A Year of Viral Justice

Today we celebrate the one year publication anniversary of Viral Justice: How We Grow the World We Want by Ruha Benjamin, originally published October 11, 2022. Dr. Benjamin is a professor of African American Studies at Princeton University. Her earlier publications address the intersections among technology, race, and justice and includes two books, People’s Science (2013) and Race After Technology (2019), as well as numerous articles and editor of Captivating Technology. 2022’s Viral Justice builds on the themes present in her earlier work, such as power, equity, and systems of wellbeing, and applies them to the networks of our society. Her analysis is informed both by rigorous academic research and a deeply personal reflection of the ways these networks have impacted her life, her family, and her community.

Dr. Ruha Benjamin, author of Viral Justice, gesturing one handed out into the crowd

Perhaps harkening to her background in science and medicine, Dr. Benjamin uses the metaphor of virus and virality, particularly apt when a global pandemic reminds us of our connectivity, to explore how large, systemic injustices at the state and national level can spread and impact seemingly unconnected aspects of our lives.

But for every instance of systematic oppression, Dr. Benjamin offers a counterpoint for how we can spread joy, hope, and unity, and how we can cause the good to “go viral” as much as the injustice. Just as racist systems can negatively impact physical, mental, and emotional health as much as a disease, expanding access to midwives and doulas greatly improves the health of Black and brown mothers and infants. And while Dr. Benjamin rightly emphasizes how injustices disproportionately affect Black and brown communities, she shows how everyone is negatively impacted by these systems, and, just as importantly, how everyone benefits from a more just world.


Left to right:Versatile Poetiq, Dr. Ruha Benjamin, Kamora Herrington, and Kimolee Eryn
Left to Right:
Versatile Poetiq, Dr. Ruha Benjamin, Kamora Herrington, and Kimolee Eryn

The Stowe Center was overjoyed to award Dr. Benjamin the 2023 Stowe Prize for Viral Justice. We were particularly impressed by her deftness in tying the political to the personal, the power of her writing, and the call to action present in the book. Dr. Benjamin’s presentation during the Stowe Prize presentations featured poetry, stories, and photographs which illustrated many of the topics raised in Viral Justice, and was appreciated by everyone who had the opportunity to hear her speak. And a highlight for everyone in attendance at the Friday program was the conversation between Dr. Benjamin and Kamora Herrington, of Kamora’s Cultural Corner in Hartford. Being there felt like listening in on a conversation between two of the smartest, most insightful women around. Ms. Herrington has been an educator, organizer, and activist in Hartford for decades, and this conversation further personalized these issues to our Hartford community (as she said: Hartford, pay attention to chapter 4!).

Dr. Benjamin will continue to help us envision a world where we can all thrive, not just merely try to survive, in her next book, Imagination: A Manifesto, due out in February of 2024. Imagination promises to hold up the power of imagining a better world as a crucial step to making that world a reality; a world where schools cultivate the dreams of every child; where housing and food security are human rights; and where we are all free to live and love to our fullest potential.

Dr. Benjamin’s work inspires us to not only envision a more just, empowered, and meaningful world, but also to take steps towards making that vision a reality.

The Stowe Prize is awarded annually to a book that illuminates a critical social justice issue.  Nominations are being accepted until October 28 – click here to nominate a book. Visit our website for more information and other programming we offer. 

Cat White is the Director of Public Programs at the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center. She holds an M.A. in History and Public History. Outside of work she is often found with a book in her hand, at a museum, or exploring her new home city of Hartford.