National Youth Summit - Teen Resistance to Systemic Racism

September 22, 2020, at 3 p.m. EDT

National Youth Summit header with event information

How can young Americans create a more equitable nation?

This year's annual summit was centered on the case study of Claudette Colvin—a 15-year-old Black student in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955. Colvin refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus and testified in the legal case that brought an end to segregated busing in Montgomery.


Full Program:

Central Questions:

  • What are the circumstances that make it urgent to challenge systemic injustice?
  • What tools do individuals and movements have to fight systems of oppression?
  • Does it matter what story is told and who gets to tell it? Why?
  • What methods do teens use to claim power? How can the actions and choices of teens shape our shared democracy and create a more equitable nation?


portrait photo of Secretary Lonnie BunchSecretary Lonnie G. Bunch III is the 14th Secretary of the Smithsonian. He assumed his position June 16, 2019. As Secretary, he oversees 19 museums, 21 libraries, the National Zoo, numerous research centers, and several education units and centers. Bunch was the founding director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture and is the first historian to be Secretary of the Institution.



portrait photo of Kimberly BoatengKimberly Boateng is a rising senior at the newly named John R. Lewis High School in Springfield, VA. This past year, Boateng served as the 49th Student Representative to the FCPS School Board, a one year term that ended July 1st. In her life, she’s attended 7 different schools, 6 of which being within Fairfax County. Through those moves, she’s seen how even within the same county, students are served very differently. Because of this insight, she worked to bring attention to equity, implicit bias, and at-risk students. She also rallied alongside other community leaders to push the school board to change the name of her high school which was formally named after Robert E. Lee despite the school’s majority-minority population. She continues to stay involved, pushing for resources to be provided to her communities and more attention and intentionality against racism in the school system.


portrait photo of Dr. Jeanne TheoharisDr. Jeanne Theoharis is Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Brooklyn College of City University of New York and the author or co-author of nine books and numerous articles on the civil rights and Black Power movements and the contemporary politics of race in the U.S. Her widely-acclaimed biography The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks won a 2014 NAACP Image Award and the Letitia Woods Brown Award from the Association of Black Women Historians and appeared on the New York Times bestseller list. Her recent book A More Beautiful and Terrible History: The Uses and Misuses of Civil Rights History won the 2018 Brooklyn Public Library Literary Prize in Nonfiction. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post,  MSNBC,  The Nation,  The Atlantic, Boston Review, Salon,  the Intercept, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.  In February 2021, Theoharis will publish The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks Young Readers Edition.


portrait photo of Anthea M. Hartig, Ph.D.Anthea M. Hartig, Ph.D. is the Elizabeth MacMillan Director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. She is the first woman to hold the position since the museum opened in 1964. Hartig oversees more than 250 employees, a budget of over $40 million and a collection that includes 1.8 million objects and more than three shelf-miles of archives. Hartig is currently leading the museum in crafting a vibrant new strategic plan to take the museum through to the Semiquincentennial of the United States in 2026 and beyond. It will show the museum as the most accessible, inclusive, relevant and sustainable American history museum. Through incomparable collections, rigorous research and dynamic public outreach, the National Museum of American History seeks to empower people to create a just and compassionate future by exploring, preserving and sharing the complexity of our past.   


portrait photo of Sara MoraSara Mora is a storyteller, digital strategist and artist. She is dedicated to education, language accessibility, storyteller rights and migrant rights. A DACA recipient herself, she has dedicated her youth to strategizing ways to support her community. Last year she spent the entire year working directly with community at the largest border of the country, in San Diego, California, prioritizing providing digital tools to support the existing work of her community. Finding her voice at protests and at civil rights meetings with her local community, Sara has from a young age served as a leader on youth leadership programs locally and recently in 2018 as Co-President of Women's March Youth Empower national. Her family and upbringing were key to her work being rooted in decentralizing the larger narrative on migration. Understanding that people power is built on going against the current and always questioning the status quo, Sara has embarked on creating non-affiliated actions to supporting her community using online tools. Learn more about her work @MissSaraMora on socials.   

Regional Youth Summit Locations:

Video Highlights:

Introduction and Keynote


Discussion Period


Reflection and Closing Dialogue


About the National Youth Summit:

The National Youth Summit brings middle and high school students together with scholars, teachers, policy experts, and activists in a national conversation about important events in America’s past that have relevance to the nation’s present and future.

The National Youth Summit is made possible by the A. James and Alice B. Clark Foundation, the Patrick F. Taylor Foundation K-12 Learning Endowment, and the Robert and Arlene Kogod Family Foundation.