Racial Equity

Celebrating Black History Month at the Aspen Institute

February 1, 2017  • Institute Staff

To celebrate Black History Month this year, we’ve pulled together talks that highlight African-American history and culture. Watch Rep. John Lewis, poet Clint Smith, first African-American woman in space Mae Jemison, author and professor Michael Eric Dyson, and jazz musicians Wynton Marsalis and Jon Batiste below.

Poet and educator Clint Smith shares a poem at the 2015 Summit on Inequality & Opportunity. Smith’s work has appeared in the New Yorker, the Guardian, and the American Literary Review.

Michael Eric Dyson, a professor of sociology at Georgetown University and New York Times bestselling author, discusses his book The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America, and more.

In 1992, Mae Jemison flew into space aboard the Endeavour, becoming the first African-American woman in space. Jemison shared her story of growing up in the 1960s. “There were so many things we thought we could change and do,” she said during a discussion of interstellar travel at the 2016 Aspen Ideas Festival. Bonus: watch as Jemison discusses the potential for future human travel beyond our solar system, to another star, in her full talk.

Wynton Marsalis is an internationally acclaimed musician, composer, and educator. He is the world’s first jazz artist to perform and compose across the full jazz spectrum – from its New Orleans roots, to bebop, to modern jazz. Jon Batiste is a New Orleans-bred, New York-based musician, educator, and humanitarian. The two discuss the genius of jazz with Walter Isaacson, president and CEO of the Aspen Institute.


John Lewis, a longtime civil rights activist and US Representative, recounts to Gwen Ifill of PBS NewsHour his experience preparing for the first Freedom Ride.