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 was recently named the Pamela Krasney Moral Courage Fellow at Mesa Refuge.
In May of 2022, Steve received an honorary doctorate degree of Humane Letters from his alma Mater, Whitman College, located in southeastern Washington State. This recognition is reflective of his commitment to community, education and a better future for our Nation.
A Denver, Colorado native, Mr. Hammond is a retired federal employee who had a 40-year career and was a decorated earth scientist with the US Geological Survey. He is now a Scientist Emeritus with the agency.
Steve is a 7th generation member of the Syphax family of Washington, DC: a line that moved by force to New Orleans and then by choice to Denver. He began work on his family history more that 50 years ago. As an adult he has participated in National Park Service programs at the Arlington House – the Robert E. Lee Memorial to highlight the lives of his Syphax ancestors and other enslaved Americans on the estate. He has spoken at the historic Decatur House on Lafayette Square in Washington, DC and has contributed to exhibits at George Washington’s Mount Vernon and the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Steve was featured on CBS this Morning in a story about the reopening of the Arlington House. His goals are to educate and inspire others to research and document their own family history.
Steve is a charter member of the Sons and Daughters of the United States Middle Passage and is an elected officer for the DC Chapter of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society. He was named a Virginia Humanities Scholar for his work in exploring African-American life and achievement in Virginia.
Steve regularly participates as a guest speaker in teacher institutes designed to help K-thru-12 educators from across the country to enhance professional development and sharpen their classroom skills to increase student engagement in the classroom and support learning outcomes. Steve rarely turns down an opportunity to engage the public during a program where he can tell stories of his family history and describe the process and work it has taken to reach the point where he is at today.