Dr. Susan M. Glisson
President and Founder
In 2013, Southern Living and Time Magazine called Susan M. Glisson a “hero of the new South in civil rights,” for pioneering a community-based model of truth-telling and reconciliation. In recognition of this designation, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Cynthia Tucker wrote of Glisson:
“Through the tumult of the Civil Rights Movement, Mississippi acquired a reputation as the nation's least progressive state—violent, brutal, racist. Dr. Susan Glisson doesn't shy away from that painful past. Instead, she looks that history squarely in the eye and insists that others do the same.
As the founding executive director of William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation, an internationally lauded civil rights organization, Glisson spent years bringing together Black, white, and Brown Mississippians, the powerful and the powerless, the descendants of Ku Klux Klan members with descendants of their victims. Her efforts have helped make Mississippi a leader in healing old wounds.”
Glisson’s achievements reflect a rare combination of scholarship as a student of the civil rights movement who uses those lessons to engage deeply in communities haunted by racial violence and trauma.
Learning with the communities she serves, Glisson created an innovative framework for the transformation of biased mindsets and inequitable systems that weds building community trust to advocacy and equitable policy development. Using that approach, called The Welcome Table™, Susan facilitated community-driven dialogue and informed action in sites in Mississippi with the most notorious histories of racial violence. She has since shared that approach in over twenty-five states, with communities, educational institutions, businesses, and faith-based groups.
Together, Susan and the communities she serves created profound community change including the first state conviction in the infamous “Mississippi Burning” case in 2005 and the first public apology for the miscarriage of justice in the Emmett Till case in 2007. Those shifts led to the reordering of how public monies are spent and to increased economic opportunity in those sites and spurred other statewide organizing and dialogue around race.
Her approach has now become a model for mediating between law enforcement and marginalized community members, an area continues to be part of her firm’s current work. Most recently, Susan’ s decades of community-based work in Mississippi helped lead to the removal of Mississippi’s racist state flag in 2020. She co-founded and co-led Sustainable Equity, LLC, a consulting firm that cultivates healing and fosters fairness related to racism and difference from 2016 to 2022.
She is a trained historian of social movements, a skilled educator, and an accomplished facilitator with a gifted capacity for community engagement and youth mentorship.
Glisson is also a writer, with published articles and two forth-coming books: one on the "politics of invitation" versus a "politics of opposition," and a second one, an historical memoir, which tells the coming-of-age story of a white woman from the deep South, descended from slave-owners and Confederate soldiers, who rejected that inheritance, and now argues for empathy, healing, and equity as a remedy to white supremacy.
A native of Evans, GA, Glisson holds two bachelor’s degrees, in religion and in history, a master’s degree in Southern Studies, and a Ph.D. in American Studies from the College of William and Mary. She has numerous publications, has produced three documentary films, and is often called upon by journalists and academics as a public intellectual in matters of race and reconciliation. She presents frequently on the anti-racism and how to move to interdependence, both nationally and internationally.
She has been widely recognized for her leadership, including being named a “Boundbreaker: People Who Make a Difference” by NPR in 2016 and a Champion of Justice by the Mississippi Center for Justice as one of "The Courageous Thirteen," who challenged Mississippi's discriminatory HB1523 bill against the LGBTQIA community in Barber v. Bryant in 2016. She has twice been a Salzburg Fellow and in 2022 was named the Pamela Krasney Moral Courage Fellow at Mesa Refuge. In 2023, she joined Columbia University's Square One: Collaborative on Reckoning and Justice. And in April, 2023, she supported the first family circle reunion of the enslaved and enslavers of Arlington House, most well-known as Robert E. Lee's plantation, an effort that was the culmination of over two years of guided conversation, using Glisson's Welcome Table healing and reckoning process.