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Horror books and movies and the real-life horrors of racism that they depict

Actor Duane Jones appears holding a flaming torch in one hand and a rifle in the other. He holds the torch towards the camera in a defensive stance. In the background, another person is operating a gas pump.
Silverwell Films
Duane Jones (above) starred in the 1968 film Night of the Living Dead. Writer Mark H. Harris says that even if the movie had come out when he first watched it in the 1980's, it still would have been revolutionary for how it portrays its Black protagonist.

As Halloween approaches, we are exploring how real-life horrors from America's history of racism show up in horror books and films. Mark H. Harris, one of the co-authors of 'The Black Guy Dies First: Black Horror Cinema from Fodder to Oscar,' talks about different eras of Black horror cinema and the origins of the famous racist horror trope referenced in his book's title. Author and academic historian P. Djèlí Clark discusses his story “Hide & Seek,” which was recently included in the collection 'Out There Screaming,' co-edited by Jordan Peele. He also explains how the idea of portraying the Ku Klux Klan as literal monsters in his book 'Ring Shout' was based on his research into interviews with formerly enslaved people. And Professor Kali Simmons exposes stereotypes about Indigenous people that date back hundreds of years and appear in some of the most popular horror works. She also gives examples of positive representation and offers her thoughts on 'Killers of the Flower Moon'.

If you're looking to dive deeper into today's discussion, or you're just looking for a good scare this season, we compiled this read-and-watch list from the show.

Horror Reading List

Horror Watch List


Special thanks to our interns Lateshia Peters and Joey Morgan.

Disrupted is available as a podcast on Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Spotify, Google Podcasts, TuneIn, Listen Notes, or wherever you get your podcasts. Subscribe and never miss an episode.

Kevin Chang Barnum is a producer for Connecticut Public Radio’s weekly show Disrupted. Kevin grew up in Connecticut and started his radio work at his graduate university’s radio station, KUCI. He has also worked for HRN, a network of food and beverage podcasts.
Wayne Edwards is a freelance producer at Connecticut Public contributing to multi-platform productions, including ‘Disrupted’, ‘Where Art Thou?’, and ‘Cutline in the Community’.

Dr. Khalilah L. Brown-Dean is an award-winning scholar at Quinnipiac University, author, and host of 'Disrupted' on Connecticut Public.
Meg Dalton is the deputy director of storytelling for Connecticut Public. She previously worked for The Takeaway from WNYC, in collaboration with GBH and PRX, and Mobituaries with Mo Rocca. She's also reported and edited for the Columbia Journalism Review, PBS NewsHour, Slate, MediaShift, Hearst Connecticut newspapers, and more. Her audio work has appeared on ‎WNYC, WSHU, Marketplace, WBAI, and NPR. She earned her master's degree from Columbia Journalism School in 2017, where she specialized in audio storytelling and narrative writing, and has taught audio storytelling at Columbia Journalism School, UnionDocs, and public libraries.
Catie Talarski is Senior Director of Storytelling and Radio Programming at Connecticut Public.
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