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Designed as a bucolic working-class suburb of St. Louis, the nearly all-black town of Centreville now floods with raw sewage every time it rains. “Bring us back some help,” residents say, living through an environmental horror that evokes centuries of official disinterest in black suffering, as well as a future in which the poor are left to suffer in areas made uninhabitable by climate change.
After retiring from Princeton, celebrated historian Nell Irvin Painter decided to go to art school. In this interview with Walter Johnson, she discusses what it’s like to be an old student, and how art lets her tell truths about history that she couldn’t as an academic.