Illustration by Jules Struck

Why Black English is about more than just grammar

When society labels different dialects as good or bad, it affects how we see ourselves – and each other. Speakers of Black English understand that more than most. Episode 4 of the podcast series “Say That Again?”

Episode 4: Talking Black, With Pride

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Vivian Nixon was in fifth grade when her teacher corrected her in front of the class for speaking Black English. The incident branded in Ms. Nixon’s mind the tension between speaking one way within her community and speaking another way publicly. “You’re taught that one way basically is acceptable and one is not,” she says. 

This dichotomy is something that many speakers of Black English experience. The dialect, spoken by many U.S. descendants of enslaved Africans, is often perceived by others as simply a misuse of standard English.

It took Ms. Nixon decades of trying to find her voice – by reading Black artists, writing poetry in both standard English and African American vernacular, and embracing her Black identity – before she was able to experience the richness that comes from being true to yourself.

“There are so many ways of moving through this world, and one of them is through language,” she says. “You don’t have to give up your identity. ... You can expand upon it.”

This podcast has a newsletter! It’s run by host Jessica Mendoza and funded by the International Center for Journalists. Click here to subscribe. 

Episode transcript

Jessica Mendoza: Hey, this is Jess, one of the hosts of this podcast. Just wanted to let you know that we talk about sexual violence and drug and alcohol abuse in this episode. Please be advised.


Mendoza: When you think about the way you talk now, how would you describe it? 

Elaine Richardson: I know I sound like a Black woman. (Laughs) I always tell my students that. I know I sound like a Black woman. Now, I can definitely speak this way if I wanted to. But I really enjoy talking Black. 


Mendoza: Hey everyone, you’re listening to “Say That Again?” A podcast about how we sound, how we listen, and why that matters, from The Christian Science Monitor. I’m Jessica Mendoza.

Jingnan Peng: And I’m Jingnan Peng.


Peng: Today we’re going to talk about Black English. Alternatively called Ebonics, African American Vernacular English, or African American Language.

Mendoza: They actually all mean something a little different – kind of like how the words “Black” and “African American” are different, because not all Black folks are American or of African descent. 

Peng: Right, and our focus today is Black English: the dialect of English that’s spoken by nearly 80% of US slave descendants of African origin. 

Mendoza: For decades now, the idea of Black English as a legitimate dialect with its own grammar, sentence structures, and vocabulary – it’s led to a lot of controversy. In schools –

Sen. Lauch Faircloth: I simply want to say that I think Ebonics is absurd.

Mendoza: – in courtrooms – 

Rachel Jeantel: He had sound like Trayvon.

Prosecutor: I’m sorry, what? 

Jeantel: (enunciating) He had sound like Trayvon. 

Mendoza: – and in day-to-day life.  

Anchor: That’s just bad English, isn’t it? How could you say that’s a language?

Guest: No, that’s different English.

Anchor: No, it’s bad English.


Peng: In this episode, we hear from two women who were shown over and over that speaking like themselves meant being looked down on by other people. 

Mendoza: These are the stories of how they balanced the expectations of the people around them with the desire to be their true selves. And how, gradually, they embraced the power in talking Black. 

Peng: This is Episode 4: Talking Black, With Pride.


Vivian Nixon: You'll hear people say, “Yes, of course we speak that amongst ourselves. But like, we would never speak that way at a job interview.” So you're taught that one way basically is acceptable and one is not.

Mendoza: Our first guest is Vivian Nixon. She’s worked in the racial justice space for decades. Right now she’s a writer-in-residence at Columbia University, focused on justice policy and new ways to respond to crime

Peng: Vivian grew up knowing both “standard” English and Black English. She was born and raised in Port Washington, on the north shore of Long Island –  

Nixon: – less than a mile away from the mansions of folks like the Rockefellers and the Guggenheims. But in the middle of town, there was a mix of African-Americans, poor German people, Polish people, Italian people, and then later on Latin Americans. So the commonality was we didn't have any money and that we almost all worked for the rich people that surrounded us. 

We were the recipients of the annual "we don't need this anymore, let's give it to people who could use it." So whether it was clothes or we had, you know, chipped Lenox china in our house. Silverware that was real silver… 

Peng: And also books. A lot of them. 

Nixon: I was reading Dickens and I was reading all kinds of literature from the time I was very young and fell in love with the eloquence of those words. I didn't see any difference between that and the creativity in which language was invented in our community. In fact, what I loved so much about Black English was the way you can change any single phrase by the simple tone of your voice. 

