WHAT'S THE OVERALL MESSAGE OF THE GOOD FIGHT?
"The book has three distinct goals. The first is to remind readers about the extraordinary achievements of the many groups featured in this book. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the never-ending onslaught of bad news that feeds the daily media cycle but, if you are a member of a group that has experienced hatred or injustice, would you prefer to live in 1917 or 2017? That’s by no means to say things aren’t still challenging today but to put America today into perspective it’s useful to recognize how much real progress has been made over the past 100 years.
The second thing this book was intended to do was to acknowledge America’s failings so we can learn from them in order to not make the same mistakes again. In Germany, every high school student is taught about the horrors of the Holocaust to prevent anything like that from happening again. But only recently has America begun the process of owning up to the darker chapters in our national history. The Good Fight reflects on stories that have long been ignored or buried, with the intention of making sure our failures to protect the most vulnerable amongst us are not repeated.
The third goal is to shatter the complacency with which so many Americans live, the way so many of us take so many hard-fought battles of the past for granted. More and more Americans are realizing that they can no longer sit back and hope that someone else steps up and fixes America’s problems.
The book’s “call to action” invites every reader to be a change maker, to feel personally responsible for combating hatred and prejudice and injustice."
HOW DID THE IDEA OF THIS BOOK COME ABOUT AND DID THE BOOK’S CONCEPT CHANGE FOLLOWING THE RESULTS OF THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION?
"Last year, two of us—one a photojournalist, film producer, and curator; the other an innovator and entrepreneur—were sitting together at the annual TED conference dinner. We started comparing notes on the state of the world. Jonathan Greenblatt had recently wrapped up a stint at the White House where he served as Special Assistant to President Barack Obama and Director of the Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation.
I had just finished The Human Face of Big Data, a PBS TV special and large-format illustrated book exploring the impact of our increasingly connected technological world on civilization. Jonathan was about to embark on a new job as CEO of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a nonprofit with a 100-year history of fighting anti-Semitism and discrimination in all its forms.
As we discussed the enormous strides that the United States has made against intolerance over the past century, we realized that neither of us could recall a book dedicated to celebrating, in words and photographs, the many Americans who had fought for the right to be treated equally, with dignity and respect, despite differences such as race, faith, national origin, or sexual orientation. That evening, we envisioned The Good Fight, a book aimed at reminding us how far we had come over the past century.
By the following summer, the project was well underway, and we were confident that the book’s message was in tune with the times. But as the 2016 presidential race legitimized long-simmering hatreds and bigotries, we realized that this book needed to be more than simply a retrospective. With so many of the nation’s achievements against injustice potentially in jeopardy, we expanded the scope of the project to encompass the many challenges that America faces today and to serve as a call to action."
WHY IS SUCH A BOOK SO IMPORTANT AND SO RELEVANT TODAY?
"While these stories are from the not-too-distant past, many of them are already forgotten or eclipsed in the collective memory, but we cannot attain full equal rights in this country if we forget our past struggles and the valiant efforts and sacrifices made by key figures and lesser-known heroes in the struggle for civil rights and equal justice. Because of their achievements and those of many other heroes and pioneers, the United States has become a more accepting country. And yet, inequalities and prejudice persist, despite this progress, and we hear daily the new narratives of Americans’ struggles to overcome the barriers built by hatred."
HOW DO THE STIRRING IMAGES AND MOVING ESSAYS IN THE GOOD FIGHT ADVANCE OUR DISCUSSION ON CIVIL RIGHTS AND LEGAL PROTECTIONS FOR ALL GROUPS?
"The images help us to remember the dramatic events and watershed moments in history that led to profound changes in society. And the essays contextualize the images and help us to understand each of the struggles chronicled. Important moments in time were captured with a series of snapshots. The authors also recognized, up front, that it would be impossible to tell every story of every ethnic group, religion or community, and so they aimed to use the power of essays, the potency of photography, the drama of video, and the impact of music to fully convey the multidimensional experience that is the United States."