Episode 647: Hard Work Is Irrelevant

Patty McCord

O’Reilly Conferences / Flickr

Note: This episode originally ran in 2015.

Most companies reward hard work. This is why people get paid overtime, and why full-time workers make more than part-time ones.

But, if you think about it, hard work alone says nothing about how much value you create. You could be toiling day and night, and be mostly useless to your employer. To your employer’s bottom line, what really matters isn’t how much you put in, but what you deliver.

There’s one company that takes this idea to its logical conclusion: Netflix. It’s run like a sports team. Whether you’re yesterday’s hire or one of the first employees, you’re out the minute you stop justifying your presence.

It wasn’t always like this. Right after the dot-com bubble burst, Netflix was like any other company. But, to survive, it had to cut non-essential staff. Patty McCord, who was in charge of hiring and firing, had to seriously reevaluate what each person was contributing. She laid off a third of the company, and what she found was that the company didn’t just do fine, but was performing better than before. That experience gave rise to a philosophy that became an influential PowerPoint presentation that over 16 million people have viewed.

Today on the show, hear how Patty McCord turned Netflix into a sports team, and just how far the company took that principle.

We’ve also got an update on a brand new business that was sparked by this episode and has adapted some of the Netflix principles.

Music: “Feels So Good” “We are Better Together” and “Midnight.” Find us: Twitter/ Facebook. Subscribe to our show on Apple Podcasts or PocketCast.

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School Shooter In Washington State Is Apprehended; One Student Dead

People hurry toward Freeman High School in Rockford, Wash., following a deadly shooting at the school.

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Nick Geranios/AP

A student at a high school in rural Washington state opened fire outside a biology classroom on Wednesday, killing another student and wounding three others before being caught.

The shooting occurred at Freeman High School in the tiny town of Rockford, about 26 miles south of Spokane near the Idaho border.

“I was putting my backpack away and I heard a loud pop, and I turned around. He was walking around,” Elisa Vigil, a 14-year-old freshman, told the Spokesman-Review.

“He had his pistol. His face was completely passive. He shot someone in the head. I crouched down in the hall. I looked up and a girl screamed, ‘Help me, help me, help me.’ The hall was empty. She was shot in the back. I looked to my right, and there was a boy and he was shot in the head.”

According to the Associated Press, Brian Schaffer of the Spokane Fire Department said one student died at the scene and three others were taken to a local hospital and were expected to survive.

“The shooter has been apprehended and is taken into custody,”said Schaffer.

The name of the shooter has not been released, but he is reported to be a sophomore. Authorities have not commented on a possible motive.

Another student, Michael Harper, 15, said the suspect “was always nice and funny and weird.”

Harper also said that the suspect had shared a note with some friends saying that he “was going to do something stupid.”

In a statement, Gov. Jay Winslee said “All Washingtonians are thinking of the victims and their families, and are grateful for the service of school staff and first responders working to keep our students safe.”

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'This Is Their Film': Angelina Jolie Tells A Story Of Khmer Rouge Survival

Sareum Srey Moch plays a young Loung Ung in Netflix’s FirstThey Killed My Father.


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The film FirstThey Killed My Father begins in 1975 Cambodia, during the rise of the Khmer Rouge. The hard-line communist regime aimed to deport an entire nation into the countryside and form an agrarian utopia — but their experiment failed. People were forced to work, and they were also tortured, starved and executed. In the end, around a quarter of the country’s population — roughly 2 million people — died.

FirstThey Killed My Father was directed by Angelina Jolie, and it’s based on a memoir by human rights activist Loung Ung. Ung was 5 years old and living with her family in Phnom Penh when the Khmer Rouge arrived and essentially emptied the city. At first, her family managed to stay together, but then her older siblings were sent to a camp for teenagers. Not long after, they also came for her father. Ung’s mother decided Ung and her siblings would be safer if they left and pretended to be orphans, so she sent them away.

