playlist

Talks to celebrate Black History Month

Insightful talks that offer fresh, thoughtful perspectives on Black identity.

  1. 17:55
    Isabel Wilkerson The Great Migration and the power of a single decision

    Sometimes, a single decision can change the course of history. Join journalist and author Isabel Wilkerson as she tells the story of the Great Migration, the outpouring of six million African Americans from the Jim Crow South to cities in the North and West between World War I and the 1970s. This was the first time in American history that the lowest caste people signaled they had options and were willing to take them — and the first time they had a chance to choose for themselves what they would do with their innate talents, Wilkerson explains. "These people, by their actions, were able to do what the powers that be, North and South, could not or would not do," she says. "They freed themselves."

  2. 12:52
    Titus Kaphar Can art amend history?

    Artist Titus Kaphar makes paintings and sculptures that wrestle with the struggles of the past while speaking to the diversity and advances of the present. In an unforgettable live workshop, Kaphar takes a brush full of white paint to a replica of a 17th-century Frans Hals painting, obscuring parts of the composition and bringing its hidden story into view. There's a narrative coded in art like this, Kaphar says. What happens when we shift our focus and confront unspoken truths?

  3. 15:33
    T. Morgan Dixon and Vanessa Garrison The trauma of systematic racism is killing Black women. A first step toward change...

    T. Morgan Dixon and Vanessa Garrison, founders of the health nonprofit GirlTrek, are on a mission to reduce the leading causes of preventable death among Black women — and build communities in the process. How? By getting one million women and girls to prioritize their self-care, lacing up their shoes and walking in the direction of their healthiest, most fulfilled lives.

  4. 18:49
    Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie The danger of a single story

    Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice — and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.

  5. 23:41
    Bryan Stevenson We need to talk about an injustice

    In an engaging and personal talk — with cameo appearances from his grandmother and Rosa Parks — human rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson shares some hard truths about America's justice system, starting with a massive imbalance along racial lines: a third of the country's black male population has been incarcerated at some point in their lives. These issues, which are wrapped up in America's unexamined history, are rarely talked about with this level of candor, insight and persuasiveness.

  6. 18:49
    Kimberlé Crenshaw The urgency of intersectionality

    Now more than ever, it's important to look boldly at the reality of race and gender bias — and understand how the two can combine to create even more harm. Kimberlé Crenshaw uses the term "intersectionality" to describe this phenomenon; as she says, if you're standing in the path of multiple forms of exclusion, you're likely to get hit by both. In this moving talk, she calls on us to bear witness to this reality and speak up for victims of prejudice.

  7. 12:29
    Brittney Cooper The racial politics of time

    Cultural theorist Brittney Cooper examines racism through the lens of time, showing us how historically it has been stolen from people of color, resulting in lost moments of joy and connection, lost years of healthy quality of life and the delay of progress. A candid, thought-provoking take on history and race that may make you reconsider your understanding of time, and your place in it.

  8. 17:03
    Casey Gerald Embrace your raw, strange magic

    The way we're taught to live has got to change, says author Casey Gerald. Too often, we hide parts of ourselves in order to fit in, win praise, be accepted. But at what cost? In this inspiring talk, Gerald shares the personal sacrifices he made to attain success in the upper echelons of American society — and shows why it's time for us to have the courage to live in the raw, strange magic of ourselves.

  9. 14:14
    Mellody Hobson Color blind or color brave?

    The subject of race can be very touchy. As finance executive Mellody Hobson says, it's a "conversational third rail." But, she says, that's exactly why we need to start talking about it. In this engaging, persuasive talk, Hobson makes the case that speaking openly about race — and particularly about diversity in hiring — makes for better businesses and a better society.

  10. 22:40
    Leah Chase and Pat Mitchell An interview with the Queen of Creole Cuisine

    Leah Chase's New Orleans restaurant Dooky Chase changed the course of American history over gumbo and fried chicken. During the civil rights movement, it was a place where white and black people came together, where activists planned protests and where the police entered but did not disturb — and it continues to operate in the same spirit today. In conversation with TEDWomen Curator Pat Mitchell, the 94-year old Queen of Creole Cuisine (who still runs the Dooky Chase kitchen) shares her wisdom from a lifetime of activism, speaking up and cooking.

