19: This Month in Black History – “Honoring Martin Luther King Jr.”

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial statue.

“Honoring Martin Luther King Jr”

by Dr. Regina Stevens-Truss

Happy MLK Day! Every January since 1986 we celebrate the legacy and death of this iconic figure in US History. We feel like we know EVERYTHING about this person. In fact, it was difficult for me to write 1000 words that could truly honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. As I researched and thought about this story, you can imagine that I found tons of information.

So, here are some facts that we likely all know about Dr. King:

  • Martin Luther King Jr. was born in Atlanta, Georgia on January 15, 1929. (source: Martin Luther King Jr., History.com)
  • In 1955, Dr. King organized and led the Montgomery Bus Boycott in protest of Rosa Parks’ arrest. This event propelled young Dr. King (then 27 years old) to the position of leader of the Civil Rights Movement. He was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968. (source: Martin Luther King Jr. born, History.com)
  • In 1960, he co-pastored the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, and continued to serve in the role of the church’s pastor until his death in 1968. (source: Martin Luther King Jr., History.com)
  • The truth is that few people in the world can honestly say they that they do not know who Martin Luther King Jr is – Fun Fact: as of Jan, 2022 there are “41 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico” (source: Nearly 1,000 U.S. Streets Named After MLK Jr. What Are They Like?, How Stuff Works) that have streets named for Martin Luther King Jr.

We know him as a brilliant orator with iconic and memorable speeches, many possessing inspirational and educational quotes. This week, in fact, the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership (ACSJL) has invited us to reflect on MLK’s life and work by providing us daily quotes – themed “Radical Lessons.” I hope you have been following and reading these. If you did not receive them, contact the ACSJL to subscribe to the newsletter.

There are many things, however, that we might not know about Dr. King. I found this great site that delineates “10 Things you may not know about Martin Luther King Jr.” So, for this 19 story I’ll pose these questions to you – Test Yourself – and get the answers:

  • Did you know that MLK was not named Martin at birth?
  • Do you know at what age MLK enrolled at Morehouse College?
  • Do you know why MLK is referred to as Dr.?
  • Do you know what MLK’s first speech at the Lincoln Memorial was?
  • You may know that MLK was imprisoned, but do you know how many times?
  • Did you know that that there was a previous, and almost successful, attempt on MLK’s life prior to his murder in 1968?
  • You likely know that in the speech he gave the night before he was murdered, he foretold his death, right? Do you know what the speech was for?
  • Probably not news – the King family believes that MLK’s death was a conspiracy.
  • Do you know how MLK’s mother died?
  • Only 4 Americans have had National Holidays observing their birthday. Besides MLK, do you know the other 3?
  • I hope everyone used the holiday on Monday to honor Martin Luther King Jr – his life, his teachings, and his pleas for equality and justice.

If you are looking for additional ideas and resources to continue your education, sign up for the GlobalMinded Newsletters.

Regina Stevens-Truss, Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry

19: This Month in Black History – “Happy Holidays”

Dr. Regina Stevens-Truss

“Happy Holidays”

by Dr. Regina Stevens-Truss

How many times have you written that, heard that, or received that wish at the end of an email or in a card? Likely hundreds of times every year. How many times, however, have you (we) stopped and reflected on what exactly we were wishing or being wished?

I have personally experienced Christmas Celebrations in Panamá, in Spain (Madrid and Valencia), in France (Strasbourg), and in South Africa (Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durbin) – oh, and of course in the USA – and every one of these celebrations have been different.

There are many December Holidays across the world, all with their own rich traditions. So, for this December 19th story, we will just share some links with some readings and videos for you to enjoy as you reflect on your own cultures and traditions.

Readings and Videos

Just for Grins – reply to this post with celebrations you are aware of and that are not listed in these links – maybe tell us one of your traditions!!!

Wishing you and your loved ones, Peace, Health, and Joy this Holiday season.

Regina Stevens-Truss

Questions?

Questions about this series or if interested in authoring one, please contact Dr. Regina Stevens-Truss (Regina.Stevens-Truss@kzoo.edu)

19: This Month in Black History – “I’ll Go to Jail”: Detroit’s Richard Henry and GOAL

Written by Dr. James Lewis, Professor of History (editorial support from Dr. Regina Stevens-Truss)

“OK, you would have to have been living under a rock to not have heard of the current political discourse regarding banning American History books from K-12 schools – and burning them! The fight for representation and true American history teaching, however, is not new and has roots in Michigan!”