Ung survived the Khmer Rouge along with four of her siblings, whom she reunited with in a refugee camp. Two of them made it to the U.S., and the others stayed in Cambodia. She says her siblings have all seen the film multiple times. “They can’t stop watching it. They know that Angie … and all those who made the film made it with love, and also made it to honor the lives of not only those lost, but also the lives of those who survived.”

Jolie made the film in Cambodia with a Cambodian cast and crew, and it was shot in Khmer, the Cambodian language. “This is their film,” the director says. “I wanted to bring the tools and make it possible. … It would only be possible if we were allowed to be there, if the people there wanted to participate.”

Interview Highlights

On what Ung thought was happening when the Khmer Rouge told her family they had to leave Phnom Penh

LoungUng: I had no idea where we were going. … The soldiers, the Khmer Rouge soldiers, came in their trucks with black shirts and pants and carrying guns and grenades on their belts and also wearing huge smiles and screaming to the people that the war was over, the war was over, and to pack as little as we could to sustain us for three days and we could come back after three days. Those were the hopes and the dreams that I held on to. I completely believed that we could come back in three days.

And my family and I eventually ended up at various different work camps moving from one work camp to another. And it didn’t matter if you were 6 or 60; you worked. You built trenches, you [dug] dams, you grew food to support a war you didn’t want, didn’t know about. And we had no say in it at all.

On the last time she saw her father

Ung: This is a little over a year into the Khmer Rouge rule, and information was sparse. We didn’t know what was going on; we didn’t know what was happening. But we did notice that people were starting to disappear in the village — that a brother over there, or a sister or an uncle or a father were quietly disappearing into the night. So we knew something was up. But my child’s heart didn’t want to know any of this until the soldiers — two of them— came to collect my father. And they had, again, guns, and they came in and asked [for] my father by his name and said that they needed him to go and remove an ox cart stuck in the mud.

And I remember very clearly that my father went into the hut and talked to my mother, and then how she sobbed and she cried in a way I’ve never heard her cry before. It was like an animal caged and not knowing where to go next. And then when he came out of the hut, one by one, he picked up my brothers and sister in his arms. And when it was my turn, I had the instinct of heart to wrap my arms around his neck and to rest my face next to his cheek and just knowing that I would never see him again. And he walked off into the sunset with the soldiers on either side of him.

And I remember also very clearly wondering how there could be such beauty in the world when there was only hell and hurt to my heart. And we were told later that my father had been taken and was later executed.

On coming to understand her mother’s decision to send her and her siblings away

Ung: She gathered my brother, Kim, my sister, Chou, myself and another sister, Geak, and told us to leave her. And we didn’t want to leave her. I didn’t want to leave her. And when I said no, she turned me by my shoulders and pushed me out the door and said, “Get out.”

It was the moment where I just did not understand the strength and beauty and courage of a mother’s heart. … For years after this, I thought my mother was weak, I thought she didn’t love me, I thought she wasn’t strong enough to keep me. And I felt abandoned and I wanted to stay with her. And writing it in a child’s voice and to go back into that place and imagine what my mother must have gone through — knowing that if she didn’t send us away, we might not have made it here today. … She gave us a fighting chance to survive apart by separating us and pushing us out of the door. … I never saw her again.

Jolie (left) and Ung (right) worked together to film FirstThey Killed My Father in Cambodia. (Also pictured: Jolie’s son, Maddox Jolie-Pitt, center.)

Pax Thien Jolie Pitt /Netflix

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Pax Thien Jolie Pitt /Netflix

On how Jolie discovered Ung’s memoir while on a film shoot in Cambodia

AngelinaJolie: I went into Cambodia like many people in America: I didn’t know what I should’ve known. I wasn’t educated properly, and I felt very ignorant. And one day I was off work and went for a little walk and bought a $2 book at a street corner, and it was Loung Ung’s book. And it was through that book that I really understood what had happened. And I was drawn to the way that she had written it, through the eyes of a child, through the experience of a little girl.

On filming from the point of view of a child

Jolie: We had a lot of crew members walking around on their knees trying to figure out what she would actually see, what could she actually reach, what could she do.