  11. 13:42
    Jedidah Isler The untapped genius that could change science for the better

    Jedidah Isler dreamt of becoming an astrophysicist since she was a young girl, but the odds were against her: At that time, only 18 black women in the United States had ever earned a PhD in a physics-related discipline. In this personal talk, she shares the story of how she became the first black woman to earn a PhD in astrophysics from Yale — and her deep belief in the value of diversity to science and other STEM fields. "Do not think for one minute that because you are who you are, you cannot be who you imagine yourself to be," she says. "Hold fast to those dreams and let them carry you into a world you can't even imagine."

  12. 4:29
    Jamila Lyiscott 3 ways to speak English

    Jamila Lyiscott is a “tri-tongued orator;” in her powerful spoken-word essay “Broken English,” she celebrates — and challenges — the three distinct flavors of English she speaks with her friends, in the classroom and with her parents. As she explores the complicated history and present-day identity that each language represents, she unpacks what it means to be “articulate.”

  13. 17:42
    Yoruba Richen What the gay rights movement learned from the civil rights movement

    As a member of both the African American and LGBT communities, filmmaker Yoruba Richen is fascinated with the overlaps and tensions between the gay rights and the civil rights movements. She explores how the two struggles intertwine and propel each other forward — and, in an unmissable argument, she dispels a myth about their points of conflict. A powerful reminder that we all have a stake in equality.

  14. 14:00
    Cheyenne Cochrane A celebration of natural hair

    Cheyenne Cochrane explores the role that hair texture has played in the history of being black in America — from the heat straightening products of the post-Civil War era to the thousands of women today who have decided to stop chasing a conventional beauty standard and start embracing their natural hair. "This is about more than a hairstyle," Cochrane says. "It's about being brave enough not to fold under the pressure of others' expectations."

  15. 15:10
    Freeman Hrabowski 4 pillars of college success in science

    At age 12, Freeman Hrabowski marched with Martin Luther King. Now he's president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), where he works to create an environment that helps under-represented students — specifically African-American, Latino and low-income learners — get degrees in math and science. He shares the four pillars of UMBC's approach.

  16. 12:28
    Thelma Golden How art gives shape to cultural change

    Thelma Golden, curator at the Studio Museum in Harlem, talks through three recent shows that explore how art examines and redefines culture. The "post-black" artists she works with are using their art to provoke a new dialogue about race and culture — and about the meaning of art itself.

  17. 4:18
    Clint Smith The danger of silence

    "We spend so much time listening to the things people are saying that we rarely pay attention to the things they don't," says poet and teacher Clint Smith. A short, powerful piece from the heart, about finding the courage to speak up against ignorance and injustice.

  18. 16:05
    Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi An interview with the founders of Black Lives Matter

    Born out of a social media post, the Black Lives Matter movement has sparked discussion about race and inequality across the world. In this spirited conversation with Mia Birdsong, the movement's three founders share what they've learned about leadership and what provides them with hope and inspiration in the face of painful realities. Their advice on how to participate in ensuring freedom for everybody: join something, start something and "sharpen each other, so that we all can rise."

  19. 4:37
    Stew "Black Men Ski"

    What happens when a black man visits Aspen? Singer/songwriter Stew and his band are about to let you know.

  20. 7:01
    Paul Rucker The symbols of systemic racism — and how to take away their power

    Multidisciplinary artist and TED Fellow Paul Rucker is unstitching the legacy of systemic racism in the United States. A collector of artifacts connected to the history of slavery — from branding irons and shackles to postcards depicting lynchings — Rucker couldn't find an undamaged Ku Klux Klan robe for his collection, so he began making his own. The result: striking garments in non-traditional fabrics like kente cloth, camouflage and silk that confront the normalization of systemic racism in the US. "If we as a people collectively look at these objects and realize that they are part of our history, we can find a way to where they have no more power over us," Rucker says. (This talk contains graphic images.)