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Lee Hawkins seeks deeper understanding of Black family histories in What Happened In Alabama

Lee Hawkins seeks deeper understanding of Black family histories in What Happened In Alabama

Press Release · via APM ·

From APM Studios and award-winning journalist Lee Hawkins, What Happened in Alabama? is a new limited series podcast about the intergenerational ripple effect of Jim Crow segregation on Lee’s family, dating back to the 1600s.

The 10-part series premieres on Wednesday, May 15. Listeners can subscribe now and listen to the trailer on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and all podcast platforms.

Remarked Hawkins: “I was a small kid when I started hearing my father’s frequent nightmares in the middle of the night. When I mustered the courage to ask him what he was dreaming about, ‘Alabama, son. Alabama,’ was his only answer. This podcast and my forthcoming book are the result of several years of my work – with my dad’s help – to investigate 400 years of family history, to finally uncover the answer. My probe into my family’s history under slavery and Jim Crow helped me understand my father, my family, and my country.”

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In “What Happened in Alabama?” Hawkins turns to interviews with his Alabama-born father and other elders, newspaper and governmental archives, and DNA testing for answers about why he was raised with a balance of unwavering love…and belt whippings.

The podcast is born out of personal experiences of intergenerational trauma, and the impacts of Jim Crow that exist beyond what we understand about segregation. Through intimate stories of his family, coupled with conversations with experts on the Black American experience, Hawkins unpacks his family history and upbringing, his father’s painful nightmares and past, and goes deep into discussions to understand those who may have had similar generational - and present day - experiences. “What Happened in Alabama?” is a series to break the cycles of injustice and trauma for Hawkins, for his family, and for Black America.

On Wednesday, May 22, MPR News host Angela Davis will interview Lee at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul, as part of “North Star Journey Live,” an event series featuring conversations that shine a light on how systemic racism impacts the lives of Minnesotans. For tickets and more information, visit mprevents.org.

Lee Hawkins is the author of the forthcoming book, “NOBODY’S SLAVE: How Uncovering My Family’s History Set Me Free” (HarperCollins 2025). He was previously a reporter for the Wall Street Journal for 19 years, and is also known for his on-camera interviews with influential newsmakers and icons.

In 2022, Lee was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting. He’s a 2023-24 Fellow at The Carter Center for Mental Health Journalism, and an Alicia Patterson Foundation Fellow. He is a five-time winner of NABJ’s “Salute to Excellence” Award, and was a finalist for the Gerald Loeb Award for Distinguished Business Reporting. Lee has also won the O’Brien Fellowship in Public Service Journalism from Marquette University and was previously the recipient of the Logan Nonfiction Fellowship and the National Fellowship from the USC Fund for Journalism on Child Well-Being.

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What Happened In Alabama?
American Public Media
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