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How America Reckons (And Fails To Reckon) With The History, Legacy Of Slavery

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In his new book, writer Clint Smith takes readers on a journey across the U.S. to visit some of the landmarks, monuments and people tasked with preserving and retelling the history of slavery — both remembered and misremembered.

One such location is the estate of Thomas Jefferson, the Monticello Plantation in Virginia, where he wrote letters at the Monticello Plantation espousing the urgent need for liberty while enslaving more than 400 people.

Another stop is the Whitney Plantation, one of the only former plantations devoted to preserving the memory and experiences of the enslaved individuals whose lives and work sustained it.

What has been left out of the popular history of American slavery? Which stories were preserved and omitted in the whitewashing of U.S. history?

Why is there a departure from reality — or even deceitfulness — in certain accounts of the history of enslaved Africans and the Civil War?

Is teaching authentic racial history and “critical race theory” curriculum in schools the answer? Is there a disconnect between written and oral American history? What else can be done to correct the record?

What's at risk if a misremembered or misrepresented history of slavery continues to be passed down through the generations? What are the modern-day implications of failing to reckon with America's troubled past and acknowledge the lasting legacy of slavery?

Guest: Clint Smith, staff writer at The Atlantic and author of "How the Word is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America"

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*This interview was recorded on Thursday, June 10.