JAMESTOWN – A nationally recognized historian considered the foremost scholar on the political and social work of Eleanor Roosevelt is in Jamestown Thursday and Friday to participate in an event involving the Robert H. Jackson Center and several area school districts.
Dr. Allida Black is scheduled to appear at the Reg Lenna Center for the Arts Friday for the Jackson Center’s 15th annual Young Readers Program, which uses literature to engage young people with their world by inspiring them to read and hone their analytical skills and writing ability.
Black, who describers hereself as a “Harry Potter Freak,” is in town to share with students the relationship between the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that was ushered forward by Eleanor Roosevelt, the work of groups such as Amnesty International, and J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.
Prior to her appearance on Friday, Black also appeared at the Jackson Center Thursday night as part of the awards ceremony for local students who won this year’s essay contest. She took some time out to talk with WRFA and explained why it’s important for her to participate in the Young Readers program.
“I love the Robert H. Jackson Center. It’s one of my favorite places in the country. And I’m a Harry Potter freak,” Black explained. “Very few people really understand the connection between Harry Potter and human rights. So I am here to honor Justice Jackson, J. K. Rowling, and Eleanor Roosevelt by talking about human rights and all of its iterations. Whether it’s in the glorious, magical word of Harry Potter or in the complex magic of human struggle.”
Black added that while some people may not realize it, the Harry Potter series is intended to focus on and teach the issue of Human rights for all.
“I think if you understand what human rights are, then [Harry Potter] is essential. It’s a story of kids finding their voice, of kids learning to manage joy, of kids wanting to combat fear to stand up and create a world where evil, torture, bigotry, hunger, homelessness and war don’t exist. I mean, Doubledore’s army is an army for human rights,” Black said.
During Thursday night’s event at the Jackson Center, Black also sat down for an interview with local attorney and Jackson Center board member Greg Peterson to discuss Eleanor Roosevelt and the ongoing effort to raise awareness of the need for human rights for all people, regardless of who they are or where they are from.
Black also spent time explaining the connection between Justice Robert Jackson, who was the chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials following World War II and Eleanor Roosevelt, who used her status as the country’s former first lady to elevate the Human Rights issue to the international stage following the war. That included her effort to establish the first ever world-wide recognized Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was accepted by the United Nations in December 1948.
Black said that Roosevelt saw the human rights issue as something that needs to continue moving forward in order to help prevent the atrocities of World War II from being repeated.
WRFA also asked Black how Mrs. Roosevelt would respond to the current political climate in both the U.S. and around the globe, and whether or not there is some backsliding taking place regarding the human rights effort.
“Democracy’s history is really like a rubber band. Democracy expands and it contrasts and expands and contrasts. But it only expands when people have the courage to act. Right now a lot of us talk but we don’t act. So what I hope we see is that people have the courage of their convictions, the courage to question, and the courage to reach out to people whom they may disagree with, but to figure out how to keep the conversation going,” Black said, adding, “Eleanor would say two things. She would say compromise is good as long as you compromise up. Another thing she would say is, ‘Staying aloof is not a solution. It is a cowardly evasion.'”
Dr. Allida Black is the Managing Director of the Allenswood Group, LLC, a collaborative founded to empower individuals and strengthen democracy through civic engagement, grassroots activism and education. Her career spans public service and the academy. She helped found the Voter Empowerment Project, trained aspiring women candidates across the nation and developed a mentoring program for the State Department and the UN High Commission for Human Rights. She has also managed the Women’s Political Participation Team for the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs. A Research Professor of History at The George Washington University and Editor Emeritus/Advisory Board Chair of The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Dr. Black has written/edited ten books and several articles on women, politics, and human rights, and created the highly acclaimed fdr4freedoms Digital Initiative, a web-based education program dedicated to the Four Freedoms. Allida Black has a Ph. D from George Washington University.