The long standing debate we have about the N-word. Where N-I-G-G-E-R pronounced fully and spoken from a particular body means one thing. But if you're, you know, hanging out in the community and say, “Yo, I'm just going over here and check my niggah out.” It means something totally different. Those types of things fascinated me. 

Peng: Vivian grew up in the 1960s and 70s. And it was made very clear that there was a line between being Black in private and being Black in public. 

Nixon: My parents were very strict about separating the way I talked and wrote when I was doing schoolwork, or speaking publicly at a church function, and the ways I spoke when we were just hanging out being a family. 

Mendoza: No one made that separation clearer to Vivian than her fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Woodard.

Nixon: She was the first Black teacher that came into our school district. A really beautiful chocolate complexioned woman with a round face with her hair pressed. Erect posture all the time. Very neatly dressed. Just very proper. And she wore red lipstick.

Peng: Vivian was one of only a handful of Black kids at her school. One day at recess, she was at the playground with her best friend. And Mrs. Woodard heard her say: 

Nixon: “I ain't got no extra pencils.” 

Peng: Back in the classroom Mrs. Woodard brought out two brown paper bags, one marked “correct” and the other “incorrect.” 

Nixon: She wanted to emphasize that double negatives were not acceptable. And she said: How would you properly say that you don't have an extra pencil? And so she went around the room and one by one people responded, “I don't have an extra pencil,” which is the right answer, according to standard American English. And when she got to me, something that day – I knew the right answer. I just did not want to give her the satisfaction of putting me through that exercise when she already knew I knew the right answer. So I said, “I ain't got no extra pencil.”  

Mendoza: All the other kids got Tootsie Roll lollipops from the paper bag marked “correct.” 

Nixon: I stuck my hand in the bag and got an extra homework assignment. (Laughs)

Mendoza: Oh no! (Laughs)

Nixon: I was so young, but I just remembered feeling, like, defiant about it. I couldn't figure out why she didn't understand the need to be flexible, that what I was saying out on the playground did not affect my ability to understand what she was teaching in the classroom.


Peng: Of course, Vivian would eventually get where Mrs. Woodard was coming from.

Nixon: Like many Southern people who get an education come to the North to make good, she was so determined to kind of prove that these civil rights advances are deserved, because we're going to be productive citizens. But in a way that is very much about assimilation and not about a collaboration of cultures.

Mendoza: Vivian didn't understand that until much later, though. Instead, after the incident with Mrs. Woodard, she became much more conscious about keeping her Black vocabulary at home. And it became a lifelong practice.

Nixon: You know, if you're calling to make an appointment for a job interview. It is full force, pronounce every word. Don't slip up at all. I would show up to job interviews and see the look of shock on people's faces when they realized I was not a white woman. 

I have been in rooms with other African American women and we'll look at each other and say, “What did your parents always tell you? ‘You have to be twice as good to prove that you're worthy. You can’t make a mistake. You have to be perfect.’ ” It's a lot of pressure for a kid. 

Peng: That pressure to prove her worth showed up throughout Vivian’s life.

Nixon: My mother's like, “No, we don't have a lot of money to pay for your college, we can't waste it on you majoring in theater.” And that was my passion. That's what I wanted to do. I tried to do it her way but I was disinterested. I went to school for a year. I flunked out. And I saw my life ending up very much like the lives of my aunts and my uncles, you know, working for the phone company for 30 years and retiring, never having pursued what I love. And that just left the door open for other ways to self-soothe. Now it's 1978, and we're moving into [the] cocaine era and we're moving into the crack era. 

I ended up doing three and a half years in prison –  from 1997 through 2001 – for financially related drug charges. 


Peng: When we were talking to Vivian, Jess, it really felt like all these things were connected for her. Whether it’s how she speaks, how she behaves, or what career she should have – there’s this idea that if you don’t follow a prescribed path, then you’re not acceptable. 

Mendoza: Right, and actually later on we’ll hear more about how Vivian winds up wrestling with that feeling all her life. But the experience wasn’t unique to her. Our second guest today actually grew up around the same period. And she also lived with that sense of not being good enough. In her case she struggled to belong even within the Black communities she found herself in.

Peng: Her name is Elaine Richardson.

Richardson: I go by the name of Dr. E. I am a professor of literacy studies at the Ohio State University.

Peng: Dr. E is a scholar of Black Language. And she calls herself a performance activist. Her goal is to educate and empower Black communities through both academics and art.  

