In the wake of the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, in 2014, then-Governor Jay Nixon formed a commission to address racial inequities. The commission issued more than 100 calls to action, many of them focusing on education. It found that many families of color had been struggling for generations to get a quality education with so many obstacles put in their way—and this despite favorable congressional legislation and Supreme Court decisions. A team of journalists decided to shine a light on these inequities by focusing on minority families that lived and worked just a few miles from Ferguson for a good part of the 20th and 21st centuries. By presenting a family saga—portraying the everyday-ness of their lives in the 1920s, the 1930s, right up to the present day—the team is hoping to inspire citizens to advocate for progress and reform.
The goal is to write 12 sagas over the course of three years, presenting the stories in print, online, and in audio, and video formats. The team will also hold public events in schools, places of worship, business, and civic places where the families will share their experiences. Participants will then be challenged to consider #onethingicando to address racial inequities. The Pulitzer Center is supporting the second story in the series. It concerns the Washington family, and it starts with a racially-charged incident involving Teddy Washington, a few of his fellow students, and a suburban police department that made the national news.