In a blistering Independence Day weekend interview with PBS’s Bill Moyers, historian Khalil Gibran Muhammad dissected the contradictions between the American belief in equality and freedom and its actual treatment of its own citizens.
Muhammad, who is the head of the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, told Moyers, “History is all around us. … People’s ideas about the past … shape their own sense of identity and shape how they imagine the world should be. … History is the building block of all knowledge in our society, and it is the most important part of the most significant tradition that human beings have, which is story-telling.”
He spoke in particular of the role of the founding fathers in perpetuating slavery, saying “they had a great responsibility for building what would become American democracy, and in that regard they failed miserably.”
“We were never taught,” Moyers commented. “that these men actually created a government, a constitution designed to protect the further acquisition of property for the privileged classes.”