R. Stevens-Truss

On Tuesday, November 27, 1962, Richard Henry, the president of Detroit’s Group On Advanced Leadership (GOAL) and the father of an eighth grader at Durfee Junior High, announced: “I’ll go to jail before I allow my son to return to a history class in which these objectionable text books are being used.” His strong stance was an emotional climax in an ongoing battle between GOAL and the Detroit School Board over the coverage–and, more frequently, simply the omission–of Black people and Black history from the books required in the city’s primary and secondary school classes. GOAL had raised this issue in the spring, as part of a larger challenge to the school board to address discrimination against Black students in terms of access to vocational training programs and guidance counselling and Black adults in terms of hiring. The school board’s initial response about the textbooks was that better books were not being adopted simply because they did not exist.

In large measure, that assessment was correct. It was not that historians did not know better. Even by the early 1960s, academic historians were already revising and overturning old myths about slavery, Reconstruction, and Black life, often following the lead of Black scholars such as W. E. B. DuBois, Carter Woodson, and John Hope Franklin. But that work had made little impact on primary and secondary school history texts. These texts continued to present slavery as benign and enslaved people as happy with their lot in life (which was often described as easier than that of the northern working class) and Black empowerment in the Reconstruction Era South as misguided and disastrous. The explanation for the disconnect, not only between what happened and what the textbooks said had happened, but even between what scholars were saying had happened and what made it into textbooks arose from the confluence of the profit seeking of textbook publishers and the white supremacism of Southern adoption boards. Textbook publishers wanted to be able to sell their products nationally, pitching the same product to as many potential adopters as possible. The white Southerners who made adoption decisions, whether on the state or the district level, insisted on a version of U.S. history that left little room for Blacks at all and slotted them into acceptable accounts of slavery and Reconstruction when they had to be included. Outside of the South, states and districts had merely chosen from among the available options.

There had been Black activism around school textbooks long before GOAL took up the issue in 1962, by Black educators and organizations and in northern cities with large Black populations (including Detroit). But the battle gained new energy in the context of the dynamism of the early ’60s Civil Rights Movement. In response to the Detroit school board’s insistence that there were no better options, GOAL had called on it to issue an ultimatum to publishers that it would stop adopting their textbooks unless “the races [were] treated with equal respect and distinction.” After two months with little movement on the issue, GOAL had prepared a draft ultimatum for the school board’s use in June 1962.

At a meeting with GOAL in July, the superintendent of schools had promised that textbooks “more suited to the urban community” would be used in the fall. But, when Richard Henry’s son Frederick attended his first day of school that September, the book for his history class, Our United States: A Bulwark of Freedom, was worse than most (it was also in use in Birmingham, Alabama). In the words of an NAACP review, “The image of the Negro projected by the authors is that of a dependent, servile creature, who, with the exception of his ability to sing and make music, has contributed only minimally to the development of his country and is incapable of functioning as a responsible person.” Richard Henry told his son to stay home from school in protest. And, while Frederick returned to Durfee soon, his father kept him out of his history class. On November 23, the superintendent of schools rejected a demand, made jointly by GOAL and the NAACP, that the book be withdrawn from use in the school system—a decision that was reported even in the New York Times. This refusal prompted Richard Henry’s announcement that he would go to jail before letting Frederick return to the class, as well as a threat to sue to prevent the use of the book. After a GOAL meeting at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church a few days later, Henry informed a reporter for the Michigan Chronicle–one of the city’s Black-owned newspapers–that GOAL was “preparing to mobilize 10,000 Negroes to protest the use of [that] text.”

Within a week, the Chronicle would announce “Ultimate Victory Predicted” in the battle over Our United States as the state curriculum committee made clear the need for better options. Within four months, the school board had commissioned a supplement, “The Struggle for Freedom and Rights,” that it quickly sent out to middle schools to use in conjunction with the problematic book. In May 1963, the Chronicle described this step as “an initial victory,” noting that “the problem of more representative textbooks is far from being completely solved in” Detroit. That November, the school board officially dropped Our United States from its approved list and began looking for a replacement. By the beginning of the new school year in September 1964, it had selected a heavily revised version of Our United States that had overhauled its coverage of Blacks with the help of an academic historian and material drawn from “The Struggle for Freedom and Rights.”