Richardson: I really love Black Language. I identify with people who have a, you know, way of talking that is not considered standard.

Mendoza: Dr. E has always known what it was like to not be like everyone else. She grew up in a low-income Black neighborhood in Cleveland, Ohio. And in that community, she felt like she stood out.

Richardson: My mother is a Jamaican – was a Jamaican immigrant. Everybody else in my neighborhood, their parents or their grandparents were from the South. So we were a little bit different.

And I didn't really know it until people started asking me, you know, why did my mother talk funny? “Is your mama Puerto Rican?” Or if my mother happened to be cooking some Jamaican food: “What is that that you all eat? Y’all food stink.”

Peng: Her mom had also lost job opportunities before because of the way she spoke. And so she urged Dr. E – or, Elaine, at the time – to speak “correctly”.

Richardson: My mother was always promoting what she called “proper English.” And she would always tell me to try to talk like your teachers talk. Some teachers would say that you know, we weren't going to be anything if we didn't learn how to speak standard English.

Peng: On top of that, a fight between her parents made Elaine feel even more out of place.

Richardson: … like when momma and daddy had that bad fight. 

Mendoza: That’s Dr. E, from a TED Talk that she did in 2016.

Richardson: Blood was everywhere. I hated them for that. 

Richardson: It was like the only fight that my parents ever had. But it was like it lasted for the rest of our lives. After that fight, my mother and I shared a room. My dad had his own room. My brother had his own room. It took me a long time to connect the dots between that trauma and how I became so vulnerable to being exploited. But after that fight, I'd never felt like my family was normal, and I always felt like I didn't fit in with other people. 


Peng: As Elaine got older, she began to lash out. Started cutting school.

Richardson: This one girl whose house it was that we were cutting school at, she started inviting her boyfriend and his friends to our parties. And she set me up with her boyfriend's older brother, who was like 19. I was just like, very gullible. Back then, my criteria was that you liked me. Because I didn't feel likable. I didn't realize how valuable I was. 

Peng: And so at that party –

Richardson: Everybody started coupling off into different rooms. He, you know, took me in the bedroom. And next thing I know he was on top of me and forcing me to have sex with him. And from that rape, I got pregnant. 

Mendoza: Elaine was just 13 years old. Her mother went with her to get an abortion.

Richardson: From that point on, I had the scarlet letter on my forehead, I guess, because not that long after that is when I met my first boyfriend, who was the pimp.

Richardson: "The first law of working these streets is, get your money first."

Mendoza: For just about a year, Elaine lived a double life: junior high school student by day, trafficked sex worker by night. 

Peng: And the way people acted and spoke when she was working the streets –

Richardson: “Look, you get in there, you get that money, you get back out on this block, you got that?” 

Peng: – that only reinforced her negative self-image.


Peng: When the man trafficking her, who was also a teenager himself, got arrested – only then was Elaine able to get out of the life.  

Richardson: After he went to prison I was able to graduate from junior high and go to high school. 

I went to Cleveland State University. And I didn't know where I fit in. I didn't want to talk to people because I felt like as soon as I open my mouth, they're going to know I'm from the ghetto. I started meeting different kinds of Black people that were not from the ghetto. Didn't talk like I talked.

And I figured – I'm different. So I just didn't try to fit in with them. I found people on campus that I did fit in with. And they all drank and smoked weed and hung out. 

I started slipping in my classes, and pretty soon I got kicked out of Cleveland State. I started hanging in what they used to call after-hours joints in Cleveland. And those were places where street people hung. And those were people that I felt comfortable around. That's when I got with my second pimp. I was about maybe 18. 


Richardson: To me, like it's all interconnected. Like your skin tone, your hair texture, how you talk, being sexualized as a girl. All of that is like how people are reading you and thinking about how to communicate with you.

Peng: You know, Jess, one of the things we’ve talked about throughout this podcast is how the way we speak signals all kinds of things to other people. And it can be really tough when you happen to speak in a way that other people associate with negative things. Whether it’s being poor or uneducated.

Mendoza: Right, and you know, the flip side of that is, how other people see us also affects how we see ourselves, right? It kind of makes you question yourself. Like, maybe I am what they say. 

Peng: Yeah, and I think Dr. E internalized a lot of it as a young person. But she and Vivian each come to discover the value and power in how they speak – in unexpected ways. We’ll be right back. 


