Caleb Gayle at Harvard Book Store


We Refuse to Forget:
A True Story of Black Creeks,
American Identity, and Power

in conversation with DEBORAH D. DOUGLAS


June 28, 2022
7:00 PM ET


Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138


This event is free; no tickets are required.

Harvard Book Store welcomes CALEB GAYLE—award-winning journalist and journalism professor at Northeastern University—for a discussion of his new book We Refuse to Forget: A True Story of Black Creeks, American Identity, and Power. He will be joined in conversation by DEBORAH DOUGLAS, co-editor in chief of The Emancipator.

A Return to In-Person Events

Harvard Book Store is excited to re-introduce in-person programming this season. To ensure the safety and comfort of everyone in attendance, the following Covid-19 safety protocols will be in place at all of our Harvard Book Store events until further notice:

  • Face coverings are required of all staff and attendees when inside the store. Masks must snugly cover nose and mouth.

About We Refuse to Forget

In We Refuse to Forget, award-winning journalist Caleb Gayle tells the extraordinary story of the Creek Nation, a Native tribe that two centuries ago both owned slaves and accepted Black people as full citizens. Thanks to the efforts of Creek leaders like Cow Tom, a Black Creek citizen who rose to become chief, the U.S. government recognized Creek citizenship in 1866 for its Black members. Yet this equality was shredded in the 1970s when tribal leaders revoked the citizenship of Black Creeks, even those who could trace their history back generations—even to Cow Tom himself.

Why did this happen? How was the U.S. government involved? And what are Cow Tom’s descendants and other Black Creeks doing to regain their citizenship? These are some of the questions that Gayle explores in this provocative examination of racial and ethnic identity. By delving into the history and interviewing Black Creeks who are fighting to have their citizenship reinstated, he lays bare the racism and greed at the heart of this story. We Refuse to Forget is an eye-opening account that challenges our preconceptions of identity as it shines new light on the long shadows of white supremacy and marginalization that continue to hamper progress for Black Americans.

Praise for We Refuse to Forget

"Caleb Gayle's rich and important book reminds us that American history is more surprising, terrible, and, yes, inspiring than we often care to know. The history he weaves is deeply relevant to today's movements for racial justice and Indigenous rights, as well as to the enduring and quintessential question, ‘who is an American?’ I'm grateful for the painstaking work Gayle has done to answer this question for all of us." —Heather McGhee, author of The Sum of Us

“Caleb Gayle—as a journalist, the son of Jamaican immigrants, and a son of the country—has written a gripping history of the fully black and fully Creek citizens of the tribe who have struggled against both the Republic and the Creek Nation to secure their rightful place in both. He tells a complicated story of the past and in doing so sheds light on the ways our fantasies of race endure and are, gradually, being undone. A vital work. ” —David Treuer, author of The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee

“When Caleb Gayle wrote this book, he reached back into history to find power. By telling the stories of elders like Cow Tom and other Black Creeks who refused to simplify our understanding of race, he amplified that our stories escape categories because our lives are rich and complex. In the end, he let us not forget that America can handle every part that makes us whole.” —Ibram X. Kendi, National Book Award-winning author of Stamped from the Beginning and How to Be an Antiracist

Caleb Gayle
Caleb Gayle

Caleb Gayle

Caleb Gayle is an award-winning journalist who writes about race and identity. A professor at Northeastern University, he is a fellow at New America, PEN America, Harvard's Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Studies, and a visiting scholar at New York University. Gayle’s writing has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, The Guardian, Guernica, and other publications. The son of Jamaican immigrants, Gayle is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma, the University of Oxford, and has an MBA and a master’s in public policy, both from Harvard University. He lives in Boston.

Photo Credit: Jeremy Castro

Deborah Douglas
Deborah Douglas

Deborah Douglas

Deborah D. Douglas is co-editor in chief of The Emancipator. She previously served as the Eugene S. Pulliam Distinguished Visiting Professor at DePauw University; senior leader with The OpEd Project, amplifying underrepresented expert voices; and founding managing editor of MLK50: Justice Through Journalism. Deborah is author of the award-winning Moon U.S. Civil Rights Trail: A Traveler’s Guide to the People, Places, and Events That Made the Movement, the first-ever travel guide to follow the official civil rights trail in the South, and a contributor to Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019.

Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes

As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and TD Bank. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.

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