Skip to main content Accessibility help

CRITICAL CONNECTIONS: Trust-building as a Prerequisite to Systems Change

  • Susan M. Glisson (a1)


How do you come to trust a person you perceive to be your enemy? Such challenges face communities grappling with troubled racial histories. This paper introduces how two sites of historic conflict have begun to address their complicated and painful pasts in order to heal history’s wounds and create a more just and inclusive future. Ordinary residents in Philadelphia, MS, and Birmingham, AL, are making their communities better at building trust in order to tell the truth about their pasts. Both communities are notorious for their racist histories and especially for the collusion of law enforcement in imposing White supremacy through violence. But through a facilitated process of storytelling and historical dialogue, a group in each community cultivated a space of trust and healing that are expanding the possibilities for belonging and equity. Drawing on a first-hand account of my role in community building and race relations as well as placing that work within a larger framework of social movement organizing, I show that telling the truth about the past through stories can transform and uplift distressed and inequitable communities.


Corresponding author

*Corresponding author: Susan Glisson, P. O. Box 2867, Oxford, MS 38655.


Hide All
Associated Press (2008). Debate Highlights Mississippi’s Racial Evolution. < > (Accessed December 7, 2018).
Boggs, Grace L. (2012). Reimagine Everything. Excerpted from “On Revolution: A Conversation Between Grace Lee Boggs and Angela Davis” held on March 2, 2012 at the Pauley Ballroom, University of California, Berkeley. < > (Accessed December 7, 2018).
Boggs, James and Lee, Grace (1974). Revolution and Evolution in the Twentieth Century. New York: Monthly Review Press.
brown, adrienne maree (2017). Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds. Chico, CA: AK Press.
Corcoran, Rob (2010). Public remarks at an America Healing conference. Ladd, Donna (2005). Civil Rights Education Summit in Neshoba County. < > (Accessed. December 7, 2018).
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race
  • ISSN: 1742-058X
  • EISSN: 1742-0598
  • URL: /core/journals/du-bois-review-social-science-research-on-race
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed