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Imani Perry is a scholar of law, culture, race — and hip hop. She acknowledges wise voices who say that we will never get to the promised land of racial equality. She writes, “That may very well be true, but it also true that extraordinary things have happened and keep happening in our history. The question is, how do we prepare for and precipitate them?” We took her up on this emboldening question at the Chautauqua Institution, on the cusp of yet a new collective reckoning with the racial fabric of American life.

The first in a four-part series, “The American Consciousness.”

For Black History Month: a MacArthur “genius” who’s unearthing an especially painful chapter of the American experience — the intersecting history of African-Americans and Native Americans, and the little-known narratives that Cherokee landowners held black slaves. Even with history this difficult, Tiya Miles shows us the possibility of stretching the canvas of the past wide enough to hold both hard truths and healing.

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