A & H Faculty Commemorate Black History Month in the Classroom

February 12, 2021
Image of american flag with the text Black History Month in front

Across the School of Arts & Humanities our faculty have been commemorating Black History Month by engaging students in works by Black scholars and artists. For most of our faculty, discussions of works about the Black experience in America and globally happen all semester, unbracketed by the month of February. And yet with a nod to the great historian Carter G. Woodson who insisted on recognition for the achievement of peoples of African descent in America, we commemorate Black History Month by acknowledging its crucial role in insisting that Black history is history. Here are some of the ways our faculty are honoring Black History Month in the classroom:  

Students of Stephanie Dyer, chair of Hutchins School of Liberal Arts, in LIBS 304 American History for Elementary Educators, will be reading excerpts from the 1619 Project, listening to the podcast, and discussing how to incorporate it into K-5 social studies instruction.

Students of Anne Goldman, Professor of Literature, in ENGL 485 are reading 20th and 21st century Chicana, white, and Black women poets, including Gwendolyn Brooks, the first Black American to win the Pulitzer Prize for Annie Allen in 1950 ("kitchenette building," "Boy Breaking Glass," "The Bean Eaters," and "The Ballad of Rudolph Reed");  Claudia Rankine’s Citizen; and M.NourbeSe Philip's extraordinary Zong.

Students of Suzanne Toczyski, Professor of French, in French 314 are reading Evelyne Trouillot's novel The Infamous Rosalie, Jacques Roumain's Masters of the Dew, and Lilas Desquiron's Reflections of Loko-Miwa, plus short texts by Caroline Randall Williams, Frederick Douglass, and Langston Hughes.

Students in French 202 will be reading articles from the contemporary press about "l'éveil racial" (racial awakening) in France and will be discussing the film La Haine, which focuses on police brutality toward populations of color.

Students of Megan McIntyre, Writing Program Director, in ENGL 402: Social Media/Social Justice, have been focusing on how the Black Digital Humanities work to recover the lived experiences of Black folks and expand our sense of what's possible. Students focused on work by Jessica Marie Johnson (seen here discussing her work on recovering the stories and experiences of enslaved people, particularly African women who helped found New Orleans) and Kim Gallon, who argues that the Black Digital Humanities recover and articulate "alternate constructions of humanity that have been historically excluded from that concept." They will next be focusing on Safiya Noble's work on how algorithms and platforms magnify, reinforce, and perpetuate antiblack racism online, and we're closing out the month reading Andre Brock's work on Black identity in online spaces.

Students of Clea Felien, Assistant Professor of Art Studio, have been studying 'Smear Campaign', from David R. Roediger's Colored White Transcending the Racial Past Giuliani: pp 27-43.  University of California Press Ltd. 2002. This essay examines how the artist Chris Ofili’s piece ‘The Holy Virgin Mary’, (part of the Saatchi Sensation show at the Brooklyn museum of art), was demonized and misrepresented in 1999 in the press by then Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

Students of Anthony Rizzuto, Lecturer in English read Black history year-round (since Black history is American history) and this month they’re reading Ta-Nehisi Coates's Between the World and Me, Samantha Irby, and Walter Mosley's Devil in a Blue Dress. Also coming up are short works by Haitian-American writer Diane Exavier, and Black American writer-scholar Bettina Judd. Both of those are taken from The Racial Imaginary, edited by Claudia Rankine and others.  

Students of Nancy Viega, Lecturer in English, are reading a book of essays by Elwood David Watson titled Keepin' It Real: Essays on Race in Contemporary America.

Students of Jennifer Shaw, Professor of Art History, in ARTH 466 Contemporary Art will be studying Black artists throughout the semester including Kara Walker, Dread Scott, Glen Ligon, Frank Wilson, Mark Bradford, Nick Cave, Yinko Shinobare and others. They will also be looking at art world controversies centered on issues of race and equity in museum and gallery settings and at the cultural politics of depictions of race.

Students of Megan Burke, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, in Gender & Social Justice are involved in a seminar-style study of Black feminist thinker and activist Angela Davis's Women, Race, & Class (Random House, 1981), which usually considered feminist literature, is being read for her philosophical contribution to understandings of gender, race, and oppression.

Dr. Patrick Johnson, Assistant Professor of American Multicultural Studies, and film director Shomari Smith facilitated a conversation on the documentary 93 Til Infinity: The Souls of Mischief, discussing music “as a tool to know where we come from and most importantly, where we are going.”

Dean Hollis Robbins gave a National Humanities Center Webinar entitled Producing Outrage: the Poetics of Enslavement. She will also be in conversation with Bryan Sinche at Harvard’s Hutchins Center for African & African American Research on the novel Appointed: An American Novel and will be presenting at Harvard on James Weldon Johnson in Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s graduate seminar. She also guest lectured on Hannah Crafts’s The Bondwoman’s Narrative at Warren Wilson College.