But what was interesting, for me, is it was very clear early that the POV wasn’t just going to be the technical of where she’s at — it was the emotional. Because she’s 5, she’s very distracted. She doesn’t understand what’s happening. She doesn’t want to understand what’s happening. She always looks to Pa: If Pa smiles, it’s OK. That’s how children gauge what’s going on. You don’t have a normal scene where you have five people sitting around telling the audience what’s going on. So in a way, the audience might be confused a little bit about politics because you’re being told by Pa, “It’s OK.” But you have to check the clues around you and try to see beyond what’s she seeing.

On knowing the film could be a trigger for the Cambodians who were working on it

Jolie: It’s very sensitive, and we had to be very conscious of many things. Above all, many of our crew members are survivors of war. So to recreate these things, to have Khmer Rouge soldiers marching over a bridge in an area where people are not used to film … the amount of awareness you have to do, the amount of talking, the amount of therapists on set — would it be cathartic or would it go badly? And it’s to the resilience and the openness of the Cambodian people that it went well, and it was cathartic, and I was honored to witness them make it.

Mallory Yu and Jolie Myers produced and edited this interview for broadcast, and Nicole Cohen adapted it for the Web.

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Dual Olympic Bids Approved For Paris And Los Angeles

Paris and Los Angeles have been awarded the honor of hosting the 2024 and 2028 Olympic games, respectively. Pictured above: IOC President Thomas Bach (center), Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo (left), and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garrett.

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It’s official, the 2024 Olympics are coming to Paris – and four years later they’ll be in Los Angeles in the first “double allocation” of the Olympic contests in modern history.

The International Olympic Committee announced it had approved the allocations — the result of a three-way deal — by vote Wednesday.

“This historic double allocation is a’win-win-win’ situation for the city of Paris, the city of Los Angeles and the IOC,” said IOC President Thomas Bach following the vote to approve the decision.

IOC makes historic decision by simultaneously awarding Olympic Games 2024 to Paris and 2028 to Los Angeles https://t.co/NSXWbFCo6Upic.twitter.com/vuEMesyclD

— IOC MEDIA (@iocmedia) September 13, 2017

The Associated Press reports that Bach declared the vote unanimous after a “show of hands” count raised no objections.

The vote, in addition to setting the Olympic schedule for 11 years, breaks the IOC’s tradition of selecting host cities one at a time. Initially agreed to over the summer, the three-way deal followed an exodus of other bidders for the 2024 games, reported Ben Bergen, of member station KPCC, in June.

“Few governments want to risk the billions in cost overruns that have become synonymous with recent Olympics. That’s why the IOC is considering awarding dual bids,” said Bergen at time.

And once the IOC was looking at just two bidders, as NPR’s Tom Goldman reported, it was down to a matter “of who’d get what.”

“Paris said it didn’t want to host in 2028. 2024 will be the 100th anniversary of the 1924 Paris summer games. … LA sent signals that it was open to going second, ” Tom told Morning Edition last month.

Los Angeles, host city to the 1932 and 1984 summer games, conceded the 2024 Olympics to Paris, Tom goes on, and has been promised $180 million by the IOC for doing that.

The AP adds this will be the third Olympics for both cities, and the Los Angeles games will be the first Summer Olympiad in the U.S. since 1996.

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The Thistle & Shamrock: The American Folklife Center At 40, Part 1

The American Folklife Center’s collections include recordings of Woody Guthrie, taken at the Library of Congress.

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Al Aumuller/Library of Congress

Join Fiona and guests as they explore selections from the American Folklife Center’s collection of about half a million sound recordings, including songs from Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan and Carrie Grover.

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San Diego Washing Streets With Bleach To Combat Hepatitis A Outbreak

City workers wash down streets and sidewalks in an effort to control a Hepatitis A outbreak in San Diego on Monday.

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San Diego has started washing its downtown streets with bleach in an effort to combat an outbreak of Hepatitis A that has killed at least 15 people and infected nearly 400.

The infectious disease has largely infected homeless people in the coastal California city, and part of the issue is an apparent shortage of public restrooms in areas where the population congregates.

Hepatitis A was first identified in the area in early March, according to the county, and was declared a public health emergency earlier this month.

