Dr. Richard Newton, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies University of Alabama, takes a look at two of the most influential works in 20th century American history—The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley and Roots: The Saga of an American Family—for guidance on how we got to this volatile moment. Drawing upon his research on identity formation, Newton challenges us to ask what lessons we have missed about good books, the American Dream, and the differences difference make.
Read the Book
Identifying Roots presents a cultural history of Alex Haley’s Roots, examining the strategy and tactics Haley employed in developing a family origin story into an acclaimed national history. More than an investigation into Alex Haley’s legacy, Identifying Roots unearths the politics of beginnings and belongings. While we all come from somewhere, this book examines the terms on which our roots can work as a tradition to embrace rather than a past to leave behind. And it investigates why some of the texts we read also seem to read us back.
Listen to the Podcast
Richard Newton talks with Vanessa Sinclair, PsyD, about the role scriptures play in identify formation and politics. Newton chats about U.S. anti-Black racism as a phenomenon intimately tied to engagement with the Bible and encourages listeners to think about the fine line between making difference and making a difference in the world.
Sociologist Donald B. Kraybill unpacks social advantage as who gets to tell their story in a society. One of the foremost experts on the Amish, Kraybill helps us think through what this community teaches us about how power and privilege work.
Writer and theologian Drew Hart speaks with us about race and the politics of the Christian witness in America. Co-founder of the Anablacktivist Movement, Drew also shares a bit about his new book, Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Sees Racism (Herald Press: 2016)
Historian and freelance writer Kelly J. Baker joins us to discuss her compelling research on the Ku Klux Klan. Baker shows us how this group’s success in the 20th century speaks volumes about the racist underpinnings of American Protestantism.