Race & Identity

The January 2017 women's march in Montpelier was followed by what organizers called a Unity Rally on the steps of the Statehouse. The march addressed issues like racism and civil rights.
Amy Kolb Noyes / VPR

The Vermont Human Rights Commission is a state agency whose sole mission is to protect and preserve the human rights of Vermonters. The small agency—just three investigators, an executive director and an executive assistant—works on discrimination in housing, state government, employment and in public spaces like schools and restaurants. Now the Commission's new executive director is pledging to take a more proactive approach to fighting discrimination. 

Courtesy of UVM

Growing up in the fifties in Morrisville at People’s Academy, our spring event was 'Kake Walk' - a parody of a racist amusement staged by slaves for their owners. The owners, king and queen of Kake Walk, sat in large chairs and watched as slaves high-stepped towards them in pairs with their arms pitched up and back. The grand prize for the highest steppers was a kind of “plantation cake.” Hence the name Kake Walk for an event that persisted in Vermont in my childhood and at UVM until 1969.

Four sixth-graders stand in a row looking at the camera
Peter Hirschfeld / VPR

A controversial exhibit at the Champlain Valley Fair has lawmakers contemplating new restrictions on “the display of individuals for money.”

Courtesy of UVM

Known as Kake Walk, one of the highlights of the campus social calendar, it’s been described as “a standard act in minstrel theatre, originated on plantations as a competition among slaves” and UVM now has a digital collection of 231 items documenting it that date from 1895 onward.

Can the Holocaust be funny? That's the premise of The Last Laugh, a documentary film that features Holocaust survivors, as well as Jewish comedians, trying to answer that question. It's being screened this weekend at the University of Vermont, followed by a panel discussion with some of the filmmakers.

Jose Luis Magana / AP

I’m a young, black, cis-gendered man, and when it comes to the issues that impact Black men every day I want to claim a place at the table, too.

A black and white photograph of a woman laying on a bed in a Maine cabin.
Donna Gottschalk

Donna Gottschalk, who now lives on a farm in Victory, documented the LGBTQ scene in New York and San Francisco in the 1960s and '70s. Her photos — some of which have never been displayed publicly — are featured in a solo exhibition called “Brave, Beautiful Outlaws” at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art in New York City.

We're talking about racism in Vermont with a panel sharing their thoughts and experiences.
FotografiaBasica / iStock

Former State Rep. Kiah Morris reported a long campaign of racist harassment directed at her and her family. It's put a spotlight on the issue of racism in Vermont. We're hearing from a panel of Vermonters to talk about their experiences and thoughts on racism in our state.

Closeup of crowd in winter gear gathered in front of the Statehouse in Montpelier for the 2019 Women's March rally.
Bayla Metzger / VPR

A large crowd gathered on the lawn in front of the Vermont Statehouse in Montpelier on Saturday for a Women’s March rally. The event was held in solidarity with marches around the country, in cities including Washington, D.C., New York and San Francisco.

Attorney General TJ Donovan announced the results of the investigation into the alleged racial harassment of former state Rep.  Kiah Morris on Januart 14, 2019.
Howard Weiss-Tisman / VPR

Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan has released findings on the alleged racial harassment of former state Rep. Kiah Morris, saying that Morris was a victim of harassment but there is not enough evidence to prosecute. We're talking with the attorney general about the investigation, his office's new bias incident reporting system and his other priorities in the coming year.

Howard Weiss-Tisman / VPR

Attorney General TJ Donovan said Monday he will not file charges in the reported racial harassment of former State Rep. Kiah Morris, though he believes Morris and her family were victims.

Bob Kinzel / VPR

The Vermont Human Rights Commission saw a sharp increase in the number of cases it accepted due to discrimination based on race or national origin last year.

Anti-Semitic and racist graffiti on a hay storage barn at Andersonville Farm in Glover, Vermont.
Jasper Hill Farm

Reported hate crimes went up in Vermont last year according to the FBI. It was the second year the state saw an increase, but the exact number of hate crimes that take place in the state remains unclear.

Steffen Gillom, Sha'an Mouliert, Tabitha Pohl-Moore, Beverly Little Thunder and Wafic Faour, from left, are among the leaders of color asking Bernie Sanders to do a better job bringing social justice advocates from Vermont into his "progressive movement."
Peter Hirschfeld / VPR

Sen. Bernie Sanders has in many ways become the figurehead of the national progressive movement, but leaders of color in Vermont say his spotty track record on racial justice issues could undermine his status as its leader.

Now, those same advocates are trying to lay the groundwork for what they hope will be a more collaborative relationship with Sanders in the future.

Alex Pial sitting at a table with one of his children during a memorial service for his cousin Silic Yial Nai.
Emily Corwin / VPR

A man is found dead in the Winooski River. Three days later, police announce his death to local news media. The man’s family says: they should have been told first.

Ed Koren / Button Street Press

At Bear Pond Books recently, in the midst of what passes for a huge crowd in downtown Montpelier, Ed Koren, the New Yorker cartoonist who has lived in Brookfield for decades, was signing copies of his new collection of cartoons.

Sen. Bernie Sanders and Jane O'Meara Sanders at a podium in 2016 with Sanders' campaign website displayed.
John Locher / Associated Press

As Bernie Sanders seeks to broaden his national appeal among the black and Latino voters who would be critical to his success in a 2020 presidential campaign, the white senator from Vermont is struggling to improve a complicated relationship with racial justice leaders in his own backyard.

Kate Schubart

We just attended a family wedding in Atlanta. And it was the kind of rare family event that stays with one for a lifetime.

Tammy Yates

Many families avoid controversial topics during the holidays, but as my own family has shown me, this can be a missed opportunity to learn more about one another, to share what we’re learning and passionate about, and to practice constructive dialogue.

In a state that's nearly 95 percent white, how do Vermont's colleges and universities attract a diverse student body?
smartboy10 / iStock

How do you create a diverse student body in a state like Vermont? For some schools, it's by recruiting students from out-of-state. We're looking at ways Vermont colleges and universities recruit for diversity and how they support students who make the move to Vermont.

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