Katie Couric debuts episode of her new series in Charlottesville

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- Dozens of people joined Katie Couric, an award-winning journalist and University of Virginia alumna, Wednesday night for a special screening of an episode from her new National Geographic series called "America Inside Out with Katie Couric."

This episode centers around the controversy of removing Confederate monuments in America and the renaming of schools and roads currently named for Confederate generals.

Couric said it's meaningful for her to come back and tell this story.

"It matters me to me a lot that I've done this story justice and that I've done a good job," said Couric. "I've told it in a way that rings true for the people in this community."

Couric said her experience from last summer's Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville motivated her to learn more about this topic and the history behind it.

"I learned about the timing of these monuments and memorials and the message that they were designed to send to certain members of the black community," said Couric. "I hope people have a lot more knowledge and information and be able to have a much more informed and intelligent conversation."

A discussion with local activists and historians featured in Couric's episode followed the screening.

The conversation centered around how the statues have impacted the country and Charlottesville.

Zhayna Bryant, a Charlottesville High School student and activist, said these statues promote pain for the town.

"Trauma is trauma," said Bryant. "People of color often have to put our trauma on the back burner at the expense of teaching other people about white supremacy."

Gary Gallagher, a UVA historian, said he's reluctant to take down these statues immediately because they serve as an important lesson for the community.

"I found the Confederate memorial landscape always to be a powerful teaching tool," said Gallagher. "It's one of the best ways to get people to understand the difference between history and memory, which most Americans don't understand."

John Mason, another UVA historian, said the meaning of the statues in Charlottesville changed after the Unite the Right rally.

"There's another layer of meaning that was added in August and that meaning will be there forever," said Mason.

Couric said she hopes to continue conversations like this to inspire others to learn more about the issues that are dividing America.

"We can all continue to learn and grow, but we can't do it if we're so deeply entrenched in our own points of view, that we are unable to even listen to someone that may have a different life experience and a different opinion than we do," she said.

Couric said her new series will focus on topics such as technology and political correctness on college campuses and beyond.

"America Inside Out with Katie Couric" will premiere on National Geographic on April 11 at 10 p.m.

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