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Understanding American Denial: Workshop and Seminar

August 16, 2017 @ 9:30 am - 4:00 pm

We are at capacity for this event. Thank you to those who registered.

Understanding American Denial: Workshop and Seminar

On August 16, 2017, the Stratford Hall working group will present a free workshop and seminar on the film American Denial.

The Workshop

This workshop is not a workshop on racism; it is a workshop on understanding the civic infrastructure that prevents all of our citizens from enjoying the benefits inherent in the American Creed. This workshop seeks as an educational experience on the lasting legacy of Gunnar Myrdal’s research study An American Dilemma and the associated film American Denial.

  • Registration is FREE to the public and required, please contact Jon Bachman at jbachman@stratfordhall.org or 804-493-1972 to register.
  • Lunch will be free upon request from a limited choice of box lunches (two meat, one vegetarian)
  • There is a limit of 35 people maximum for attendance
  • For educators, CEUs are available upon request

Gunnar Myrdal

Workshop Objectives

  • Developing the knowledge domains of who we are as Americans
  • Understanding the attitudes and values embedded in the American Creed
  • Developing methods of holding crucial conversations

Who should attend:

  • People interested in a deeper understanding of American democracy
  • People involved with community work
  • Educators
  • People engaged in politics
  • Museum educators
  • People engaged or interested in American Studies
  • People interested in conflict resolution

Workshop schedule:

  • 9:30 a.m.  Intro to workshop
  • 9:30 a.m.  Selection of box lunches
  • 9:45 a.m.   Viewing and follow up on the film American Denial
  • 10:15 – 11:30 a.m.  Discussion: What is denial?
  • 11:30 – 12:30 p.m. Lunch
  • 12:30 -3:30 p.m. Topics for discussion
    • What is the American creed
    • American values
    • The legacy of slavery
    • Social controls
    • Challenges facing our nation
  •  3:30 – 4:00 p.m. Attendee survey



“Many of the ugly pages of American history have been obscured and forgotten. A society is always eager to cover misdeeds with a cloak of forgetfulness, but no society can fully repress an ugly past when ravages persist into the present.  America owes a debt of justice which it has only begun to pay. If it loses the will to finish or slackens in its determination, history will recall its crimes and the country that would be great will lack the indispensable element of greatness–justice.”Martin Luther King, Jr.

“The uneven application of the American creed creates a corrosive and widespread problem in our society, and we need to do better job at confronting in our towns in our neighborhoods and most importantly in ourselves.”—Author unknown

The American Creed

I believe in the United States of America, as a government of the people, by the people, for the people; whose just powers are derived from the consent of the governed; a democracy in a republic; a sovereign Nation of many sovereign States; a perfect union, one and inseparable; established upon these principles of freedom, equality, justice, and humanity for which American patriots sacrificed their lives and fortunes.William Tyler Page

The American Creed is the summary of the fundamental principles of the American political faith as set forth in its greatest documents: the Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to the Constitution, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, and Daniel Webster’s reply to Robert Y. Hayne in the Senate in 1830.


Featured faculty:

Dr. Johnson facilitates group discussion


  • Dr. John L. Johnson is an educational psychologist, specializing in psychoeducational work with emotionally disturbed children and youth with emphasis on achievement motivation, and intrapersonal and interpersonal dynamics in programs for high risk students. He has spent 23 years as a university professor and has held academic appointments in special education, counseling and mental health.


  • Dr. Carolyne Ashton has spent 27 years specializing in conflict resolution, cultural diversity, peace education, and collaborative problem solving. Her work has been primarily focused on interethnic and interracial groups in the U.S., Asia, the Caucasus, the Balkans, Africa and South and Central America.  She has provided services at the local, state, national and international levels.  Dr. Ashton currently works at the Lloyd F. Moss Free Clinic in Fredericksburg, Virginia.  She is a graduate of Trinity University Washington (DC) (B.S. in International Relations) and George Mason University (VA) (Ph.D.).


  • Jon Bachman, M.Ed., is an educator, filmmaker, musician, writer and paleontologist, and, for the last 7 years, the Manager of Public Events at Stratford Hall in Westmoreland County, Virginia. 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.

Online materials to listen and consider:




About the film American Denial

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. The film weaves a narrative that exposes some of the potential underlying causes of racial biases still rooted in America’s systems and institutions today.

 Who was Gunnar Myrdal?

He was an intellectual social visionary who later won a Nobel Prize in economics.  Myrdal first visited the “Jim Crow South” at the invitation of the Carnegie Corporation in 1938, where he was “shocked to the core by the entire evils [he] saw.” With a team of scholars that included black political scientist Ralph Bunche, Myrdal wrote his massive 1,500-page investigation of race, now considered a classic.

What is the American Creed and how is it confronted by the film?

An American Dilemma challenged the veracity of the American creed of equality, justice, and liberty for all. It argued that critically implicit in that creed — which Myrdal called America’s “state religion” — was a more shameful conflict: white Americans explained away the lack of opportunity for blacks by labeling them inferior. Myrdal argued that this view justified practices and policies that openly undermined and oppressed the lives of black citizens. Seventy years later, are we still a society living in this state of denial, in an era marked by the election of the nation’s first black president?

What is the relevance of the film for modern viewers?

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.

How can I order a copy?



For more information about this program, contact Jon Bachman at Jbachman@stratfordhall.org, or by calling 804-493-1972.




August 16, 2017
9:30 am - 4:00 pm

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