney General, Amos Ackerman—a reformed slave-owner himself—stomped on the virus of the Ku Klux Klan in the the early 1870s. He “flattened the curve” of their domestic terrorism. Yet, after Ackerman was pushed out for zealously prosecuting the Republican railroad robber barons, no one continued Ackerman’s efforts. Consequently the virus of pro-Confederacy, anti-Black violence, often supported by state and local government was allowed to fester through the 1870s, through the turn of the century.

Pushed back, but never eradicated, anti-Black violence rebounded through the 1910s, celebrated by erecting monuments to the defeated Confederacy–monuments that sprung up from Texas to Virginia. Then a second major outbreak of violence pushed African Americans off their own land in the 1920s-40s and into the cities of Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, Columbus, Buffalo, Detroit, Boston, Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Gary, and many others. Neglect of the poor, rural, and largely minority parts of the United States was de facto government policy for over eighty years. Neglect, though less malignant now, continues into the twenty-first century. It’s still like that in Lowndes County, Alabama, even when it was made de jure illegal in DC.

And so, before they are lost again to an America eager to move onto fresh outrages, rather than dealing with the seeping wounds from the past left unhealed, the chants in the streets from people who have never been treated as if they matter need to be remembered. They are calls for a kind of justice that, after 1871, the United States has only pretended to pursue. Here is what we chanted at a Black Lives Matter protest in Tuscaloosa, Alabama today:

CALLER: Black Lives Matter

RESPONSE: Black Lives Matter

CALLER: Hands up!

RESPONSE: Don’t Shoot!

CALLER: Say their name!

RESPONSE: Which one?

CALLER: How many?

RESPONSE: Too many!

CALLER: Say his name!

RESPONSE: George Floyd!

CALLER: Say her name!

RESPONSE: Breonna Taylor!

CALLER: Get your knees off my neck!

RESPONSE: Get your knees off my neck!

CALLER: No justice!


CALLER: No racist


CALLER: I can’t breathe!

RESPONSE: I can’t breathe!

CALLER: Take your knees off me!

RESPONSE: Take your knees off me!

Read more

@ianhoppe, “The Origins of the Black Panther Party in Alabama,”, August 16, 2016.

“Shields and Brooks on Americans’ changing views of policing,” PBS NewsHour, June 12, 2020.

On Demand Entertainment. “I Take Responsibility”: Celebs Pledge To Act Against Racism in New Video, 2020.

Right-wing Youtube influencer, Mark Dice, responding to the celeb video, “I Take Responsibility.” Mark Dice, “So Sad,” June 12, 2020,


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Brown, Melissa. “An Era of Terror: Montgomery Family Remembers Father’s Lynching, Legacy.” The Montgomery Advertiser, April 25, 2018.
Clawson, Laura. “Martin Luther King, Jr.: ‘Our Struggle Is for Genuine Equality, Which Means Economic Equality.’” Daily Kos, January 21, 2013.

Honey, Michael K. “What Happened to Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream of Economic Justice?” Time, February 20, 2020.

Pilkington, Ed. “A Journey through a Land of Extreme Poverty: Welcome to America.” The Guardian, December 15, 2017, sec. Society.
U.S. Census Bureau. “QuickFacts: Lowndes County, Alabama,” 2010.
Public School Review. “Top Lowndes County Public Schools,” 2020.
Sheets, Connor. “The Black Panther Party’s Deep Alabama Roots.”, February 28, 2016.
Rawls, Phillip. “Judge: Bingo Witnesses Aimed to Suppress Black Voter Turnout.” Tuscaloosa News, October 21, 2011.
Albuquerque, Catarina de. “Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation on Her Mission to the United States of America (22 February-4 March 2011).” Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights, Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Including the Right to Development. UN General Assembly, Human Rights Council, August 2, 2011.;hrdhrd99702016149.
Additional Links

* Timeline summaries at the top of the page come from a variety of sources:, including The American Journal of Managed Care COVID-19 Timeline (, the Just Security Group at the NYU School of Law (, the “10 Things,” daily entries from The Week (, as well as a variety of newspapers and television programs.