Story of Impact: Truth & Reconciliation History Project

Uncovering the racial history of Nebraska and Lincoln’s last 170 years is not an easy task – but getting us closer to the truth is just what a group of community members have set out to do.

Initiated by the Lincoln NAACP and Nebraskans for Peace, Roots of Local Justice: Historical Truth and Fair Reconciliation aims to create a well-documented history of race in Lincoln and Nebraska. In 2021, the Foundation granted $7,500 to the project through our Open Door Grants program. 

The idea came to life during discussions at a recent Nelson Mandela picnic, a celebration these groups host in Trago Park each year to honor Mandela’s civil rights work and his efforts towards truth and reconciliation.

“What initially started as a fun social event led to some forthright conversations about race and racism in Lincoln and the state of Nebraska,” recalled William Arfmann, co-president of the local Nebraskans for Peace chapter and member of the project’s steering committee. 

“We decided we need to do more than have meetings,” added Dewayne Mays, president of the Lincoln NAACP, and chair of the committee. 

As the conversation turned local, the idea took shape to tell the story of race and racism in Lincoln and Nebraska. The steering committee organized the project into researching and sharing the stories of Nebraskans from five distinct groups:  African American, Latino, Asian American, Native American, and Refugees since 1975. 

The Foundation’s Open Door Grant enabled the group to hire a graduate student to assist in the collection and compilation of stories for the project’s bibliography. Students at Lincoln Public Schools are already using this bibliography, which is currently available on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Digital Commons webpage.

The project’s goal is that by the end of 2023, these five bibliographies will reflect a comprehensive narrative to help folks understand the history of our community, where we have gone astray, and what we can do to bring about reconciliation in our community and in our state. The committee is currently hosting local community listening sessions on Nebraska and Lincoln’s history.

“We needed to be able to do something for our community to bring people together and to talk about the truth, justice and reconciliation,” said Dewayne.

To learn more about the Roots of Local Justice program and book a speaker, contact Dewayne Mays at 402-429-4477 or Read more stories of impact at