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From Christopher Columbus to Ferguson, Michael Harriot delivers history that is ‘Black AF’

A collage that includes the book cover of "Black AF History," and a portrait of the book's author Michael Harriot.
Fatima Michon
Michael Harriot, author of "Black AF History: The Un-Whitewashed Story of America," will be in St. Louis on Sept. 22.

“In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” It's a familiar story: An explorer landing in what is now the Bahamas, finding the "New World" and setting the stage for revolution, democracy and the world we live in today.

But that is just one way to tell the story of America. Author Michael Harriot has a different story.

“We usually learn history, especially American history, through a white perspective,” said Harriot, author of the forthcoming book “Black AF History: The Un-Whitewashed Story of America.” Harriot will be discussing the book at an event on Sept. 22 at the Schlafly Public Library

Harriot noted that the “myths” of American history often serve to downplay — or erase — the impact of slavery and racism. “This book turns that on its side, and it talks about history through the perspective of Black people in America,” he said, and later explained that he approached the project under the premise “that there is no objective history.”

“I want it to talk to Black people in the way that we talk to each other; the way that we understand each other, and the way that we experience community. … I wanted it to be relatable.”

Harriot also discussed his experience reporting on the Ferguson protests in 2014 and returning to St. Louis in 2017 to cover protests once again.

“I am thinking about how Ferguson exposed the two Americas — and not just the killing,” he noted, “because we reduced it to the killing of Michael Brown. But what we eventually learned … was that the systemic issues that created the atmosphere that led to the killing of Michael Brown, the police state that these communities live in, the way that they were basically impoverished by the system that they fund funded. … And I think that is important to know that these random incidents aren't just random incidents, they are created through systemic issues that we also have to fix. Because it's not just a single racist police officer. It is the systems that enable these activities to continue to exist.”

Related Event
What: Michael Harriot “Black AF History”
When: 6 p.m. Sept. 22
Where: Schlafly Public Library, 225 N. Euclid Ave., St. Louis, MO 63108. Livestream on Left Bank Books' YouTube Page.

To hear more from “Black AF History” author Michael Harriot, listen to St. Louis on the Air on Apple Podcast, Spotify or Google Podcast or by clicking the play button below.

Listen to Michael Harriot on "St. Louis on the Air"

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski, Elaine Cha and Alex Heuer. Ulaa Kuziez is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr. Send questions and comments about this story to talk@stlpr.org

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Danny Wicentowski is a producer for "St. Louis on the Air."
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