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Date & time

Jan 26, 2015, 5:00-7:00 pm EST


Weill Hall, Annenberg Auditorium
735 S. State Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Free and open to the public.

Reception to follow.


As part of the 2015 Martin Luther King, Jr. Symposium, the Center for Public Policy in Diverse Societies presents a screening of American Denial, followed by a discussion with producer/director Llewellyn Smith, Martha S. Jones, and moderated by the Ford School's own Joy Rohde.

The film will begin promptly at 5:00pm and runs approx. 55 minutes. The discussion will begin at 6:00pm.

About the film:

American Denial follows the story of foreign researcher and Nobel Laureate Gunnar Myrdal whose study, An American Dilemma (1944), provided a provocative inquiry into the dissonance between stated beliefs as a society and what is perpetuated and allowed in the name of those beliefs. His inquiry into the United States' racial psyche becomes a lens for modern inquiry into how denial, cognitive dissonance, and unrecognized, unconscious attitudes continue to dominate racial dynamics in American life. The film’s unusual narrative sheds a unique light on the unconscious political and moral world of modern Americans. Archival footage, newsreels, nightly news reports, and rare southern home movies from the '30s and '40s thread through the story, as well as psychological testing into racial attitudes from research footage, websites, and YouTube films.

Hear from experts — historians, psychologists, sociologists and Myrdal’s daughters — all filmed directly to camera. Witnesses work to exhume unconscious feelings Americans have about themselves and others — fascinated by the Myrdal question, and by how much true thinking and feeling unfolds in social contexts in an unconscious mode. What are the implications for individual responsibility and social justice in democracies like America's?

Read more about American Denial here:

Watch the upcoming broadcast of the film on Independent Lens on PBS on Mon Feb 23 at 10/9c. (check local listings)

From Llewellyn Smith's bio:

Over more than 30 years Peabody and Dupont award winner Llewellyn Smith has created a body of filmwork that continues to compel engaged with contemporary social justice issues and American history in the United States and abroad. 

Before joining Annie to found Blue Spark Collaborative, Llew was president and founder of Vital Pictures (, the independent Boston-based documentary also dedicated to social justice concerns. There he was co-executive producer for the PBS series Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making Us Sick? (2008)—a look at the surprising impact social and economic conditions have in determining health and longevity. Unnatural Causes won the Council On Foundations Henry Hampton Award, as well as the 2009 Alfred I. duPont Columbia Award, and the National Academies of Sciences 2009 Communications Award for best science documentary. Llew served as director-producer for the Vital Pictures documentary Herskovits At The Heart Of Blackness (2010) for PBS series Independent Lens a film of visual innovation that examines consequences of race identity politics; the documentary won the John O'Connor Film Award of the American Historical Association and Hollywood Black Film Festival, Best Documentary. In 2012 Llew directed and produced Vital Pictures’ Gaining Ground: Building Community on Dudley Street. The film follows community organizing and community building effort over a two-year period in a remarkable low-income Boston neighborhood where Smith grew up.

As a writer/producer, Llew Smith was an associate producer for the groundbreaking PBS series Eyes On The Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years (1987). 

In 1989 he was recruited join the development team at WGBH/Boston to launch the award-winning PBS history series The American Experience; as Series Editor Llew played a central role in origination, development and acquisition of more than 70 programs for the series. Llew would later was become Project Director for the Peabody and Emmy award-winning series Africans In America: America’s Journey Through Slavery (1997). He directed and produced the final film in the series Judgment Day, recounting events and conflict in the last years leading up to the Civil War. 

For American Experience, Llew produced and directed Jubilee Singers: Sacrifice and Glory (2001), the story of how former slaves from Fisk University preserved slave spirituals in concert performances and shared them with the world in years following the Civil War. 

For the 3-hour PBS series Race: The Power Of An Illusion (2003), Smith produced the program The House We Live In for California Newsreel. Later Smith returned to WGBH to produce/director for the 3-hour special Reconstruction: The Second Civil War (2004), winner of the Eric Barnouw award for best history documentary series. Llew’s film in the series, Revolution, received an Emmy nomination for best documentary. Smith was later producer/director for the 2-hour NOVA biography of Dr. Percy Julian, the pioneering industrial chemist and civil rights activist, Forgotten Genius (2007). Forgotten Genius was honored for broadcast excellence by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), won the National Science Writers Award, and was nominated for a Writers Guild award.

Most recently, Llew produced and directed Wounded Places: Confronting PTSD In America’s Shell-Shocked Cities— part of the up-coming PBS documentary series The Raising of America: Early Childhood and the Future of Our Nation (Spring, 2015). He was director and producer for the upcoming film American Denial (produced with Vital Pictures) which explores how we deny the existence of ongoing systems and practices of racial oppression in American society. American Denial will be broadcast February 2015 as part of the PBS series Independent Lens.

From Martha S. Jones' bio:

Martha S. Jones is Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, and ​Associate Professor of History and Afroamerican Studies, and Visiting Professor of Law at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Jones holds a Ph.D. in history from Columbia University (2001) and a J.D. from the CUNY School of Law (1987). ​She is a historian of race and law whose work examines slavery and freedom, citizenship, and the rights of women. Jones is also a writer of political commentary and creative non-fiction on issues of race and rights in the United States. At Michigan Law, Jones is co-director of the Program in Race, Law & History. Her books include the critically acclaimed All Bound Up Together: The Woman Question in African American Public Culture, 1830-1900 (2007​), Toward an Intellectual History of Black Women (2015), and the forthcoming Birthright Citizens: A History of Race and Rights in Antebellum America. Prior to joining the University of Michigan faculty, Jones was a New York City-based public interest lawyer.

About Community Cinema:This season, Community Cinema celebrates 10 years of uniting people through independent film. Available in more than 75 cities nationwide, Community Cinema presents free screenings and discussions around the Emmy Award-winning PBS documentary series Independent Lens. By igniting conversations around issues that affect us all, Community Cinema creates real and lasting change — both at home and around the world. Learn more at


Co-sponsored by the Institute for Social Research and the National Center for Institutional Diversity.