You might have noticed that Reckon started to look a little different this year. The biggest reason is because we’re listening more closely to our readers, Southerners who are shaping the world around them in all the big and little ways we know are possible. Throughout the year, we’ve dug deep to have tough conversations about race and racism, gender and sexuality, justice, health, money and, of course the pandemic.

Here are a few of our favorite stories, and be on the lookout for more work like this in the new year.

Remember Silent Sam: Student activists head back to campus more determined than ever to address racism

Several Confederate monuments behind text, "University Racism Unraveled"

This summer Lily Jackson dug into the fraught racial histories of predominantly white universities in the South. As Confederate monuments began to topple across the country, she spoke with students who were working to recognize the role enslaved people played in building campuses.

Purity culture: How sex was taught to a generation of Southerners

The whole Reckon team played a part in this seven-part series on purity culture and the ways some Southerners were taught about sex in the South. We looked into the ways purity culture has affected a generation of Southerners into adulthood and how groups across the South are filling in the sex ed gaps.

How are extroverts finding purpose without people?

Extroverts are not getting their normal fill. How are they handling isolation?

The pandemic brought unimaginable strife for people across the globe, but loneliness—the ability to commune in person with one another—is already proving lasting impacts on the ways. We looked into how extroverts are coping and the ways they’re staying in touch.

Maternal mortality panel finds 70 percent of Alabama pregnancy deaths preventable; urges Medicaid expansion

For the first time, Alabama is now tracking and analyzing pregnancy-related deaths, thanks in part to the journalistic efforts of our own Anna Claire Vollers. Vollers has reported on the state’s dismal infant and maternal mortality rates for years and found Alabama could not track and resolve an issue in which there was no data. This year the maternal mortality review panel found 70 percent of the state’s pregnancy deaths were preventable.

How do young Black people see the future of the South?

Starr Dunigan launched a series, “Young, Southern and Black,” highlighting the work and talents of young Black folks living in the South. We couldn’t pick just one, but this story is a good place to start.

Where are Alabama’s elected Republican women?

Alabama is one of the reddest states in the nation, but it’s got the lowest percentage of Republican women serving as state legislators of any state in the South, at just 5 percent. Nationally women, especially Republican women are snatching congressional seats up in droves, but in Alabama there isn’t the same push for political involvement.

Student loan debt hits Black students hardest. Is help on the way?

Chris Harress looked into the inequities facing Black college students. Compared to their white counterparts, people of color owe $7,400 more on average in student loan debt when they graduate, according to a report by the Brookings Institute. Four years after graduation, they owe $53,000 on average — twice the amount as whites. And that gap grows 6.7% every year, according to an 2018 article in the journal Sociology of Race and Ethnicity. 

Unjustifiable: How an overlooked moment in Birmingham history charted a path to 2020

In this six-part podcast, Reckon Radio looks into the police killing of Bonita Carter in 1979 and how her death changed the course of Birmingham’s history. “Unjustifiable” tells the story of Carter, the protests that erupted and the change demanded, resulting in the election of the city’s first Black mayor.

‘Stand your ground’: Black drivers have always found creative paths into racing despite racism and financial barriers

Only eight Black men have ever driven in NASCAR’s elite Cup Series. After NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace was thrust into the national spotlight after a noose was found in his garage, we looked into the sport’s history of Black drivers and their often winding paths to racing.

Pandemic victory gardens remind us that Southern agriculture is a form of resistance

Text: Sow the seeds of Victory! Plant raise your own vegetables

After growing a pandemic garden of her own on her front porch, Abbey Crain looked into the history of gardening in the South as a form of resistance.

“Having a small little garden — however big it is, if it’s a bed in a tiny front yard or just some containers on your back stoop — being able to care for something can keep you sane,” said Andre Gallant, a Southern food writer and photographer in Athens, Ga.