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June 11, 2024

Across the United States, communities are fighting over whether and how to teach Black and Indigenous studies in public schools. This week, leading civil rights historian Dr. Hasan Kwame Jeffries is coming to Maine to present Lessons in Hard History, a keynote talk addressing America’s preference for nostalgia over truth and the impact on our youth of the nation’s woefully inadequate commitment to teaching about slavery and its legacies.

A panel discussion following the keynote will feature leading voices in the struggle to integrate Wabanaki and African American studies into the K-12 curriculum in Maine, including Speaker Talbot Ross, the Maine Department of Education, and the ACLU of Maine.

Here in Maine, Wabanaki studies have been required curriculum for 23 years, but a 2022 report found that “despite some successes, school districts have failed to consistently and appropriately include” it in their curriculum. The same is true of African American studies, which became a required part of the learning standards in 2021. This legislative session, a bill to give teachers and schools the resources they need to effectively integrate these areas of study failed to make it to the Governor’s desk. The results of this November’s elections—from local school board races to federal elections—could further hinder the development of Wabanaki and African American Studies in this state or create opportunities to continue building on this crucial work.

Dr. Hasan Kwame Jeffries, cohost of the Teaching Hard History podcast, will join Maine leaders, including Speaker of the House Rachel Talbot Ross, to inspire us to rise to this moment and organize in our communities to move our school districts forward in teaching these histories, not allow them to be further buried.


A keynote presentation by Dr. Hasan Kwame Jeffries of The Ohio State University and Teaching Hard History podcast, followed by a panel conversation.


Friday, June 14, 2024 from 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM


Hannaford Hall, University of Southern Maine, Portland


The panel will feature Speaker of the Maine House Rachel Talbot Ross, ACLU of Maine Policy Director Maine Meagan Sway, and Department of Education Wabanaki Studies Specialist Brianne Lolar.


Dr. Hasan Kwame Jeffries is the College of Arts and Sciences Alumni Associate Professor of History at The Ohio State University, where he teaches courses on the Civil Rights and Black Power Movement. He is also a board member at the ACLU of Ohio.

Dr. Jeffries chronicled this history in the ten-episode Audible Originals series “Great Figures of the Civil Rights Movement,” and has told the remarkable story of the original Black Panther Party in Bloody Lowndes: Civil Rights and Black Power in Alabama’s Black Belt, praised as “the book historians of the Black freedom movement have been waiting for.” Dr. Jeffries has collaborated on several major public history projects, including serving as the lead scholar and primary scriptwriter for the $27 million redesign of the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee.

His commitment to teaching what he calls “Hard History” led Dr. Jeffries to edit Understanding and Teaching the Civil Rights Movement, a collection of essays by leading civil rights scholars and teachers that explores how to teach civil rights history accurately and effectively, and to host the podcast “Teaching Hard History,” a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Learning for Justice division. He also helps school districts develop anti-racism programming and culturally responsive curricular content centered on social studies by conducting professional development workshops for teachers and administrators.


America is a product of its past, the sum of four centuries of triumphs and tragedies. But Americans find it difficult to talk openly and honestly about historical events that revolve around race, such as slavery, Jim Crow, and mass incarceration. In this keynote address, Dr. Jeffries will explore America’s distaste for Hard History and preference for nostalgia. He will also highlight critical lessons about racism and democracy that can be learned from confronting Hard History directly.


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