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Forum on Racial Understanding: American Denial

March 25, 2017 @ 10:00 am - 12:00 pm

Join us on March 25, 2017, at 10 a.m. for a free showing of the film American Denial in the duPont Library at Stratford Hall.  The showing is an example of Community Cinema and a public forum.  It is a space for people to gather who are connected by a love of stories and a belief in their power to change the world. The showing will be a tool to facilitate dialogue and deepen understanding of the complex issues raised in the film American Denial.

The film will be followed by a moderated discussion. The film follows the story of Swedish researcher Gunnar Myrdal whose landmark 1944 study, An American Dilemma, probed deep into the United States’ racial psyche. It weaves a narrative that exposes some of the potential underlying causes of racial biases still rooted in America’s systems and institutions today.  American Denial sheds light on the unconscious political and moral world of modern Americans, using archival footage, newsreels, nightly news reports, and rare southern home movies from the ‘30s and ‘40s, as well as research footage, websites, and YouTube films showing psychological testing of racial attitudes. Exploring “stop-and-frisk” practices, the incarceration crisis, and racially-patterned poverty, the film features a wide array of historians, psychologists, and sociologists who offer expert insight and share their own personal, unsettling stories. The result is a unique and provocative film that challenges our assumptions about who we are and what we really believe.

Schedule of Activities:

  • 9:30 a.m. Doors open to duPont Library
  • 10:00 – 10:15 a.m. Introduction of presenters
  • 10:15 – 11:15 a.m. Film showing
  • 11:15 – 12:00 noon Q/A and discussion

Light refreshments prior to the screening


John L. Johnson, Ed.D.

Dr. Johnson was a member of the Syracuse University faculty and administration from 1966 to 1971. During that time he was assistant professor in the School of Education’s Division of Special Education, Director of the African American Studies program, and created the Croton-on-Campus program, which brought local school children from inner city schools to classrooms on campus to provide learning opportunities they would otherwise not have. In 1967, he was asked to serve on a consultation panel for the United State Office of Education.

Johnson resigned from Syracuse University in 1971 to become the associate superintendent of schools for specialized education in Washington, D.C. Dr. John L. Johnson continues to balance his role as an educator and an activist and remains committed to finding solutions to problems of inequality.

Jon M. Bachman

Jon Bachman, M.Ed. is an educator, filmmaker, musician, writer and paleontologist, and for the last 6 years has served as the Manager of Public Events at Stratford Hall.  He retired from the Prince William County School Division in 2002 after serving 40 years as a teacher, curriculum specialist and middle school principal.  He has worked for over 20 years producing and hosting nationally televised programs on a myriad of topics.  Most recently, he collaborated with the eleven state-recognized tribes of Virginia and the Virginia Department of Education in developing programing exploring the current conditions of the tribes.  Prior to that, he supervised a state-wide federally funded health campaign Dying to Drive, aimed at reducing teen car fatalities.  The campaign resulted in state legislation that would form the core of HB 1782 legislation.


Registration is not required.  Suggested age for viewing and participating is 13 years-adult.  FREE TO THE PUBLIC.  For questions about the program, please contact Jon Bachman at 804-493-1972 or Jbachman@stratfordhall.org.



Gunnar Myrdal

Gunnar Myrdal

In 1938, Swedish researcher and Nobel Laureate Gunnar Myrdal plunged into America’s Jim Crow South. His resulting study, An American Dilemma (1944) posed a profoundly unsettling question: How can a people devoted to the American creed of equality, justice, and opportunity for all continue to erect obstacles to those ends based on race? Through Myrdal’s story and contemporary racial dynamics, the film explores how denial, cognitive dissonance, and implicit bias persist and shape all of our lives. Archival footage, drawings, newsreels, nightly news reports and rare Southern home movies from the ‘30s and ‘40s thread through the story, as well as psychological testing and racial attitudes.
Hear from experts – historians, psychologists, sociologists and Myrdal’s daughters – all filmed directly to camera. Witnesses exhume unconscious feelings that Americans have about themselves and others and ask: How to reconcile individual feelings and thoughts with the bedrock values of our democracy?
A Film by Llewellyn Smith, Christine Herbes-Sommers and Kelly Thomson, produced in 2014, American Denial is a co-production of Vital Pictures and Independent Television Service.  Funds provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the Fletcher Foundation.


March 25, 2017
10:00 am - 12:00 pm

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