Most people know about Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 landmark case that integrated US schools for the first time. What many people don’t realize—especially if they’ve been brought up in very white communities—is that race is still a contentious topic in education. In fact, we’re more segregated today than we were in the late 1960s, according to The Atlantic, PolitiFact, Vox, and others, but most people wouldn’t know that from their high school history classes.
Race is still something we don’t teach in school unless it’s firmly placed in the past, like the trans-Atlantic slave trade or the Civil Rights Movement. When race is taught, it’s contained, like in an African American literature course or a class on the history of Japanese American internment. Going against the grain, both James Shields from Guilford College and Sean Frederick Forbes (listen to episode 16) from the University of Connecticut teach about race, just in very different ways.
Historian James Shields has worked in the Bonner Center for Community Learning, a community service scholarship program, since 2001. Our interviewer, Nicole Zelniker, was a Bonner Scholar at Guilford from 2013 to 2017. During James’s tenure as director, the center has been nationally recognized for its innovative community service programs. He’s a sought-after speaker on anti-racism, community engagement, and Underground Railroad history. Here he is, discussing his experience teaching race in higher education.
This episode was produced by Julián Esteban Torres López, Aïcha Martine Thiam, and Nicole Zelniker.
Check out our Being Mixed-Race series, inspired by Nicole Zelniker's book, Mixed.
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