Victory in Detroit, when combined with the release of some highly critical assessments of the available textbooks, sparked increased activism around the presentation of Blacks in primary and secondary school history textbooks in other northern cities (including New York City), in California, and, within a couple of years, in the U.S. House of Representatives. The furor in Detroit led most of the textbook publishers to launch internal reviews of their products and policies that included meetings with civil rights groups and educators. Other cities followed Detroit in setting guidelines for textbook approval that called for racial diversity and honesty. The new textbooks, perhaps not surprisingly, produced a backlash, not only from adoption committees in Southern states, but also in places with a large population of conservative whites, such as California.

What the efforts of textbook authors and publishers to offer a more inclusive and more honest representation of the American past revealed was the complexity of incorporating Blacks into that past on anything beyond the superficial level of “great contributors,” whether the mathematician Benjamin Banneker or the agricultural pioneer George Washington Carver. Revisions designed to give Blacks their full place in the American past could only challenge the simplistic, nationalistic myths that served to hold that past—and the idea of Americans as a single people—together. These basic myths were encapsulated in such phrases as: “a bulwark of freedom” (the subtitle of Our United States) or “land of opportunity” or “a nation of immigrants” (which implies a voluntarism that was entirely absent from the experience of enslaved Africans). None of them could easily accommodate the Black experience—many required denying its most important features.

Richard Henry (later Imari Obadele), GOAL, and other Black Detroiters helped to launch real changes in what most American children now see in their textbooks. But the difficulty of fully incorporating Black history into the feel-good national story that many Americans expect (and demand) remains and has shaped battles over everything from multiculturalism in the 1990s to the 1619 Project in recent years.

For further reading on this issue, see: Joseph Moreau, Schoolbook Nation: Conflicts over American History Textbooks from the Civil War to the Present (2003), esp. chapter 7; and Hillel Black, The American Schoolbook (1967).

Questions?

Questions about this story, please contact Dr. James Lewis (James.Lewis@kzoo.edu). Questions about this series or if interested in authoring one, please contact Dr. Regina Stevens-Truss (Regina.Stevens-Truss@kzoo.edu)

ARRK – Nov 2022 Discussion

ARRK Nov 2022 Discussion

Participants restricted to Kalamazoo College Faculty, Staff, Students, and Administration

4:10 p.m. ET on Tuesday, November 15th
ARRK Meeting Space (MS Teams)

Join us on Tuesday, November 15th in the ARRK Meeting Space to discuss Chapter Two: Dissenters and Heretics (44 pages total), of Reckoning : Kalamazoo College Uncovers Its Racial and Colonial Past by Anne Dueweke. If you are unable to attend the discussion, please feel free to post your thoughts on the chapter in the ARRK Meeting Space.


The AntiRacism Reading Knook (ARRK) is a collaboration between the K College library staff and our Inclusive Excellence (KCIE) leadership team. This initiative is NOT a book club, but seeks to facilitate campus-wide engagement with the books in the KCIE Reading for Change book collection. This collection was created to encourage learning about and facilitate greater access to antiracism information to all members of the campus community.

ARRK aims to:

  1. reduce barrier to entry into reading antiracism books,
  2. identify and highlight campus facilitators with experience teaching and/or disciplinary expertise who can provide context and guide discussions of specific texts,
  3. foster broader relationships among faculty and staff, and thus
  4. build greater capacity for an inclusive campus through sustained and focused engagement with shared texts.
  5. help catalyze members of the campus to engage in small group discussions of entire books in the collection (self-organized book clubs, if you will).

For further information on #ARRK see the KCIE AntiRacism Reading Knook page. To volunteer to lead one of these sessions complete the ARRK Discussion Leader application.

19: This Month in Black History – Milestones in Environmental Justice, Dr. Robert Bullard

Dr. Robert Bullard

Written by Dr. Binney Girdler, Professor of Biology & Director of Environmental Studies

Photos: See photos of Dr. Robert Bullard

This month, we celebrate Dr. Robert Bullard, often called the “father of environmental justice,” who in October of 1990 published Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class, and Environmental Quality, a path-breaking book with a national focus on environmental injustice in the United States. Dr. Bullard was also a key organizer of the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit held in October 1991, which resulted in the adoption of 17 Principles of Environmental Justice as a comprehensive platform for a national and international movement of all peoples.

