The Reckoning

The Reckoning

Facing the Legacy of Slavery in America   Episodes 1-3 available now.

In a four-hour series for public radio, The Reckoning traces the history and lasting impact of slavery in America by looking at how the institution unfolded in Kentucky.  This history is the genesis of many of the issues that have exploded into public consciousness throughout the country in 2020.
The state remained in the Union during the Civil War, but many white Kentuckians fought to hang onto slavery and the wealth the enslaved provided.  In the years that followed, former Unionists and Confederates banded together to violently deny black citizens a seat at the table. As part of this story, we will meet members of two families, one white and one black, whose lives were intertwined through slavery. These families reflect how slavery touched nearly every person, place and institution in America, and how the country still needs to reconcile this painful past with the impact slavery has had on the present day health, wealth and safety of African Americans.  

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Episodes 1-3 available on PRX , AudioPort, and Download.

Episode 4, which will connect the past to present day issues, will be available after the Nov. election. 


Episode 1: Invisible History

The history of slavery is often taught as a bitter chapter of America’s past that has been rectified. But in Kentucky that history has been rarely acknowledged, and is poorly documented. This has made it particularly difficult for African American families to learn anything about their enslaved ancestors. We’ll meet one Black family just beginning to learn about their family’s connections to a plantation in Louisville.    Available: PRX, AudioPort, Download    Length:  58:00  (Promos and 4:00 News Feature available )  Cost:  Free 

Episode 2: Recovering History

Due to prohibitions against enslaved people learning to read and write, there are only a few written records left behind by formerly enslaved Kentuckians. But thankfully, over 100 people were interviewed during the 1930s about their experiences while enslaved. These narratives, combined with letters and diaries kept by white enslavers, help us better understand the true nature of slavery in Kentucky.        Available: PRX, AudioPort, Download  Length:  58:00  (Promos and 4:00 News Feature available) Cost:  Free 

Episode 3: Aftermath 

White Kentuckians fought on both sides of the Civil War but came together at war’s end to oppose a common foe–newly emancipated African Americans yearning for education, dignity, and a decent living. In the years that followed, Kentucky pioneered restrictive racial laws that became models for the rest of the South, and thwarted many efforts by Black Kentuckians to prosper–using violence and terror to accomplish whatever the law could not.       Available: PRX, AudioPort, Download      Length:  58:00  (Promos and 4:00 News Feature available) Cost:  Free 

Episode 4: Facing The Past (Available after Nov. 3)

There are clear lines that connect the legacy of slavery to many of our present day issues, including the racial inequities of COVID-19 infection and deaths, wealth inequality, and ongoing police brutality. A true and deep understanding of our history allows us to navigate the present moment and stop running away from the past. We will explore these topics in a special presentation to be distributed after the November election.   Available: PRX, AudioPort, Download   Length:  58:00   (Promos and 4:00 News Feature available) Cost:  Free(Can also be used as a stand-alone hour special)