400 Years of Inequality: A Call to Action



2019 marked the 400th anniversary of the arrival of more than 20 Africans, from the Kongo and Ndongo Kingdoms in Angola, in Jamestown, Virginia. Upon their arrival, they were sold into bondage. The scars we still bear as a country from slavery, an institution that endured for centuries, are evident in countless facets of our society, including the significant health inequalities that persist throughout the United States.

During the 2019-20 school year, we embarked on a yearlong journey as a community to understand how threads of this history are woven in and through every aspect of our present. Guided by committees of faculty, staff, and students, we hosted a range of events with guest speakers, readings and discussion groups, activities with the local community, and other special events, including a highlight of our year, a day-long event on October 14, 2019. We were honored to have Harriet Washington, award-winning author of Medical Apartheid and ethicist, join us for both our October 14 launch and as our Commencement speaker to close out the year.

We invite you to  listen to our recorded events or download our suggested readings to consider how to learn from our past to work towards the development of solutions, particularly those that impact health.

October 14 Commemoration

The School hosted a day-long series of reflections, readings and special performances by local groups Sing Harlem and Dance Project of Washington Heights to bring the community together.

Remarks were made by Behike Atenua Gypsie RunningCloud, Principle Healer for the Community of Higuayagua, who provided a Native American Blessing, and Dr. Sherrill Wilson, author of New York City’s African Slave Owners: A Social and Material Culture History, who discussed the African Burial Grounds.

Special lectures addressed public health issues that impact our Washington Heights neighbors, New York City, and beyond.




Energy Health and Justice
Peggy Shepard, Co-Founder and Executive Director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice
Diana Hernandez, PhD, Assistant Professor of Sociomedical Sciences

Moderated by Sonal Jessel, Policy and Advocacy Coordinator, WE ACT

Mass Incarceration
Jarrell E. Daniels
, Program Manager, Justice Ambassadors Youth Council, Center For Justice at Columbia University
Patrick Wilson, Associate Professor of Sociomedical Sciences

Special Lectures

Throughout the year, the School's lecture series, Grand Rounds on the Future of Public Health, the Chronic Disease Lectures series, and more, incorporated speakers around the 400 Years of Inequality theme. Learn more about the talks and speakers.

Suggested Readings and Multimedia