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Historian Kellie Carter Jackson to speak Sunday on slavery in New England

Kellie Carter Jackson.Marvin Germain Photography

Kellie Carter Jackson, a Wellesley College professor and expert on slavery and Black women’s history, will give a virtual talk Sunday sponsored by the Friends of the Needham Public Library.

Jackson’s talk, on Zoom from 2 to 3:30 p.m., will focus on “Slavery in the North.” Viewing is free, but preregistration is required at tiny.cc/carterjackson.

Kellie Carter Jackson, who lives in Sherborn, earned her bachelor’s degree at Howard University and her doctorate from Columbia University.

At first, Carter Jackson didn’t know she wanted to be a historian. “I knew I wanted to keep writing and keep telling stories,” she said. “I was most attracted to the 19th century and slavery and looking at abolitionists. She studied Black abolitionists and how they differed from their white counterparts.

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In 2019, Carter Jackson published a book titled “Force and Freedom: Black Abolitionists and the Politics of Violence.” She said the goal of the book was to highlight the work of Black abolitionists and share stories that aren’t often told.

“I really wanted to put Black leadership at the center. I think oftentimes when we think of the abolitionist movement, we think of it as this white man’s burden, or this movement where white people get to be like the heroes and save the defenseless enslaved person and I wanted to show that Black people are their own heroes,” said Carter Jackson. “There were a lot of stories that I wanted to tell where I wanted to take Black leaders and abolitionists and move them from the margins, from the periphery, from the edges, and put them right in the center and let the reader know why they mattered, that they are the first abolitionists, that no one needed to tell enslaved people that slavery was wrong, they knew that and had been advocating for the end of slavery ever since the institution began.”

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Carter Jackson also wanted to focus on Black women and their role in the movement.

“The first question I always ask is, ‘Where are the women?’ Because men are always there, and I notice that women get lost a lot in the literature because we use words that erase them,” she said. “We say things like ‘There was a mob, there was a crowd, there was a gathering,’ and we assume that the crowd was all male, but there were women. “Women are always in places of political engagement.”

‘Some of us are completely oblivious to the ways that race and racism have shaped our experiences, our advantages, our disadvantages. All of that has been hundreds of years in the making. ’

Carter Jackson’s virtual presentation Sunday will be taken from a class she taught at Wellesley called “No Moral High Ground.” Her talk will guide listeners through the abolitionist movement in Massachusetts to present day racism in New England, and will show how what occurred in the past had real implications on how the world and power are understood today.

“You can abolish slavery, but if you don’t deal with white supremacy, if you don’t deal with anti-Blackness, you will not change anything. You will have just ended one system to replace it with another,” said Carter Jackson. “Racism is like gravity, it’s like this invisible force that is not just holding everyone down, but we’re operating within the confines of gravity, and we don’t see it or pay attention to it.

“Some of us are completely oblivious to the ways that race and racism have shaped our experiences, our advantages, our disadvantages. All of that has been hundreds of years in the making.”

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Carter Jackson cohosts a podcast called, “This Day in Political Esoteric History,” where each episode uncovers a piece of history listeners may not know about. She recently announced a new podcast she will be executive producing and cohosting called “Oprahdemics,” which will study Oprah Winfrey and how the “Queen of Talk” has impacted culture.

Currently, Carter Jackson is working on a book, “The Remedy: Black Response to White Violence,” which will examine how Black people have responded to white violence and have claimed the fullness of Black humanity in the face of white oppression. She has another book on hold about the Titanic that will discuss race and mobility on the sinking ship.

“My work is about showing students why history, why Black history, matters,” said Carter Jackson.


Rose Pecci can be reached at rose.pecci@globe.com.