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Busboys and Poets Books Presents MAKE GOOD THE PROMISES with NMAAHC

February 9, 2022 @ 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm EST

The companion volume to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture exhibit, MAKE GOOD THE PROMISES is a comprehensive story of Black Americans’ struggle for human rights and dignity and the failure of the nation to fulfill its promises of freedom, citizenship, and justice.

In the aftermath of the Civil War, millions of free and newly freed African Americans were determined to define themselves as equal citizens in a country without slavery. They successfully campaigned for civil and political rights, including the right to vote. Across an expanding America, Black politicians were elected to all levels of government. But those gains were short-lived. By the mid-1870s, the federal government stopped enforcing civil rights laws. Black men, women, and children suffered racial terror, segregation, and discrimination that confined them to second-class citizenship. More than a century has passed since the Reconstruction, yet its profound consequences reverberate in our lives today. Make Good the Promises explores five distinct yet intertwined legacies of Reconstruction–Liberation, Violence, Repair, Place, and Belief–to reveal their lasting impact on modern society. It is the story of Frederick Douglass, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Hiram Revels, Ida B. Wells, and scores of other Black men and women who reshaped a nation–and of the persistence of white supremacy and the perpetuation of the injustices of slavery continued by other means and codified in state and federal laws. With contributions by leading scholars, and illustrated with 80 images from the exhibition, Make Good the Promises shows how Black Lives Matter, #SayHerName, antiracism, and other current movements for repair find inspiration from the lessons of Reconstruction. Powerful and eye-opening, it is a reminder that history is far from past; it lives within each of us and shapes our world and who we are. Busboys and Poets welcomes editors Kinshasha Holman Conwill and Dr. Paul Gardullo for a conversation on this seminal work and the importance of all it covers.

Kinshasha Holman Conwill has served as deputy director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture since 2006. With founding director Lonnie Bunch, she worked to plan and develop the museum and its collections, enabling it to open to the public in September 2016. Ms. Conwill has edited numerous publications among them, We Return Fighting: World War I and the Shaping of Modern Black Identity (2019,) and Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing: The Apollo Theater and American Entertainment (2010.) Ms. Conwill was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2021 and was previously director of the Studio Museum in Harlem.

Dr. Paul Gardullo is an historian and a curator at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. He directs the NMAAHC’s Center for the Study of Global Slavery, which hosts or co-convenes three international collaborative initiatives, the Slave Wrecks Project and the Global Curatorial Project. Since 2007, Dr. Gardullo has worked at the NMAAHC and was part of the core team focused on building the museum’s foundational collections and conceiving and crafting its inaugural exhibitions. He curated the inaugural exhibition The Power of Place and was the co-curator and co-editor of the exhibition The Scurlock Studio and Black Washington: Picturing the Promise.

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February 9, 2022
7:00 pm - 9:00 pm EST


Busboys and Poets
450 K Street NW
Washington, DC 20001 United States