TIE Podcast Spring Semester Video: Pulitzer Prize Winner David Hackett Fischer on African Influences on American Society

Picture of Rev. Absalom Jones against a black background, symbolizing Africans' founding contributions to America
Image of the Rev. Absalom Jones, the first African American priest, from The New York Public Library.
Credit: https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47df-1e63-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

Today, in honor of President’s Day, Toward Inclusive Excellence is sharing the video interview of our poignant discussion with Pulitzer Prize winner Dr. David Hackett Fischer about his book African Founders: How Enslaved People Expanded American Ideals (2022). By tracing the interplay of African and European influences in shaping a distinctly American culture and nation, Dr. Fischer’s book situates Africans as critically important and influential founding members of American society. He emphasizes throughout the interview the importance of diversity and how it has been crucial to cultivating the democratic ideals considered to be quintessentially American. In discussing the research he conducted and the many records he sifted through, including audio recordings of formerly enslaved people’s life stories, Dr. Fischer closes the interview by noting that “talking is important and useful, but listening is even better.” We hope you enjoy listening to this informative interview.

Watch the video below:

Here are some some snippets from the video:

On what key takeaways readers should glean from African Founders:

“The first is to see the complexities of our differences in America and [understand] how the strength of America and its creativity, I think, comes from the interplay of all that. Sometimes it’s not easy to get on with people who are different from ourselves, and yet as we do more of that, America grows stronger.”

On sifting through the histories of marginalized people:

“I think the exchange is a continuing process of people listening to our forebears and we can do that directly. We can sit down and hear them speak and learn from them, directly from them. That’s what I try to do and then I try to pass that on to people [through] the book.”

Listen to the podcast episode here.

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Header image is a detail of This is Harlem by Jacob Lawrence. Courtesy of Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. © 2021 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. For more information, click here.