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Beyond Prisons — Episode 16: Racial Violence Syllabus feat. Dr. Walter Greason

Dr. Walter Greason joins the podcast to discuss his Racial Violence Syllabus, which attracted worldwide attention following the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Dr. Greason’s syllabus was translated into seven languages and reached millions of people, driving the public debate surrounding the removal of Confederate memorials across the United States.

Dr. Greason tells us what motivated him to share the syllabus as well as his experiences in the early 2000’s teaching it in a class on the legacy of white terrorism. He walks us through some of the history of racial violence chronicled in the syllabus, including incidents in Cincinnati in 1829 and Philadelphia in 1834. He feels these particular examples are important because they show white supremacy is a national phenomenon and not restricted to the American south. We also discuss how Black communities have organized against acts of racial violence and in self defense.

We talk about how police brutality and other forms of state violencereplaced mob violence after the passage of civil rights laws in the 1960s and the emergence of the prison industrial complex.

“The rate of police killings in the 21st century [has] exceeded the rate per year of lynchings at the peak lynching period of the late 19th century,” Dr. Greason said. “When I came across that data point, I just realized we were seeing things on television and through our media generally, even newspapers and now digital outlets, that were just tolerant of morass—an abyss of organized violence that just kills thousands and thousands of people with no real attention or outrage and in really unjustified ways that violate their fundamental human rights.”

Our conversation touches on the role of Black churches as spaces for safety and collective action that have been targeted throughout history for white nationalist violence. We also discuss how free speech and assembly rights have been used to defend white supremacist incitements to violence.

Finally, Dr. Greason tells us about his new book, “Planning Future Cities,” which explores how the places in which we live are created through the evolution of institutions.

Dr. Walter Greason is the dean of the Honors School at Monmouth University. His research focuses on the comparative, economic analysis of slavery, industrialization, and suburbanization. Dr. Greason serves as the Treasurer for the Society for American City and Regional Planning History, and with a variety of co-editors, he has published Planning Future Cities (2017) – an innovative look at architecture, urbanism, and municipal design – as well as The American Economy  (2016) – a provocative examination of race, property, and wealth in the United States since 1750. His scholarly monograph, Suburban Erasure , won the Best Work of Non-Fiction award from the New Jersey Studies Academic Alliance in 2014. He also won grants from the Mellon Foundation (2011) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (2016).

Follow Dr. Greason on Twitter: @WorldProfessor

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Music & Production: Jared Ware

Beyond Prisons

Beyond Prisons

Beyond Prisons is a podcast on incarceration and prison abolition that elevates people directly impacted by the system. Hosted by Kim Wilson and Brian Sonenstein.