Learning List: Black History Month

February is Black History Month! We’re celebrating the month with a list curated by the firm’s DEI Committee. Members of the committee selected works that celebrate and teach the stories of the Black community in this country. Scroll below to see what we’re reading, watching and listening to this month to learn more about the history and traditions of Black Americans. Along with their recommendations, each committee member also shared why the particular work they selected inspired, educated, or engaged them; hopefully, you’ll find them inspiring, educational, and engaging too! 

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What We’re Reading…

Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now, by Maya Angelou
Paige Willan says, “I always find something new in this book of short meditations on life, love, spirituality, and death by one of the greatest American poets. My favorite pieces are the ones in which Ms. Angelou shares wisdom she learned from her grandmother growing up in Arkansas.”

The Emperor of Ocean Park, by Stephen L. Carter
Ciera Bennett says, “I probably read this book about 3 times, and I’m tempted to pick it up again. It’s a great read. It’s about a Black law professor dealing with life in the wake of his father’s death, but there’s way more than meets the eye with his father’s death and family mysteries come to light. But what underscores the drama is this internal duality of being a Black man who is an intellectual and from an upper-class family, but he’s navigating a world he doesn’t seem to be sure he fits in.”

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated  America, by Richard Rothstein
Brett Feldman recommends this “powerful and disturbing history” of racial segregation in the U.S. This was the inspiration behind his 2021 presentation, “Housing in Philadelphia: A History of Racial Segregation and a Discussion of How We Move Forward to Promote More Fair and Equitable Housing Policies.”

Black Like Me, by John Howard Griffin
Ciera Bennett recommends this book although it’s not by a Black author. She says, “as a teen I was very much into learning about the Civil Rights movement, writing and human behavior. So, this book hits all three points. It’s about a journalist who temporarily darkens his complexion to understand how Black people were looked at and treated in the deep south. This book takes ‘take a walk in my shoes’ to a whole new level.”

As Good as Anybody, by Richard Michelson
Michael Coran recommends this children’s book, an illustrated story of the collaboration between Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. Heschel was a refugee from Poland and Nazi Germany and one of the foremost Jewish theologians and intellectuals of the 20th century. His friendship with MLK and participation in various civil rights marches are not as well known. It is a story that helps young children understand how people from very different backgrounds can come together in friendship and understanding. 

What we’re watching…

American Son
April Colby recommends this movie adaptation of a stage play about an estranged interracial couple awaiting news of their missing teenage son. The movie deals with issues of racism, racial identity and police brutality.

Second annual Classic Slam! presented by the Philadelphia Artists Collective
Paige Willan recommends this event taking place on February 9. She says, “I’m really looking forward to this excellent event that features local poets reading classic works of poetry and plays, and then responding to them with original works.”

What we’re listening to…

Revisionist History, a podcast by Malcom Gladwell
April Colby recommends the episode, “Miss Buchanan’s Period of Adjustment” (Jun. 29, 2017), about Brown v Board of Education. “A landmark Supreme Court case. A civil rights revolution. Why has everyone forgotten what happened next?” This episode was incredibly eye-opening and heartbreaking for me, learning that the legacy of Brown v. Board is not at all what it’s made out to be.

Still Processing, a podcast by New York Times writers Wesley Morris and Jenna Wortham.
Chris Leavell recommends this podcast where the hosts explore a range of cultural issues with an emphasis on pop culture. Recent episodes include a discussion of Jordan Peele’s Nope (Nov. 1, 2022), the Derek Chauvin trial (May 13, 2021), and the role of the office in American culture (Nov. 15, 2022).


Make sure to check out our other learning lists throughout the year! 

What’s a communication from lawyers without a disclaimer? As is usually the case with legal professionals, we don’t all agree on everything, so while the members of the DEI committee found educational value in each of these recommendations, by no means do they necessarily agree with all views set forth in any given work. These recommendations are not an endorsement of any kind.

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