Clay Collins: Hi, I’m Clay Collins, an editor here at the Monitor. I hope you’re enjoying this episode – and this podcast. Have you ever felt so pigeonholed by others, based on the way that you speak, that you’ve actually altered your speech in response – even though doing so feels ... off? We’d like to hear your story. Drop us a note at podcast@csmonitor.com. And if you know someone who would be intrigued by this episode, please share it with them. Thanks for listening!


Peng: Welcome back. So how do you cope with the idea that your way of speaking and being is not good enough? In the first half of our story, Vivian and Dr. E each struggled with that burden. And that, along with other challenges in their lives, led them to some hard places. 

Mendoza: Vivian had given up her dreams of being an artist to fulfill her parents’ expectations – but the decision really weighed on her. When we last left her, she was serving time in prison on drug charges. It was a low point in her life. But being behind bars also gave her a chance to reconnect with her childhood love of books and language. 

Nixon: One of the most powerful experiences I had in prison was reading “The Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison.

Peng: The novel is about Black identity and race relations in the early part of the 20th century.

Nixon: It was this torn up copy of the book. But I read it and it, it resonated with me. So I would try to find examples – whatever I could find in the prison library – of authors who actually would code switch within their novel writing, just to show that there's a range of skills amongst African-American artists and writers. And that all of that language is valuable. Not identifying it as good or bad, but as part of your toolkit.

And then I began to write. 

Nixon: “Dignity yields to survival. Prone before the scalawags who feed egos with brutality…” 

Nixon: I began to write poetry, poetry that was very much in standard English and poetry that was in African American vernacular, and poetry in standard English about a particularly Black experience.

Nixon: “I ain't fit'na hide in a mountain cave. I am Africa's steel daughter. I keep on loving. Keep praying." 


Peng: When she got out of prison in 2001, Vivian joined College and Community Fellowship, a nonprofit that helps women who had been incarcerated go to college.

Mendoza: By 2005, she had her bachelor’s degree. By 2006 she was executive director of College and Community Fellowship. She spent the next 15 years taking the program to new heights

Peng: In prison, Vivian had been openly exploring ways to use Black English in different spaces. And she tried to do the same when she returned to the professional world. 

Nixon: I had to navigate a lot of spaces: the academy, the world of philanthropy, and government. The more I felt I was respected in the field, the more comfortable I felt in public spaces sometimes breaking into vernacular. I've broken out in Negro spirituals in the middle of a keynote speech.

Peng: But at the same time – 

Nixon: I remember getting to know people who work in the world of philanthropy who are Black women just like me, who are Black men. And getting to the point where I know that they code switch, I started to feel a little bit more comfortable breaking into vernacular. Not always, but sometimes, I could sense, after that, a bit of a distancing from those colleagues. 

And what would happen then is, if I saw a downturn in the numbers –

Mendoza: – a lot of her work involved fundraising –

Nixon: – I would equate those things. And I may not have been right, but it's, it's internally that's how I felt like, “Oh, I was way too much myself. I should have stayed – I should have been Mrs. Woodard right? I should have kept my real self hidden.”

Mendoza: Do you feel yourself like over time, just sort of pushing back against that instinct?

Nixon: I continue to wrestle with it. I also feel like I don’t know if I want to spend my whole life not being myself. 


Peng: Back in Cleveland, Dr. E would also find her turning point – a moment when she realized that her way of speaking has value, after all. But first she needed a way out of the street life. 

Richardson: Those times when I would come home, beat up and busted up, my mother would always shake me and say, “Your shame tree dead, man. Your shame tree dead!” Shame tree is a spirit of self-worth inside you. “Shame tree dead,” is when that spirit is broken. And I would say, “No, mama, my shame tree not dead.” 

Mendoza: Finally, after years on the streets, and becoming a mother of two, Dr. E decided to prove it – by taking her mother’s most persistent piece of advice. 

Richardson: She used to always say, “If me were to have education, me would have been a hell.” You know, like, I really would have been something if I would have got a chance to get an education. 

Mendoza: So Dr. E re-enrolled in Cleveland State, tried to get her degree.

Peng: Again, she found herself struggling to fit in. 

Richardson: I was taking these English classes. And everything that I wrote, they were circling it with red ink. I remember going to this professor's office hours. He looked at my paper and he said, “What school did you go to?” And he looked at me like I was trash.

Mendoza: But Dr. E wasn’t going to be discouraged this time.

Richardson: I was determined to stay in school.

