The most important film about race since Ava DuVernay’s 13th and Raoul Peck’s I Am Not Your Negro, Who We Are is an eloquent, passionate and revelatory reclamation of the history America sweeps under the carpet. This is first and foremost the story of how white supremacy and slavery underpins the disUnited States, but equally damning a critique of how, again and again, the tide for social justice has been repudiated and betrayed by the rich and the powerful (and these things are synonymous in American democracy).
Former ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jeffery Robinson’s groundbreaking talk on the history of U.S. anti- Black racism is interwoven with archival footage, interviews, and Robinson’s story, exploring the enduring legacy of white supremacy and our collective responsibility to overcome it.
Robinson was 11 years old when the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered in Robinson’s hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. He marched with his father and brother in one of the Memphis Sanitation Worker strikes. Robinson also attended a court hearing for some of those arrested for marching and that experience, at 11 years old, is why he ultimately became a criminal defense lawyer. Before King’s murder, Robinson believed the country had reached a “tipping point,” and true racial equality was within reach. When King was killed, it felt to Robinson like the movement died with him. How, he wondered, did we get here?
After many years as a practicing lawyer, Robinson started looking at our Nation’s history and was shocked by how deeply encoded white supremacy and the oppression of Black Americans is in that history. For the past 10 years, in community centers, concert halls, houses of worship, and conference rooms across America, Robinson has been sharing what he learned. The film interweaves historical and present-day archival footage, Robinson’s personal story, and vérité and interview footage capturing Robinson’s meetings with Black change-makers and eyewitnesses to history. From a hanging tree in Charleston, South Carolina, to a walking tour of the origins of slavery in colonial New York, to the site of a 1947 lynching in rural Alabama, the film brings history to life, exploring the enduring legacy of white supremacy and our collective responsibility to overcome it.
In Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America, Robinson shows us how legalized discrimination and state-sanctioned brutality, murder, dispossession, and disenfranchisement continued long after slavery ended, profoundly impeding Black Americans’ ability to create and accumulate wealth as well as to gain access to jobs, housing, education, and health care. Weaving heartbreak, humor, passion, and rage, Robinson’s words lay bare an all-but-forgotten past, as well as our shared responsibility to learn from the past.
It’s unlikely that any lecture documentary since An Inconvenient Truth has had the galvanizing potential of Who We Are: A Chronicle of Ra
cism in America.
Ben Kenigsberg, New York Times
Just as every student should read Howard Zinn’s A people’s history of the United States, everyone must see this film. A masterpiece.
Provocative and valuable… Eloquent and heartfelt.
Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal
Ben & Jerry’s Homemade, Inc., Fred Crosetto, Ellison Foundation, The Greenstein Family Foundation, Ted Hope, Nader & Yeganeh Naini, Bryan & Christine White
Jeffery Robinson, Emily Kunstler, Sarah Kunstler, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Andrea Crabtree, Vanessa Hope, Susan Korda, Katharine Nephew, Jayashri Wyatt