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About the Grand Challenge Initiative

The Grand Challenge Initiative is a faculty-led effort to identify and tackle some of the biggest challenges facing society today. For more information on the Grand Challenge Initiative Research Projects in the Vanderbilt University College of Arts and Sciences, click here.

Brief Research Project Description

Some analysts say that the Reconstruction era (1867-1877) and the heyday of the U.S. Black freedom movement (1955-1965) marked the first and second attempts at reconstructing a U.S. society which had historically been built on white supremacy, racist violence, and racial oppression. This project will explore the conditions that contributed to and resulted from the murder of George Floyd and consider the prospects for racial justice in light of those conditions. The Third Reconstruction initiative will take a hard look at our current moment and ask about the requirements of justice, the full dimensions of injustice, and what it would take to bring the original dream of reconstruction to fruition.

Lead Researcher

Professor Paul C. Taylor, W. Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy and African American Studies (website)

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Eric Joseph Ritter, PhD (website)


“American Identity and the War on Terror”

“Critical Race Theory in Tennessee”

Haiti and the US: Political Pasts, Present and Future

“Voter Rights and Voter Suppression”

“Racial Injustice in Colorblind Policing and Prisons

Steering COmmittee

Frank Dobson (Associate Dean, Martha Rivers Ingram Commons), Derek Griffith (Medicine, Health, and Society), Karla McKanders (Law), Jonathan M. Metzl ( Medicine, Health, and Society), Rich Milner (Education), Tracey Sharpley-Whiting (African American and Diaspora Studies), Emilie M. Townes (Ethics & Society), Rhonda Y. Williams (American History), Christoph Zeller (German and European Studies)