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Michele Norris: "Our Hidden Conversations"

Peabody Award–winning journalist Michele Norris offers a transformative dialogue on race and identity in America, unearthed through her decade-long work at The Race Card Project.

The prompt seemed simple: Race. Your Story. Six Words. Please Send.

The answers, though, have been challenging and complicated. In the twelve years since award-winning journalist Michele Norris first posed that question, over half a million people have submitted their stories to The Race Card Project inbox. The stories are shocking in their depth and candor, spanning the full spectrum of race, ethnicity, identity, and class. Even at just six words, the micro-essays can pack quite a punch, revealing, fear, pain, triumph, and sometimes humor. Responses such as: You’re Pretty for a Black girl. White privilege, enjoy it, earned it. Lady, I don’t want your purse. My ancestors massacred Indians near here. Urban living has made me racist. I’m only Asian when it’s convenient.

Many go even further than just six words, submitting backstories, photos, and heirlooms: a collection much like a scrapbook of American candor you rarely get to see. Our Hidden Conversations is a unique compilation of stories, richly reported essays, and photographs providing a window into America during a tumultuous era. This powerful book offers an honest, if sometimes uncomfortable, conversation about race and identity, permitting us to eavesdrop on deep-seated thoughts, private discussions, and long submerged memories.

The breadth of this work came as a surprise to Norris. For most of the twelve years she has collected these stories, many were submitted by white respondents. This unexpected panorama provides a rare 360-degree view of how Americans see themselves and one another.

Our Hidden Conversations reminds us that even during times of great division, honesty, grace, and a willing ear can provide a bridge toward empathy and maybe even understanding.

Michele Norris will be joined in conversation by civil rights lawyer and former President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Sherrilyn Ifill. 

About the Author: 

Michele Norris is one of America’s most trusted voices in journalism, earning several honors over a long career, including Peabody, Emmy, Dupont, and Goldsmith awards. She is a columnist for The Washington Post Opinion Section, the host of the Audible Original Podcast, Your Mama’s Kitchen, and from 2002 to 2012 she was a cohost of NPR’s All Things Considered. Norris is also the founding director of The Race Card Project, a Peabody Award–winning narrative archive where people around the world share their reflections on identity—in just six words. Her first book, The Grace of Silence, was named one of the best books of the year by the San Francisco Chronicle, The Christian Science Monitor, and The Kansas City Star. Before joining NPR, Norris spent almost ten years as a reporter for ABC News covering politics, policy, and the dynamics of social change. Early in her career, she also worked as a staff writer for The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and the Los Angeles Times.

About the Moderator: 

Sherrilyn Ifill is a civil rights lawyer and scholar. From 2013-2022, she served as the President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), the nation’s premier civil rights law organization fighting for racial justice and equality. She recently served as a Ford Foundation Fellow and as the Klinsky Visiting Professor for Leadership & Progress at Howard Law School. Ifill is currently the Vernon Jordan Distinguished Professor in Civil Rights at Howard Law School. where later this year she will launch the 14th Amendment Center for Law & Democracy. Ifill holds a fellowship at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Program Information: ​​​​​​

  • This FREE event will be presented in-person and virtually.   
  • To attend in person you must register here.
  • Doors will open to registered attendees at 6 pm. 
  • Free parking vouchers are available to program attendees who park at the Franklin Street Garage (15 W. Franklin Street) after 4pm.  Ask Pratt event staff for your parking voucher prior to or after the program. 

Tuesday, February 6 at 7:00pm to 8:00pm

Central Library, Wheeler Auditorium
400 Cathedral Street, Baltimore, MD 21201

Event Type

Writers LIVE!, Virtual Event, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Age Group

Adults

Compass Category

Writers LIVE at the Library

Event Publisher

Cleve Corner, Manager of Speaker & Author Engagement

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