What the Body Holds

The third chapter of “Inheritance” is a recognition, a celebration, and a reclamation of the Black body.

Children in Harlem, New York, in the 1970s
Jack Garofalo / Paris Match / Getty

About the author: Gillian B. White is a contributing writer at The Atlantic.

Today, we launch the third chapter of The Atlantic’s “Inheritance” project: “What the Body Holds.” In this chapter, you will find stories on how Black Americans think about self-presentation to the outside world, on the inequities in how bodies are assigned value, and on the quest for dignity in a society that might otherwise seek to strip it away.

Over the course of our work we were drawn again and again to questions of what it means for Black people to reclaim spaces and narratives, to feel seen, to express joy, to experience autonomy. “What the Body Holds” is a reflection on the ways in which bodies are central to our memory and how we experience the world.

These themes are crucial to the larger exploration of the “Inheritance” project, which focuses on elevating the history of Black America, and centering the stories of Black people of all kinds. In past chapters, “Inheritance” has asked readers to interrogate the stories we are told about Black history, and the stories we tell ourselves about our country. We have also focused on the importance of place as a powerful catalyst for remembrance, particularly for a people whose history has often been suppressed or ignored.

We hope you enjoy our latest installation of “Inheritance,” and sign up for future updates from the project.