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"Let's Talk Race" book club works to educate public

January 24, 2023

The “Let’s Talk Race” virtual book club isn’t even a year old, but it has already tackled a variety of historical topics while covering today’s issues, as well.

Established by the Belmont County NAACP, the book club was born of a partnership among Ohio University Eastern; the Ohio Valley Underground Railroad Museum; Ohio Valley, WV Public Library; and St. Clairsville, OH Public Library.

The “Let’s Talk Race” book club serves Ohio University Eastern students and the community at large, and the books include a variety of topics. From slavery, the Civil Rights Movement, biographies of civil rights leaders and activists to issues communities are currently facing like racial injustices, mass incarceration, political reforms and other racial discriminations, the club is designed to foster discussions.

“It is essential to educate oneself on the history of race to get a better understanding of today’s issues,” said Kristina Charlotte Estle, director of the Ohio Valley Underground Railroad Museum. “It all begins with discussion.”

Before beginning her career at the Underground Railroad Museum, Estle completed her Bachelor of History at Ohio University Eastern. A Barnesville native, she was able to research the history of churches in her hometown through her courses.

“This research led to the discovery of the Stillwater Meeting House and its involvement in the Underground Railroad, and ultimately an interview with Dr. John Mattox at the Underground Railroad Museum, which led to my internship, volunteer position and museum director position today,” she said. Dr. David Castle, OHIO Eastern Assistant Professor who offered the Research Composition course that started Estle down her current path, is her “biggest role model.”

“He was my cross country and track coach and then my history professor and academic advisor. He was very tough, but due to that, I believe it has led to my many life achievements,” Estle said. “I highly encourage a regional campus experience, especially for non-traditional students. I was leery due to my older age, but I felt very comfortable... I developed many friendships that I still hold today.”

As for those just beginning their education journey, Estle has a piece of advice – to persevere. “Your aspirations will not happen overnight,” she said. “You must work hard to achieve your goals. Nothing is impossible or too far out of reach.”

To learn more about the “Let’s Talk Race” book club and participate, visit ohio.edu/eastern/current-students/bookclub