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Racism, Romance and Gone with the Wind with Patricia Williams

This nostalgic tale full of myths about the Southern belle, Southern culture and wisteria-covered plantations may be seductive, but at its core lies slavery, which it overlooks

Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell’s novel about the antebellum South, is the second most popular book in the USA after the Bible. The Oscar-winning 1939 film adaptation of the book is the top-grossing film of all time (adjusted for inflation). But to celebrated legal scholar Patricia Williams, the continued popularity of Gone with the Wind is just one example of how society has papered over the story of slavery. As she argued when she came to Intelligence Squared on May 10, this nostalgic tale full of myths about the Southern belle, Southern culture and wisteria-covered plantations may be seductive, but at its core lies slavery, which it overlooks. Instead it portrays the slave characters such as Mammy and Prissy as docile and content, more concerned with the fortunes of their masters than their own liberation.

Williams, whose maternal great-grandmother was a slave and whose great-grandfather was a slave-owner, believes this papering over of slavery lies at the heart of America’s discontent today, with its people more segregated, incarcerated and separated from each other than ever before. She unpicked the current debates around immigration, freedom of speech and the culture wars to reveal that our ability to dehumanise one another can be traced all the way from Donald Trump’s (now deleted) Twitter account to the plantation.


Speakers

Speaker

Patricia Williams

Professor of Law and author of Giving A Damn: Racism, Romance and Gone with the Wind


James L. Dohr Professor of Law Emerita at Columbia Law School, who has published widely in the areas of race, gender, and law, and on other issues of legal theory and legal writing. Her books include The Alchemy of Race and Rights; The Rooster's Egg; and Seeing a ColorBlind Future: The Paradox of Race. Her latest book is Giving A Damn: Racism, Romance and Gone with the Wind.
Chair

Bonnie Greer

Author, playwright and broadcaster


Author, playwright and broadcaster. Her plays have been produced on the BBC and in the West End. She was Deputy Chairman of the British Museum’s Board of Trustees and is former Chancellor of Kingston University. She is an Honorary Doctor of Writing from Kingston, and an Honorary Doctor of Drama from The Royal Glasgow Conservatoire.

 

 

Speakers are subject to change.