ST. JOSEPH — An online series titled “Hidden History: Understanding the Origins of Racial Inequality,” begins next week with the first panel discussion, “Slavery to the Civil War: 1600s to 1860s,” set for 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 13.

The first discussion will address slavery prior to the Civil War. Topics will include the legacy of slavery and racism, connecting the earliest days to the present; the role various institutions of society played in enabling the slave trade; the business of slavery and slave narratives.

Panelists for the first session will be Jon Wells, professor, Afroamerican and African Studies, University of Michigan; Christy Clark-Pujara, associate professor, University of Wisconsin; and Kabria Baumgartner, assistant professor, University of New Hampshire.

St. Joseph Mayor Mike Garey and City Commissioner Lynn Todman have worked with Spectrum Health Lakeland, Lake Michigan College and Stewart Communications Ltd. to produce the series.

To register, go online to and click on the Events tab at the top of the screen.

Organizers of the series said the webinars will be a chance for people to learn about things that were not taught in history books.

Garey and Todman said that in order to address systemic racism and inequality, people need to understand the history.

The second and third panel discussions will be in May and June.

The program is part of Community Grand Rounds, a series of discussions regarding how people of color experience poorer health outcomes and lower life expectancies due to policies and practices embedded in society and the nation’s health care system.

Garey and Todman co-chair the city commission’s history committee, one of the social justice committees the commission created after the death of George Floyd.

“Without the history being known, we’re going to continue to struggle with these issues,” the mayor said.

Todman said a richly diverse panel including all ages, races and genders has been put together for the series.

Garey said the discussions are framed by the notion that many people are not aware of the legacy of slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction and post-Reconstruction events. He said many people believe that because these occurrences were a long time ago, they do not apply to them or are not relevant today. While this history happened long ago, it set the stage for today’s laws, policies and practices, he and Todman said. In order to right the wrongs, people need to better understand the history, they added.

The second session, at 7 p.m. May 11, is titled “Emancipation Proclamation through Post Reconstruction: 1863-1900s,” and will cover consequences of Reconstruction and Jim Crow; laws and efforts to control freed slaves; and the Wilmington Insurrection.

Panelists are Professor William Harris, University of New Hampshire; Kate Masur, PhD, associate professor, Northwestern University; and Christopher Everett, documentary film maker and communications manager, Center for Documentary Studies, Duke University.

The third and final session, at 7 p.m. June 15, will be “The Struggle for Civil Rights and Beyond: 1900s to Present.” It will feature a discussion of pre-World War II race relations that simmered across the nation.

Topics will include: black professionals on the front line of the democratic struggle in Grand Rapids; the Tulsa Race Riot, 100th anniversary; and police practices and the rise of white supremacy, militarization of police and their infiltration by white supremacists and militia groups.

Panelists will be Professor Randal Jelks, Department of American Studies, University of Kansas; Tim Madigan, author of “The Burning: The Tulsa Race Riot of 1921”; and Professor Tom Mockaitis, DePaul University, author of “Violent Extremism: Understanding the Domestic and International Terrorist Threat.”

This story has been updated to correct the day of the first panel discussion.

Contact:, 932-0359, Twitter @HPSwidwa