Mendoza: She found the type of support she needed from a young Black woman who was tutoring her. 

Richardson: She had a totally different approach to reading my papers. She would be like, “Oh my God, this is great. This is so engaging. But, you know, this sentence doesn't have any punctuation, and it's pretty long.” And I would read the sentence for her and she would say, “See, like right there where you paused? Put a comma right there.” But she never made me feel degraded. 

She was like, “There's nothing wrong with your mind. They think you can't think. You have a great way of expressing your ideas, don't let them kill your voice.”  


Peng: So that story, Jess, really makes me think of how it makes a difference when someone chooses to hear what you’re saying instead of getting caught up in how you say it.

Mendoza: Yeah, we’ve said that a lot throughout this podcast but it’s still surprisingly powerful. 

Peng: Yeah.

Mendoza: So with her tutor’s help, Dr. E stuck it out at school. And she learned about a book that would change everything. 

Richardson: Somehow I ended up in this professor's class. And this professor told me that I spoke Black dialect. Nobody ever told me the name of it, you know, as far as I knew, it didn't have a name. It was just, "It's not proper English.” He told me that I needed to read this book called “Talkin’ and Testifyin’: The Language of Black America” by Geneva Smitherman.

I just remember saying “Mmm, mmm, mmm. This is a good book. This book is good.” I couldn’t put it down. It gave me a name for what I spoke. It gave me information. History. Things that people told me made me nothing, now, this person is telling me how great of a people I come from, and where this language comes from.


John Baugh: African American English is – it’s the result of the linguistic consequences of slavery in the United States. 

Peng: This is sociolinguist John Baugh. He’s a scholar of Black Language and president of the Linguistic Society of America.  

Baugh: Slave traders in West Africa initially tried to prevent the slaves from communicating by separating them by language whenever they could. And then once slaves came to the United States, it was illegal to teach slaves to read and write. That unique linguistic set of circumstances, along with ensuing segregation, has resulted in a unique dialect.

Peng: And like any other dialect, African American English has its own grammatical structures, its own set of rules. 

Mendoza: One example that linguists like a lot is the use of the word “be” – 

Baugh: – as in "We be happy."

Mendoza: – to mean habitual, or continual, action.

Baugh: That's different than saying "we happy" without a "be," meaning it's a momentary state. So "we are happy" versus "we be happy” doesn’t mean the same thing for speakers of the Black dialect. 

Peng: Professor Baugh says enslaved people weren’t allowed to go to school, and so they learned English from the people around them. 

Baugh: In many instances they happened to be indentured servants from Scotland and Ireland who spoke with a brogue and said things like, "The bucket done be over yonder." That Irish and Scots "be" was imprinted on the early speech of slaves.  


Mendoza: This was the type of history that Dr. E found in Geneva Smitherman’s book. And it blew her mind. 

Richardson: All this time they had us fooled thinking that we were dumb and that we couldn’t talk and that we were ignorant. There's nothing wrong with me, you know, there's nothing wrong with the way I talk. It's just not accepted here.

Mendoza: Ultimately, that revelation changed her life. 

Richardson: It gave me a direction. I started liking English classes, and I started figuring out ways to write about Black Language or Black literacy. It was just something that I never had before, and it was feeding me intellectually.

Mendoza: Did you ever get to meet Geneva Smitherman? 

Richardson: Oh yeah, she's my mentor right now. 

Mendoza: Oh, that's so wonderful.  

Richardson: Oh yeah, we – she came and gave a talk at Cleveland State University. And I was asking her all these questions about stuff that I had read in her scholarship. And she said, "You should think about applying to my African American language and literacy program at Michigan State University.” 

Peng: Wow.  

Richardson: You know, “Come here and get your Ph.D.” And I said, “Ph.D?” I said, “Wow, you think I can get one?” And she gave me her information and she said, “Stay in touch with me and apply to my program. You know, let's see if we can keep working together.”

Mendoza: Dr. E got her Ph.D. in English and applied linguistics in 1996. She’s since done a bunch of work on African American rhetoric, literacy, and hip-hop. And she’s a recording artist, too. 

[MUSIC: “The Whole 9”]

Peng: So Jess, I love how Dr. E and Vivian, they both came to affirm the value of Black English. But when we were producing this episode, you also pointed out that today, they each have different relationships with it. And they sort of advocate for Black English differently. 