A letter from San Diego County health officials stated that Hepatitis A is being spread though contact with a “fecally contaminated environment,” as well as person-to-person transmission.

The county issued a directive on Aug. 31 demanding that the city carry out street washing and expand public restroom access, adding that “failure to immediately follow this directive will endanger public health and safety.”

On Friday, the city said it would “fully comply with the directive,” targeting areas in downtown frequented by homeless people at risk of contracting Hepatitis A.

Contractors started spraying down areas Monday with the diluted household bleach solution, continued Wednesday, and are set to hit the final zone of downtown by Friday, according to a city spokesperson.

The procedure, as prescribed by the county, involves first spraying down hazardous items such as human waste or needles, waiting ten minutes, removing the contaminated items, then spraying the area again with bleach. After that, it calls for pressure-washing the area with water.

It is set to be repeated every two weeks, with weekly “spot maintenance,” according to county guidelines.

San Diego County did not immediately respond to an NPR query about whether it is satisfied with the city’s response.

Mike Saag, a professor of medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham focused on infectious diseases, tells NPR that he finds San Diego’s street washing approach reasonable for stemming the spread of Hepatitis A: “If there’s a sanitation problem, then the thing to do is clean up the area, and bleach is probably the best disinfectant that we have for this type of viral infections.”

He adds that “once Hepatitis A starts to be transmitted in a community like this, it’s kind of hard to stop.” The most effective tactic is immunization, he says, and San Diego County says it is has provided at least 19,000 immunizations against the disease.

“The issue is getting people, especially those who might be living on the street, into care and getting the series (of shots),” Saag adds.

There have also been more than 250 mass vaccination events and nurses have deployed to areas with large homeless populations, according to the county. Dozens of hand-washing stations have been installed, with more on the way.

San Diego’s homeless population has skyrocketed – the number of people living on downtown streets is up some 27 percent to nearly 1,300, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune. It’s particularly visible due to the 104 percent increase in the number of tents and hand-built structures, the newspaper adds.

A lack of affordable housing is contributing to the problem – “seventy-seven percent of unsheltered people said they became homeless in San Diego,” the Union-Tribune reports.

Councilwoman Lorie Zapf recently told member station KPBS that she is concerned about the amount of waste in her area as a result of illegal encampments.

“I went down there myself in July and what I saw with my own eyes was an insane amount of trash,” Zapf said. “I saw human feces, meth cookers, syringes, stolen property — and all of this will flow right to the ocean if it is not cleaned up, and it will spread hepatitis A virus.”

Hepatitis A is considered highly contagious, according to the CDC, and attacks the liver. Its prevalence in the U.S. has declined by 95 percent since 1995, when the vaccine was first introduced.

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Should Nuclear Inspectors Have Access To Iran's Military Sites?

President Hassan Rouhani addresses Iran’s parliament on Aug. 20. He said the top foreign policy priority for his new government would be to protect the nuclear deal.

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Two deadlines are approaching that may signal the fate of the 2015 nuclear agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA. The agreement saw Iran sharply curtail its nuclear program and allow extensive inspections in return for the lifting of international sanctions.

Sept. 14 is the deadline for the Trump administration to decide whether it’s continuing to waive Iranian sanctions under the deal. The sanctions were passed by Congress and go into effect unless they’re waived every few months — which Trump has done previously.

The administration also faces an Oct. 15 deadline to certify whether Iran remains in compliance with the nuclear deal. That certification requirement is not part of the deal, but was imposed by Congress. That is, when the Obama administration signed the deal, Congress required him to say every three months whether he believed Iran was in compliance. It was a way for members of Congress to hold Obama to account for a deal many opposed.

Earlier this month, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley essentially made the case for decertifying Iran. She told an audience at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington that President Trump must consider not just issues covered by the deal — Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium, a nuclear fuel — but Tehran’s aggressive policies in the region and its ongoing tests of ballistic missiles.

Haley stopped short, though, of saying the administration was poised to walk away from the deal.

