Could a Truth Commission Unite America?

How Fractured Nations and Communities Reckon with History and Move Toward Repair

This essay is part of the Zócalo/Mellon Foundation editorial and public program series “How Should Societies Remember Their Sins?” Register for “What Is Our Responsibility for Our Government’s Wars?,” taking place on July 12.

Can democracy stand the test of time? Many factors have triggered the deep schism in American politics today. But a root cause of our faltering democracy may be our failure to grapple with the truth about the nation’s history of discrimination and institutionalized racism. Because Americans can’t even agree on basic …

The United States Didn’t Really Begin Until 1848 | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

The United States Didn’t Really Begin Until 1848

Forget 1619 or 1776—America's Origin Debate Has a California-Sized Blind Spot

America, you’ve got the dates wrong.

Your intense debate over which year marks the real beginning of the United States—1619 (slavery’s arrival) or 1776 (Declaration of Independence)—has become predictably polarizing. You …

The Black Freedom Seekers Who ‘Managed to Shape Their Own Destinies’ | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

The Black Freedom Seekers Who ‘Managed to Shape Their Own Destinies’

The Many and Varied Attempts by African Americans to Escape Bondage in the Lower Mississippi Valley Tell a Larger Narrative

The Lower Mississippi Valley begins at Cairo, Illinois, where the Ohio River flows into the Mississippi, and extends south to the Head of Passes 100 miles below New Orleans, where …

A College Founded on an Antebellum Plantation Digs Into the Darkness of Its Past | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

A College Founded on an Antebellum Plantation Digs Into the Pain of Its Past

How Sweet Briar Is Finally Remembering the Enslaved People Who Built—And Were Buried Beneath—Its Campus

Twenty years ago, an equestrian instructor at Sweet Briar College in rural Virginia stumbled over a stone in one of the horseback riding rings. It turned out to be a …

Jefferson Davis’s Lesser-Known Nemesis | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Jefferson Davis’s Lesser-Known Nemesis

Henry Stuart Foote and the Confederate President Supported Slavery—But Loathed One Another

On Christmas morning, 1847, six important men assembled at a large boarding house in Washington, D.C., ostensibly for casual, after-breakfast conversation. In the parlance of the era, it was a …

How the ‘Yellow House’ Helped Make Washington, D.C., a Slavery Capital | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

How the Yellow House Helped Make Washington, D.C. a Slavery Capital

The Notorious Jail Lent Institutional Support to Slavery Throughout the South

Washington, D.C., was a capital not just of the United States, but of slavery, serving as a major depot in the domestic slave trade. In the District, enslaved men, women, …