Emmett Till, Florida Slavery Curriculum, and the Importance of History to Faith

Two recent headlines have called into question the type of stories America wants to tell itself about itself. The first is a controversial public school curriculum in Florida, which some argue seeks to diminish the horrors of American slavery. The other is the announcement of a national monument to Emmett Till, a project some have accused of being a liberal “CRT” endeavor.

School curriculum has been a culture war battleground for Governor Ron DeSantis for some time. But his new anti-CRT curriculum came under fire when some accused it of whitewashing the history of American slavery by suggesting that enslaved Africans benefited from their slavery, at least in some small way, because it provided them with practical skills such as farming and blacksmithing, which they were able to leverage after emancipation.

DeSantis has argued that these accusations have been made in bad faith and that the curriculum suggests no such thing. Nevertheless, a number of high profile evangelicals have seemed to indicate their belief that slavery did in fact benefit enslaved Americans, regardless of what the curriculum says.

Also recently, President Joe Biden announced that a national monument would be built in the honor of Emmett Till and his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley. After the 14-year-old Till was brutally lynched in 1955, his mother gave him an open casket funeral as a public protest to Jim Crow and the pervasive racial injustice in America. This event served as the inspiration for many who would become America’s civil rights heroes.

Nevertheless, many evangelicals, including one scholar who presents himself as an expert in American political history and theory, deny knowing who Till is or why his story is important to American history.

So, what gives? In this episode, we discuss these recent controversies about American history and how understanding the injustices of the past helps to shape our vision for justice in the present.


READ: Colorblindness and the Persistence of White Supremacist Theology
READ: What Is Christian Nationalism and Why Is It Dangerous?
LISTEN: The Long History Behind Evangelical Opposition to Social Justice


The Ballot and the Bible: How Scripture Has Been Used and Abused in American Politics and Where We Go from Here” by Kaitlyn Schiess
The Other America“: 1967 speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


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