“If the president chooses not to certify Iranian compliance,” she said, “that does not mean the United States is withdrawing from the JCPOA.” There have been reports that there’s a debate going on within the Trump administration on whether to decertify.

The recent focus of those against the deal seems to be on Iran’s military sites, with critics saying inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency are failing to routinely inspect them along with Iran’s declared nuclear facilities.

IAEA Director-General Yukia Amano defends the verification regime as the “most robust” being conducted anywhere today, and insists that military sites are not off-limits.

Iranian officials say just the opposite.

“Nobody is allowed to visit Iran’s military sites,” Ali Akbar Velayati told reporters in Iran recently, calling the push for such inspections a threat to its national security. Velayati is an adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

So who’s right?

How it works

The IAEA inspectors are charged with ensuring that no potential nuclear fuel — highly enriched uranium and plutonium are the two commonly used sources — is being diverted to a covert nuclear weapons program. Under something called the Additional Protocol, which Iran accepted as part of the JCPOA, inspectors can request access to undeclared sites, including military sites. But the agreement spells out a series of steps to gain that access that could take as long as 24 days to complete.

Critics contend that’s far too long to wait.

David Albright with the Institute for Science and International Security and former IAEA official Olli Heinonen co-authored a recent paper calling for greater access to Iran’s military sites. They zeroed in on one section — Section T in Annex 1 — which deals with verifying that Iran hasn’t acquired “dual-use” technology that could serve either a peaceful nuclear purpose or weapons development.

Albright and Heinonen suggest that Iran may be in violation of some of these restrictions, and argue that the IAEA should inspect Iranian military sites as a regular part of enforcing this part of the agreement, not treat such inspections as special cases used only in response to evidence of a specific violation.

Earlier this year, the IAEA reported that its verification of Iran’s nuclear commitments includes those set out in various sections of the agreement — including Section T — but Albright and Heinonen contend truly effective verification “requires the establishment of a routine inspection approach.”

The IAEA chief says the JCPOA is working and it has all the authority it needs. Amano told reporters in Vienna this week that special access is already happening on a regular basis.

“Already we have had many (visits) and we will continue to have access,” he said, adding that “we do not distinguish between civilian sites and military ones.”

What Amano did not say, however, is whether military sites are currently being inspected — something critics of the deal might seize upon.

He also has said that inspectors need a reason to request access to undeclared sites, and the JCPOA section on access states that “if the IAEA has concerns [emphasis added] regarding undeclared nuclear materials or activities,” then it can request to see undeclared — i.e., military — sites. It’s unclear what kind of reason or evidence the IAEA would consider sufficient.

Supporters of the JCPOA such as Ali Vaez, senior Iran analyst at the International Crisis Group, say the remarkable access the West now has to Iran’s nuclear program via the deal and the IAEA inspections should not be thrown away lightly.

“The IAEA has never had better access to Iran’s military sites,” says Vaez. “If the Trump administration loses this unprecedented access … it will soon wish for it.”

Vaez adds that derailing the JCPOA now could also have unintended consequences.

“If the Trump administration kills the deal with Iran, (a deal) that is working and the rest of the international community is highly satisfied with,” he says, “it should forget about peacefully settling the nuclear standoff with North Korea.”

How this could play out

If the White House decides not to waive the sanctions this week, that could throw the deal in doubt immediately. But assuming the sanctions are waived on Thursday, certification becomes the next question.

As Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., pointed out, decertifying Iran next month wouldn’t automatically pull the U.S. out of the JCPOA. But some worry it could provoke an Iranian reaction that would ultimately lead to the agreement’s demise.

There’s also another possibility: that the Trump administration will continue to waive sanctions against Iran, and then decertify. That would likely shift the focus to Tehran — and to Congress, which could move to impose new sanctions on Iran.

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Looking 'Beyond The Big House' And Into The Lives Of Slaves

The upstairs porch of Ann Blessing’s home in Charleston, S.C. has been a stop on a popular historic home tour. For the first time, visitors will tour the kitchen where enslaved people once spent most of their lives, toiling over hot fires.