Mendoza: Right. And I mean I want to preface this by saying I don’t think there’s like a single correct road, you know, toward dignity or defending who you are or how you talk. I think you kind have to find your own path to that. And so for these two women I think it sort of comes from their life experiences. Like, we mentioned before Dr. E considers herself a performance activist. And her style reflects that. 

Richardson: (singing) I’m a cool, cool girl from a cool, cool town. It take a cool, cool boy to cool me down… 

Richardson: Sometimes I just on purpose, you know, sound like a Black person. Just to see, you know, how they’re going to treat me. A lot of people have been made to feel ashamed. 

Peng: What do you do these days to promote Black English, either in your work or maybe just in your life? You know, how you interact with other people? 


Richardson: I'm always advocating. Just by the way that I carry myself. I try very hard to represent for my community. You know, I just – I feel like God let me live so that I can be there for people who went through some things, like I did. And who might feel that, you know, they don't belong in a university.

A woman told me, pretty recently, “You taught me that I could be my authentic self in this type of environment.” She said, "You know, I've learned so much from just watching how you move." And that meant so much to me.


Peng: It’s awesome that she’s there to set an example. 

Mendoza: I know, she expresses herself very outwardly. Very much like a performer. And if you all want to learn more about Dr. E’s journey you can actually check out her book: “PHD to Ph.D.: How Education Saved My Life.” There’s a link on our episode page. 


Peng: And as for Vivian – what was it that she said that struck you? 

Mendoza: Well, so Vivian talked a lot more about this internal struggle, right, to push back against these deeply ingrained ideas about what’s appropriate, what’s right, and –

Peng: Yeah.

Mendoza: – what versions of yourself you’re allowed to present. 

Nixon: I'm very conscious of who I'm going to be talking to when. I'm not as conscious as I used to be. I used to be hyper conscious of it. I can't tell you the amount of times that white people have thought they were being very kind to me when they said, “You are so articulate.” 

Mendoza: And it’s not the same thing, but I’ve had people say, “I can’t believe you sound so American.” 

Peng: Yeah, yeah. I get things like that, too. Like, “Your English is so good.”

Mendoza: Yeah, and I mean it’s very well meant. It’s usually a compliment. And I definitely don’t want to find insult where there isn’t any. But if you sort of pause to think about it, there can also be sort of an underlying equivalency there. Like my American accent sounds “good” therefore I must be smart or educated or whatever. And so the opposite would be, like if I didn’t have this accent, you know, if I didn’t speak this way, what would that have said about me?

Peng: Yeah.


Mendoza: But anyway that was what was floating around in my head when Vivian was talking about, you know, learning to let out the Black part of herself, and kind of ignoring the conventions and expectations of whatever space she was in sometimes. And I don’t know, I just really liked that. 

Nixon: I wanted people to know that there is nothing about the way I speak or who I am that is not acceptable. Because there are so many ways of moving through this world, and one of them is through language. And you don't have to give up your identity, but you can expand upon it. And I'm comfortable with that. It took me a long time to get comfortable with it, though. It didn't happen overnight. 


Mendoza: If you could kind of meet Mrs. Woodard, knowing all you know now, what would you say to her? 

Nixon: So I believe people do the best they can in the time they are living. She lived in the time she lived. And she did what she had to do. So I would say – and this is like really deeply emotional because I would say to her, “I understand you. I understand what you are afraid of. And I thank you for trying to protect me.”


Peng: Thanks for listening to another episode! Once again, a whole lot of people made this possible – and more made it shine. Dr. Elaine Richardson shared her TED Talk and her music with us. You can find her album, “Songs for the Struggle” on her personal website, which we link to on our episode page. 

Mendoza: And Professor Walt Wolfram at North Carolina State University and filmmaker Danica Cullinen let us use clips from their documentary “Talking Black In America.” 

Peng: Also Vivian Nixon read us some of her own original poetry and gave us her interpretation of Paul Lawrence Dunbar’s “When De Co’n Pone’s Hot.” That last one didn’t make it into this episode, but we really enjoyed the conversation. 

Mendoza: Thank you as well to Professors Katherine Kinzler and Sharese King at the University of Chicago for their insights on this issue. This episode was written, produced, and hosted by me, Jessica Mendoza.

Peng: And me, Jingnan Peng. 

Mendoza: The script was edited by Clay Collins, Trudy Palmer, and Samantha Laine Perfas. Sound design by Morgan Anderson and Noel Flatt. Arielle Gray was our sensitivity reader. 

Peng: This podcast is produced by The Christian Science Monitor, copyright 2022.