Angelina Jolie Says Her Daughter Taught Her the Limits of American History Books

"They start teaching people who are Black about their lives through the Civil Rights movement, which is such a horrible place to begin."

In a Zoom interview with Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate for the TIME 100 Talk, Angelina Jolie spoke about the things she’s learned from her 15-year-old daughter Zahara, who she adopted from Ethiopia. After talking with the activist about the need for an intersectional approach to climate justice, Jolie brought up the issue with the way Black history is taught in the United States and where it falls short for her daughter and everyone else.

“I don’t know about the schools in Uganda…‘But what I see in, for example, American history books and how limited they are… they start teaching people who are Black about their lives through the Civil Rights movement, which is such a horrible place to begin,” Jolie said.

Nakate responded to Jolie, saying that the first thing more people need to get educated on is the fact that Africa is not a country, but a continent with 54 countries. Similar to Jolie’s perception of U.S. school, Nakate also remembers her history education teaching “so much of slavery” and that the narrative needs to change.

“We don’t need to learn about all that cruelty that our people went through, because to me it completely lowers your value as a person,” she said. “I think African children or any other children should be told about the power that lies within Africa. The African continent is not just about the history of slavery. It’s about the young people who grew up and became doctors, who became professionals in their own careers.”

Vanessa Natake

The other thing people need to learn? “That when an African voice speaks, then it’s really an important matter, because for a very long time, we have [had so] few voices coming out of the African continent that are amplified,” Nakate said. “But [so many others] never get a chance for their stories to be heard.”

Jolie discussed her daughter’s own connection to her African roots, saying what it’s like to watch her grow up.

My daughter is from Ethiopia, one of my children. And I have learned so much from her, Jolie said. She is my family, but she is an extraordinary African woman.

She continued: “Her connection to her country, her continent, is very—it’s her own and it’s something I only stand back in awe of.”

In previous interviews Jolie has discussed her fear of her daughter growing up a Black woman in the U.S. “‘There is racism and discrimination in America,” she told Harper’s Bazaar earlier this month. “A system that protects me but might not protect my daughter—or any other man, woman, or child in our country based on skin color—is intolerable.”

However, she also addressed the need for action, explaining that it isn’t enough simply to condemn these issues without making structural change. “We need to progress beyond sympathy and good intentions to laws and policies that actually address structural racism and impunity,” she said. “Ending abuses in policing is just the start. It goes far beyond that, to all aspects of society, from our education system to our politics.”

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