Presenter: LaJuanda Bonham Jones
Some scholars teach U.S. history from the “top down” and focus on the presidents and famed figures and their achievements. Others approach U.S. history from the “bottom up” and concentrate on social struggles and their impacts on race, gender, class and immigration issues. In light of recent events, it is appallingly evident that most Americans know just a fraction of U.S. history. In large part, we could attribute such ignorance to the denial and erasure of historical truths that have persisted for centuries. However, as an institution of higher learning, we have an obligation to our students to unveil false narratives and teach historical truths.
To get closer to the truth, we must observe U.S. history through the lens of the African diaspora and engage in, if you will, “Black down” and “Black up” pedagogical approaches. The former studies and celebrates the leadership, innovations, contributions and successes of African Americans, in spite of systemic racism, while the latter examines and acknowledges the long arms and sharp talons of racism that denies the history, “defers the dreams,” represses the human rights and undervalues the lives of African Americans, thus leading to struggles against systemic racism.
Now, we could argue that it is human nature to shun or shy away from such painful truths, and allow “history to repeat itself.” Or, in our steadfast pursuit of historical truths, we can choose to learn more about real U.S. history, and ultimately, our real selves.
The purpose of the 2019 Dallas College North Lake Campus Civil Rights field trip was to educate our students about the “real heroes of the South” and guide them on a memorable bus journey into the heartland of the Civil Rights Movement: Jackson, Miss., and Birmingham and Montgomery, Ala. In four days and three nights, our “freedom riders” visited momentous Civil Rights sites, museums and memorials, such as the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, 16th Street Baptist Church, Rosa Parks Museum, Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church and National Memorial for Peace and Justice. We were in rapture when conversing with real-life Civil Rights heroes, knowledgeable museum curators and inspirational tour directors. Their remarkable stories and legacies inspire us to reach new heights. As a prologue to the trip, our students attended Civil Rights presentations lectured by Civil Rights faculty and staff advisors so that they would be immersed in topics including slavery, lynching, racial segregation, mass incarceration, role of the African American church, civil disobedience and equal justice.
In 2020, we expanded the number of Civil Rights presentations and had over 400 people in attendance. Unfortunately, we had to cancel our second Civil Rights field trip due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, we remain undeterred. Strategies for scaling up our Civil Rights programming are currently being discussed. Our mission — and hope — is that we continue to provide more students with such transformative educational experiences so that they may be equipped with historical truths and become our real leaders and heroes of tomorrow.
- Learn about the planning process that went into the successful execution of the Civil Rights trip.
- Be exposed to student experiences from the Civil Rights trip. Strategies for program scalability will also be discussed.