Adriane Lentz-Smith is Associate Professor and Associate Chair in the Department of History at Duke University where she teaches courses on Civil Rights, Black Lives, modern U. S. history, and histories of the Black Freedom Struggle. The author of Freedom Struggles: African Americans and World War I (2009), Lentz-Smith researches and writes about African Americans’ entanglements with U.S. power in the long twentieth century. She has been at work on a new book, “The Slow Death of Sagon Penn: State Violence and the Twilight of Civil Rights,” traces the devastating aftermath of one young man’s encounter with the police in 1980s San Diego to explore how state violence and white supremacy reconstituted each other in the wake of the civil rights gains of the 1960s. She has published in American Quarterly and in Southern Cultures. Lentz-Smith works to bring scholars into conversation with broad publics. Her work has been featured on various radio programs and podcasts as well as in a number of documentaries, including prize-winning "The Jazz Ambassadors" and the American Experience documentary, "The Great War," as well as the Library of Congres exhibit "Echoes of the Great War." As a senior fellow in Duke’s Kenan Institute for Ethics, she hosts the community conversations series, “The Ethics of Now,” which brings authors, journalists, policy makers, and scholars to Durham to discuss matters of pressing importance to the North Carolina community and beyond. Lentz-Smith sits on the editorial boards of Modern American History and Meridians: Feminism, Race, Transnationalism.
Some Americans, particularly those unschooled in the rich history of the black freedom struggle, expect black saintliness and martyrdom when it comes to civil rights protest. And indeed, some of the most morally mobilizing images to come out of the protests of the 1960s involve civil rights activists weathering the blows and punches of state authorities run amok. Yet many African Americans felt it should not require black folks walking undefended into the maelstrom to stir white Americans’ conscience; martyrdom should not be the price for justice. Focusing on the experience of Mississippian Henrietta Wright, this talk examines how African Americans – and black women, especially – drew on their encoutners with violence and violation to articulate their vision for resisting and rolling back white supremacy.