CRRJ Celebrates Black History Month by Centering Black Resistance

To mark this year’s Black History Month, CRRJ invited Professor Kellie Carter Jackson, chair of Africana studies at Wellesley College, to present her new book, We Refuse: A Forceful History of Black Resistance, set to be published summer 2024.

Accompanying a reading from her manuscript, Carter Jackson led a discussion about the pervasive oversimplification of violent and nonviolent resistance to white supremacy. She argued that both forms of Black resistance are legitimate and both can exist simultaneously.

“This book pushes against and beyond the dominant civil rights narrative that conditions us to see Black people as worthy actors because of their commitment to nonviolence,” she read.

Carter Jackson — an op-ed writer, podcaster, Historian-in-Residence for Boston’s Museum of African American History and commissioner for the Massachusetts Historical Commission — called for a rethinking of the traditional dichotomy between Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.

In We Refuse, Carter Jackson weaves her academic work with stories from her own family history.

At the gathering on Thursday February 22, 2024, Carter Jackson shared the story of her great-grandmother, Arnesta.

Arnesta lived her life with a limp, the result of infection following an injury caused by a rusty nail in her foot.

Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project, Black History Month February 2024, Kellie Carter Jackson, We Refuse: A Forceful History of Black Resistance. CRRJ Northeastern University School of Law.
Kellie Carter Jackson, in the CRRJ Suite on northeastern's Boston campus, reading from her upcoming book "We Refuse." Photo by Jennifer True.

She was nine-years-old when she was offered medical care by a local white doctor in exchange for her lifelong service, and ultimately her freedom, said Carter Jackson.

The child’s grandmother refused to let Arnesta live with the doctor and so used home remedies to cure her grandchild and save her from a life of servitude and almost-certain abuse. 

“To be Black in America is to limp,” said Carter Jackson.

Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project, Black History Month February 2024, Kellie Carter Jackson, We Refuse: A Forceful History of Black Resistance. CRRJ Northeastern University School of Law.
Students gathered in CRRJ's suite to hear Carter Jackson present her new book, to celebrate Black History Month. Photo by Jennifer True.

Carter Jackson’s work looks at Black resistance through the lens of five key “tools”: revolution, protection, force, flight, and joy.

“Each path builds on the other and informs how we might think about confronting white violence and dismantling structural racism,” she said.

We Refuse is set to be published on June 4 and can be pre-ordered now.

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