As the Black Lives Matter movement continues to build major momentum after more than a year of activists’ work, some remain unclear about the movement's mission. Duchess Harris, professor and chair of American studies at Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and journalist Sue Bradford Edwards said they want to change that with their new book.
Along with journalist Sue Bradford Edwards, Harris co-authored Black Lives Matter, a book targeted to middle school students with the goal of providing historical and cultural context for "the shootings that touched off passionate protests, the work of activists to bring about a more just legal system and tensions in the U.S. society that these events have brought to light," according to Abdo Publishing.
Harris said the book's goal would be to "lay out the facts," weaving in historical context so that people can "get a sense of a pursuit for black liberation."
Edwards told The Huffington Post, “It’s a much-needed resource because there’s so much misinformation on the topic out there and so many people speaking with no facts. A lot of emotions running strong and not a lot of actual information and we’re just hoping that this will [help] some of the students around the country see what this is really about."
Though the book isn't set to be published until November, Harris said local schools have embraced its use in the classroom. Others are more skeptical about the authenticity of the subject matter.
The Huffington Post asked Rashad Turner, lead Black Lives Matter organizer in Saint Paul, his thoughts about the book. He believed the authors are disingenuous about their intentions to create a Black Lives Matter book, adding that they hadn't consulted any of the movement's organizers for their research. "It's another hijacking of a movement, another scheme to exploit black lives for a few dollars," he told HuffPost, noting that he wasn't aware of her reaching out to Black Lives Matter leaders for research.
Harris confirmed this book is not a product of the official Black Lives Matter movement and did not reach out to organizers while writing it. Edwards, however, notes that she did to no avail.
"I reached out to various organizers but unfortunately never heard back from anyone but understanding when I was researching this, that was when the [non-indictment] in the Mike Brown case was handed down... These people had their hands full."
Criticism stemmed from the opposite side as well, with some Twitter users expressing disdain for having a book that covers the movement in schools:
Despite some backlash, Harris said, "I welcome constructive criticism from those who have read the book."
HuffPost talked to Harris in a separate conversation and via email about her book, what it entails and her response to critics.
Originally, the press, which is Abdo [Publishing], located in Minnesota, contacted Sue because she lives in Florissant, Missouri. She’s a journalist and she covered Ferguson. So she started the work and then they reached out to me for something called content analysis. And I just got more and more involved with providing a historical framework and I ended up becoming the co-author and I was very exited to do that because I think that it’s good preparation work for students to have before they become undergraduates.
The goal really is just to lay out the facts ... It’s basically Trayvon Martin to Freddie Gray but it is contextualized, taking you all the way back from slavery through 1960s black power to get a sense of a pursuit for black liberation.
I think a book like this is necessary because we need a better skill set to discuss contemporary race relations in America. Duchess Harris
There’s definitely a portion of the country that’s opposed to Black Lives Matter and they think that learning about it means that children will be encouraged to support it and those are two different things, learning about something and embracing something.
I hope that people learn that there are competing narratives to the master narrative and that it is important to know everyone's version of the story.