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Experiment in Black and white – 20th Anniversary

One house, one week, five Black, five white. Living together. Would YOU be able to handle it? 

Reflections on a bold race relations ‘experiment’

When the subject is race relations, people shut up. Most don’t want to talk about the issue, especially in mixed company. Few seem willing to speak openly or candidly, for fear of being called a bigot or a racist. And as a result, questions and answers, issues and problems, simply don’t get discussed thoroughly and honestly in America today.

Instead, ignorance festers, fear grows, stereotypes persist, segregation increases.

Experiment in Black and White is a project designed to help change all that—and today The Reporters Inc. is celebrating the 20th anniversary of this national Emmy and Edward R. Murrow award-winning production.

We managed to round up eight of the 10 participants for an in-depth, written Q&A, two decades after they agreed to open up their lives, and their minds, for this groundbreaking Experiment. In addition, the entire documentary and two reunions with the participants have been combined into a streaming video and made available to the public, for free, for the very first time.


But first, some background:

Experiment in Black and White brings five Black and five white Chicago-area residents (all strangers to one another) together for one week, sequestering them inside a home. They live, eat, sleep, socialize, and debate race-related issues with one another.

They leave their jobs and their families behind, all with the same goal: to break down barriers, to work through their prejudices and biases, and to better educate both themselves (and the hundreds of thousands of people who would end up watching the project). The participants are selected with the assistance of race relations experts.

EXPERIMENTThe group is given daily assignments and tasks, designed and facilitated in part by professors from the University of Illinois, Northwestern, DePaul and other schools. They converse about everything from slavery reparations and racial profiling, to affirmative action and the use of the ‘n’ word. There are discussions about discrimination and crime, language and behavior, and cultural and sociological perceptions. The conversations are eye opening, provocative, and sometimes controversial. Yet they’re also rational, meaningful and substantive.

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EXPERIMENT PARTICIPANTS ENJOY a meal and conversation.

Take a look at the trailer: “Experiment in Black and White” Trailer on Vimeo.

Click here for Experiment in Black and White Reflections and to learn more about the Experiment.

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