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Anne Blessing grew up in a classic antebellum house with double-decker porches and gorgeous brickwork, just steps from the Charleston Harbor. For years, the home in Charleston, S.C. had been a stop on a popular historic home tour.

“Normally people want to see the fancier parts of the house,” Blessing said. “You know, where in colonial times they would have taken people upstairs to the nicer parlor; the dining room, of course, with the beautiful wood and all the molding.”

This weekend, for the first time, visitors will skip the formal areas and go straight to the kitchen. What was once the kitchen house has been connected to the main house. With its wooden beams and massive hearth, it’s a favorite hangout spot for the family. But as Blessing has learned, it’s also where enslaved people once spent most of their lives, toiling over hot fires.

Ann Blessing’s kitchen, where slaves once spent much of their lives, was once a separate house but has been connected to the main building.

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“If you were the cook you probably just slept on a palette in this room – and maybe with your whole family as well,” she said.

The tour is called “Beyond the Big House.” It’s organizers — the Slave Dwelling Project and the Historic Charleston Foundation — hope to raise awareness among visitors and residents of Charleston that many former slave quarters have been hidden, and forgotten, amongst the city’s majestic homes.

Ann Blessing grew up in a home in downtown Charleston near the Charleston Harbor and is now raising her own children there. Her kitchen will be part of the “Beyond the Big House” tour highlighting former slave quarters in the city.

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“I want them to know that behind all that they can witness from the street is the rest of the story,” Joseph McGill, founder of the Slave Dwelling Project said. “The story of those who were enslaved, those whose labor provided the wealth for those nice, beautiful places that they see.”

The tour comes at a time when the question of how to remember the ugliest parts of U.S. history continues to divide the country – as the recent violence over the fate of Confederate monuments Charlottesville, Va. again reminded us. Charleston is a city with its own painful racial history dating back to the slave trade.

The places where enslaved people lived and worked were concealed by design, says Lauren Northup, Director of Museums for the Historic Charleston Foundation. At the Nathaniel Russell House Museum, another stop on the tour, a tall fence once divided the formal gardens in front, from the work areas in back. where slaves grew vegetables and raised livestock, Northup said.

“So in the back, we have all of this work going on, and then in the front, we have these very beautiful formal gardens,” she said. “The only way that you could really even see from the front into the back was if you looked out just one side of the house, and then over that fence, to see the labor that was going on in the back.”

Past tours have discussed some former slave quarters, but they’ve never been the focus of a tour before – even though the city was central to the slave trade.

The goal is to tell the full story of the city, said Kitty Robinson, Historic Charleston Foundation president and CEO.

That story, she says, is “only complete when everyone’s story is told,” Robinson said.

Historians estimate some 40 percent of enslaved Africans passed through Charleston’s port.

Their labor has left literal marks on the city, including Anne Blessing’s home. She said she’s always loved the bricks that make up some of her walls.

“They change colors in different light and they kind of contract and expand with the weather,” Blessing said. “…I’ve always thought of them as a work of art, and of course I always knew that they were handmade, but I had never thought about the details.”

Joseph McGill, founder of the Slave Dwelling Project, says he wants people on the tours to know “that behind all that they can witness from the street is the rest of the story,”

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Sarah McCammon/NPR

What she didn’t realize until she met Joseph McGill, was that some of the indentations in the bricks are the fingerprints of the slaves who made them.

“That’s the evidence of the enslaved ancestors reaching out to us saying, ‘We were here; tell our stories,” McGill said.

“And when I go and I put my fingers in those prints, my fingers are way too big – which is an indication that there were children, enslaved children, you know, making those bricks.”

McGill says it’s important to preserve and remember the lives and work of enslaved people whose names have often been forgotten.

Blessing agrees, even if it means facing unpleasant truths about the history of her city and her own home.

“I think it’s important that as a country, we talk about it. It’s such a major part of our history; it’s so much of how we’ve built our country,” Blessing said. “And I think anything that you don’t talk about for a long time is going to come out at some point.”

The tour of former slave quarters in Charleston begins this year with eight properties, a number organizers hope will grow in years to come.

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