Robert Bullard was born in 1946 in the small town of Elba, Alabama, where he attended segregated schools. He received his B.S. in Government from Alabama A&M University. After serving in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam war, he pursued his M.A. in Sociology from Atlanta University and his Ph.D. in Sociology from Iowa State University. He has held faculty and director positions at Clark Atlanta University, where he founded the Environmental Justice Resource Center, University of Tennessee, the University of California – both Riverside and Berkeley, and Texas Southern University, where he is now Distinguished Professor of Urban Planning and Environmental Policy and Director of the Bullard Center for Environmental and Climate Justice.

Robert Bullard began his efforts to catalog environmental injustice as an expert witness in a Houston, Texas class action lawsuit that attempted to block construction of a landfill proposed to be built within two miles of six schools, one within 1500 feet of the proposed dump. Recruited by his wife, Linda McKeever Bullard, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, the young sociology professor Bullard recruited students in his sociology methods class, and together they conducted a painstaking study of landfills in Houston. At that time, in 1979, “[t]here was no Google, there was no GIS mapping,” Bullard says in a recent interview with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The team eventually reported that all five city-owned landfills were sited in Black neighborhoods, as were 80 percent of city-owned garbage incinerators, and 75 percent of privately-owned landfills, even though only 25 percent of Houston’s entire population was Black. That lawsuit, Bean v. Southwestern Waste Management, Inc., did not succeed in stopping the landfill, because it was difficult to prove intent. But Bullard was “hooked,” as he said in a 2006 interview: “I started connecting the dots in terms of housing, residential patterns, patterns of land use, where highways go, where transportation routes go, and how economic-development decisions are made. It was very clear that people who were making decisions — county commissioners or industrial boards or city councils — were not the same people who were “hosting” these facilities in their communities” (Grist, Meet Robert Bullard, the father of environmental justice)

Bullard expanded his study of environmental injustice to a nationwide scope in his landmark book Dumping in Dixie, published this month in 1990. He cataloged the stories of five Black communities across the American South where ordinary people spoke up, organized, resisted, protested, and fought for their right to live free from contamination and other environmental harms. Dr. Bullard has gone on to publish dozens of peer-reviewed articles and 17 more books on topics ranging from the racist roots of the unequal toll of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, to city planning, health equity, food security, transportation apartheid, and climate justice.

Although Bullard has had a successful career in academia, it is his work within marginalized communities that has been most impactful. Bullard related in a 1999 interview: “What we’ve tried to do over the last twenty years is educate and assist groups in organizing and mobilizing, empowering themselves to take charge of their lives, their community and their surroundings. … For the most part, a lot of the small grassroots groups operate from a bottom-up model. They don’t have boards of directors and large budgets and large staffs but they do operate with the idea that everyone has a role and we are all equal in this together” (Earth First! Journal, Environmental Justice: An Interview with Robert Bullard).

In addition to his deep engagement in communities facing environmental harms, Dr. Bullard has continued to serve as expert witness in court cases across the nation, and has served on several national advisory panels. This month in 1991, the Principles of Environmental Justice were adopted at the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit, co-organized by Dr. Bullard and held in Washington, DC. The EJ Summit, attended by well over 1,000 participants, was foundational in the Environmental Justice Movement. Delegates came from all fifty states including Alaska and Hawaii, and from Puerto Rico, Chile, Mexico, Nigeria, and the Marshall Islands. The seventeen principles were developed as a guide for organizing, networking, and relating to each other as people of color, non-governmental organizations, and governments. Bill Clinton appointed Dr. Bullard to the inaugural National Environmental Justice Advisory Council, a federal advisory committee to the EPA, which was pivotal to Clinton signing the landmark Environmental Justice Executive Order 12898, “Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations.” Dr. Bullard continues this important work at the intersection of civil rights and environmental justice today as a member of President Joe Biden’s White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council, which now advises the entire administration, from the U.S. Department of Energy to Health and Human Services.

