By Derek Devine
Historians tackled the issue of racial injustice Feb. 22 as the Florida Conference of Historians opened its annual conference, hosted by New College of Florida.
A major part of the weekend included two plenary sessions co-sponsored by the New College Black History Month planning committee. When Brendan Goff, assistant professor at New College and co-president of the Florida Conference of Historians, invited the committee to collaborate with the conference, it was a perfect opportunity for the committee to continue addressing black history and the contemporary issues facing the nation today.
More than 50 panels were spread throughout the two-day conference and New College had steady involvement as 18 current students presented papers and 12 faculty members and two alums presented or chaired panels.
Both Black History Month plenaries were led by representatives from the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), an organization “committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States, to challenging racial and economic injustice, and to protecting basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society.”
Jennifer Taylor, a senior attorney, and Kiara Boone, deputy director of community education, led conference participants on a touching journey through the history of racial inequality in the United States and discussed the essential need for truth and reconciliation on issues of racial justice. They touched on important issues surrounding mass incarceration, racial justice and excessive punishment, declaring the urgent need to confront a history of racial injustice.
“For a lot of our nation, there is a disconnect when we talk about parts of our history and the relevancy to our issues today,” says Boone. “EJI is an organization that is adamant on making that connection in order to move forward.”
EJI helps people understand the connection between the modern day capital punishment system and the nation’s history of racial-terror lynching and discrimination.
“It’s important to use the era of racial-terror lynching and violence to understand our modern-day civil rights movement,” says Boone. “We cannot have conversations about what systemic institutional reform looks like until we have an opportunity to reckon with history and tell the truth about racial injustice and invest in understanding how these systems have evolved over time.”
Brendan Goff says hosting the Florida Conference of Historians is an opportunity for New College to really showcase its strengths while also serving the interests of fellow institutions in The State University System of Florida.
“Nothing is possible without the support of so many people across the campus,” says Goff. “This conference has already left a big impression on all the folks from all over Florida and much of the U.S., which was a top goal from the start.” Goff also said New College students and faculty have been devouring information about the historians’ organization. “I’m getting email requests from students for more of their publications and I’m plain out of almost everything.”
Click here to learn more about the Florida Conference of Historians. For more information on the Equal Justice Initiative, visit EJI.org.
– Derek Devine is the social media manager at New College of Florida.