"The Broken Heart of America: St. Louis and the Violent History of the United States"

May 21, 2020

Our guest is Walter Johnson, the Winthrop Professor of History and Professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard University. His new book is a far-reaching, unflinching, and complicated account of race relations in his hometown: St. Louis, Missouri. From Lewis and Clark's 1804 expedition to the 2014 uprising in Ferguson, the course of American events, Johnson argues, has been charted in St. Louis. His book moreover shows how the imperialism, racism, and capitalism that have defined the city have likewise defined our nation's history. As the historian Cornel West notes: "This book is a magisterial history of the emergence and development of racial capitalism and the rise and decline of American empire examined through the lens of St. Louis. The complex dynamics of eviction, extraction, and exploitation as well as resilience and resistance are laid bare from the indigenous city of Cahokia in the eleventh century (larger than then London) to St. Louis, a frontier post and later metropolis of the U.S. western empire. From ruling class elites Thomas Hart Benton and Harland Bartholomew and oppositional artists Kate Chopin and Tef Poe to black and socialist insurgents, 'The Broken Heart of America' tells the best story of America that we have in the spirit of W.E.B. Du Bois."