What Does Clint Smith Say American History Is in a Nutshell?

In a recent TED Talk, Clint Smith summed up American history in a nutshell. As a writer, teacher, and doctoral candidate at Harvard University, he has a unique perspective on the topic. His talk is both informative and thought-provoking.

The Nutshell

According to Smith, American history can be summed up in two words: “unfulfilled promises.” From the very beginning of this country’s history, promises were made that were not kept. The Declaration of Independence famously stated that “all men are created equal,” yet this promise was not extended to women or people of color for many years.

Slavery and Jim Crow

One of the most significant unfulfilled promises in American history is the issue of slavery. The United States was built on the backs of slaves who were brought over from Africa to work on plantations. Even after slavery was abolished, Jim Crow laws ensured that African Americans were still not treated as equals.

The Civil Rights Movement

It wasn’t until the Civil Rights Movement that significant progress was made towards fulfilling some of these promises. Activists like Martin Luther King Jr. fought tirelessly for equal rights for all Americans regardless of race.

Current Issues

Unfortunately, even today, many promises remain unfulfilled. Income inequality remains a significant issue in our country. People of color are still disproportionately affected by poverty and lack of access to healthcare and education.

The Takeaway

Clint Smith’s summary of American history underscores how much work we still have to do as a society to fulfill the promises made in our country’s founding documents. It’s essential to acknowledge our past so we can move forward and continue making progress towards equality for all Americans.

  • Unfulfilled promises is how Clint Smith sums up American history.
  • Slavery and Jim Crow are two examples of significant unfulfilled promises.
  • The Civil Rights Movement made progress towards fulfilling some promises, but many issues remain unresolved.
  • Income inequality and lack of access to healthcare and education are current issues that need to be addressed.


In conclusion, Clint Smith’s summary of American history is both eye-opening and sobering. It reminds us that we still have a long way to go before all Americans are treated equally. As we move forward as a society, it’s essential to remember our past so we can continue making progress towards fulfilling the promises made in our country’s founding documents.