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Desmond King chairs British Academy series on Black Lives Matter

Desmond King,  Andrew W Mellon Professor of American Government, has chaired the series ‘Racial Inequality and American Politics.’ This is a three-part investigation into the long history of racial inequality in the USA and how it plays into contemporary political activity.

Working with the British Academy of which he has been a Fellow since 2003, King’s series draws on the work of leading scholars of African American history and politics to explore the evolution of organised responses to black oppression at the time of the 2020 US presidential election.

In the first talk, recorded on September 8, Megan Ming Francis, Associate Professor of Political Science at University of Washington explored how the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's (NAACP) campaign against state sanctioned racial violence in the early-mid 20th century shaped the modern civil rights movement.  Ming Francis, author of Civil Rights and the Making of the Modern American State also used that history to give context to the election. 'In the post-civil rights era, even if presidents [of the USA] were not openly crusaders for civil rights, there was at least some appearance of wanting to be better… Suddenly that understanding of decency is now out of the window,' she said.

In the second part, recorded on October 6,Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Assistant Professor & Charles H. Mcilwain University Preceptor in the Department of African American Studies, Princeton University and author of From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation and Race for Profit joined Desmond King to discuss the history of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, placing its relationship to the state in stark relief. 'There’s certainly a strain within BLM that views themselves as abolitionist. They view the abolition of police, policing, of prisons, the criminal justice system as a central objective… that raises very clear questions about what role they see the state playing,' she said.

In the final event, on November 10, King introduced Fredrick Harris, Professor of Political Science and Dean for Social Sciences at Columbia University, in order to examine the outcome of the 2020 US presidential race. Reflecting on the election of Obama and then Trump, Harris said: 'What this really reminds me of in a reverse way; in a miniature way is the transition of a white supremacist-controlled government in South Africa to a multi-racial democracy. There was a lot of violence and compromise and it happened in short order and the demographics are reversed but I think the dynamics are similar.'

Des King said of the series: ‘It gives viewers relevant and important historical perspectives to understand both the US presidential election and the significance of the Movement for Black Lives protests.’
The talks are available to view on Youtube