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Against Exceptionalism, Beyond Triumphalism

A Review of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture

On 13 April 1943, on the 200th anniversary of Thomas Jefferson’s birth, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt dedicated the Jefferson Memorial to the nation’s third president. Facing a sharp wind blowing in from the Potomac, the president admired the heroic statue and read the famous words that grace the interior walls of the building: “All Men Are Created Equal.” In the midst of a global war against fascism, Roosevelt proclaimed that the Jefferson Memorial would stand as “a shrine to freedom,” dedicated to a man who bent his entire life to the proposition that “men are capable of their own …

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The OJ Simpson Verdict, Jury Nullification and Black Lives Matter: The Power to Acquit

The nation is, once again, caught up in the OJ Simpson trial because of two riveting series that revisit the case. The FX mini-series, American Crime Story, and the ESPN documentary, OJ: Made in America, provide their audiences with a level of detail and sociological interpretation that can only be achieved 20 years after the trial. …

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Will We See Justice for Alton Sterling or Philando Castile?

Less than two years ago, a Ferguson grand jury decided not to return an indictment in the shooting death of Michael Brown. The grand jury announced their decision on the evening of November 24, 2014. There had been about 70 hours of testimony and over 60 witnesses. (NPR has a helpful blog covering all the action.) Remembering what happened in Ferguson may help us to understand what may not happen in Baton Rouge and St. Anthony: an indictment or conviction of the officers who killed Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.

In line with the adage that a determined prosecutor can indict a ham sandwich, the St. Louis County prosecutor’s office was criticized for its presentation of the evidence in Darren Wilson’s case, especially given its willingness to indict Ferguson protesters. The vote of the grand jury is secret, …

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