From critical race theory to the 1619 Project, Black intellectuals are reshaping conversations on race in America. Now seven of those preeminent voices share their insight on the reckoning with race in America in three parts: past, present, and future. Gain a foundational understanding of the history of white supremacy and discover a path forward through the limitless capacity and resilience of Black love. MasterClass believes in the power of knowledge and learning to heal and help build a better world, so we are working to make this programming freely available in 2022. For those who wish to access MasterClass for their nonprofit organization, please see our Grants page.
Takes on Black History, Freedom and Love With a Brilliant Cast
Some of America’s greatest minds join the streaming platform as instructors for a three-part, over 50-lesson series.
As Audre Lorde famously wrote, “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” On Thursday, MasterClass announced an exciting new antiracism tool—with the help of a brilliant group of Black instructors. Titled Black History, Black Freedom, and Black Love, the new course is part of a $2 million commitment “to create content that inspires and educates on social justice and against systemic racism.”
Per a press release:
MasterClass, the streaming platform where anyone can learn from the world’s best across a wide range of subjects, today announced the launch of its most ambitious project to date: Black History, Black Freedom, and Black Love taught by instructors Jelani Cobb, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, Angela Davis, Sherrilyn Ifill, Nikole Hannah-Jones, John McWhorter and Cornel West. Released in three parts, this class will inform, contextualize and challenge how members think about race and racism, reconcile gaps in traditional education about U.S. history and offer tools and techniques to empower change in their own lives.
“With decades of experience, these leaders, activists and groundbreaking thinkers have reshaped conversations on race in America,” said David Rogier, founder and CEO of MasterClass, in a statement. “Together, they will teach Black history as never before—uncensored—and show members how to build a society that honors Black voices, love and joy while fighting against systemic racism.”
MasterClass boasts that the three-part class—segmented as Past, Present, and Future—includes over 50 lessons and 10 hours of content spanning 400 years of American history. As stated in the release: “It provides a foundational understanding of the historical and cultural context—and lasting impact—of white supremacy, and how it has influenced modern societal structures in the United States, while providing the knowledge and skills necessary to discover a path forward.”
The Past will explore the ties between slavery and American capitalism, the 14th Amendment and how the law acts as an agent of white supremacy, the history of voter suppression and equality in education. Part II of the class, The Present, will touch on topics including the legacy of Thurgood Marshall, the monumental court case of Brown vs. Board of Education, the meaning of Anita Hill and the Clarence Thomas Senate Judiciary hearings, and the origin of critical race theory. The third class, The Future, will help members take what they have learned to move forward and create a society built on justice.
The first part of the series, “The Past,” is available now exclusively on the streamer—and includes the following lessons:
Jelani Cobb, historian, journalist, author and professor at Columbia University, dives into the history of historically black colleges and universities, the power of the Black vote, the true historical origins of defunding the police and the shift in American politics following the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, leading legal scholar of critical race theory and intersectionality, professor at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law and Columbia Law School and civil rights advocate, explains how the law and courts have historically been used as agents of oppression, and how ignoring gender and race and their relationship to the law restrains progress. Crenshaw also explains how the legacy of the Redeemer Constitution continues to bleed through into politics today, and the importance of stories in shaping the common understanding of history.
Angela Davis, political activist, philosopher and professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, will challenge members to consider the humanity of enslaved people and discuss what life was like after the end of slavery. She will examine the legacy of slavery on the lives of contemporary Black women, the unique experience of Black women in blues music and the enduring struggles for liberation that are central to the history of the U.S.
Sherrilyn Ifill, law professor and president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, explains the 14th Amendment and how Black Americans’ civil rights were curtailed through white supremacists’ reaction to the amendment. She also shares how Black people persisted through the Jim Crow South to build community and gain an economic foothold, challenging members to become more invested in the progress of the U.S. and encouraging them to “leave no power on the table.”
Nikole Hannah-Jones, Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter covering racial injustice for The New York Times Magazine and creator of the landmark 1619 Project, shares the complicated relationship between Black citizens and patriotism, the foundations of American capitalism and how that has informed modern-day economic systems; she also highlights the need for universal healthcare as Black people have historically been underserved by the medical system.
John McWhorter, linguist and associate professor in the Department of Slavic Languages at Columbia University, teaches the origins of Black English, a uniquely sophisticated form of communication with its own nuances and complexities.
Cornel West, philosopher, professor, historian, public intellectual and political activist, explains the significance of Black love in all its forms and why Black Americans continue to create freedom fighters to spread Black joy and achieve liberty for all. He shares how white supremacist thinking is inside each of us and outlines the framework for what a truly just society might look like.