Bullard’s list of honors and awards is long and wide-ranging, so we’ll highlight just the last few years. In 2020, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) honored Dr. Bullard with its Champions of the Earth Lifetime Achievement Award, the UN’s highest environmental honor. Most recently, Dr. Robert Bullard was among the 2022 cohort of scholars inducted into the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. In an interview at Texas Southern University, Bullard reacted: “It is truly an honor to be elected to such a prestigious body and to have the American Academy of Arts and Sciences recognize and lift up our justice and equity work,” he said. “I accept the honor on behalf of the struggles in frontline and fence-line communities where there is still much work to be done to secure environmental and climate justice for all” (Texas Southern University, TSU’s “Father of Environmental Justice” selected to join American Academy of Arts & Sciences)

Questions?

Questions about this story, please contact Dr. Binney Girdler (Binney.Girdler@kzoo.edu). Questions about this series or if interested in authoring one, please contact Dr. Regina Stevens-Truss (Regina.Stevens-Truss@kzoo.edu)

ARRK – Oct 2022 Discussion

ARRK Oct 2022 Discussion

Participants restricted to Kalamazoo College Faculty, Staff, Students, and Administration

11:30 a.m. ET on Tuesday, October 18th
ARRK Meeting Space (MS Teams)

Join us on Tuesday, October 18th in the ARRK Meeting Space to discuss Chapter One: Ascendancy, of Reckoning : Kalamazoo College Uncovers Its Racial and Colonial Past (34 pages total) by Anne Dueweke. If you are unable to attend the discussion, please feel free to post your thoughts on the chapter in the ARRK Meeting Space. Also refer to the list below for some helpful discussion/reading questions supplied by Anne Dueweke.

Chapter One: Ascendancy Discussion/Reading Questions

  • How would you describe the attitudes of the founders toward the Potawatomi and Ottawa?
  • What were the ideas and societal forces influencing their views?
  • To what degree have these ideas and societal forces changed or not changed over time?
  • What does it mean now that the College was founded during the era of Indian Removal? How should the College address that aspect of its history?

The AntiRacism Reading Knook (ARRK) is a collaboration between the K College library staff and our Inclusive Excellence (KCIE) leadership team. This initiative is NOT a book club, but seeks to facilitate campus-wide engagement with the books in the KCIE Reading for Change book collection. This collection was created to encourage learning about and facilitate greater access to antiracism information to all members of the campus community.

ARRK aims to:

  1. reduce barrier to entry into reading antiracism books,
  2. identify and highlight campus facilitators with experience teaching and/or disciplinary expertise who can provide context and guide discussions of specific texts,
  3. foster broader relationships among faculty and staff, and thus
  4. build greater capacity for an inclusive campus through sustained and focused engagement with shared texts.
  5. help catalyze members of the campus to engage in small group discussions of entire books in the collection (self-organized book clubs, if you will).

For further information on #ARRK see the KCIE AntiRacism Reading Knook page. To volunteer to lead one of these sessions complete the ARRK Discussion Leader application.

Universal Design for Learning Workshop

Kalamazoo College faculty and staff are invited to attend a series of workshops on the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), facilitated by the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST). UDL is a teaching framework that promotes inclusivity in the classroom and provides guidance for designing materials and pedagogies that reduce unnecessary barriers to learning.

When: 6 workshops spread across the school year:

First session: Thursday, October 13, 2022 4:15 – 5:45 p.m. via Zoom (introducing basic principles of UDL)

Where: Zoom info will be sent to you when you register.

How: Faculty and staff interested in participating in the 1st workshop and/or subsequent workshops are invited to sign up for the workshop series by filling out the UDL Workshop form via SignupGenius.com.

Why: We all care about our students and endeavor to provide inclusive and supportive classroom environments that enable all our students to thrive . However, despite our best efforts, this might prove hard to accomplish. This workshop series will introduce staff and faculty to a set of core principles for inclusive curriculum development and provide a blueprint for creating instructional goals, methods, materials that work for all learners. The workshops will give participants the tools and space to make changes to their existing pedagogy materials, no matter how big or small. By putting participants in groups, the workshop series enables collaboration and exchange, so that colleagues can benefit from each other’s expertise and experience.

Petra Watzke
Brittany Liu
Manfa Sanogo

With support from Kalamazoo College Inclusive Excellence mini-grant fund.

ARRK – Sept 2022 Discussion

ARRK Sept 2022 Discussion

Participants restricted to Kalamazoo College Faculty, Staff, Students, and Administration

4:10 p.m. ET on Tuesday, September 20th
ARRK Meeting Space (MS Teams)

Welcome back! Join us tomorrow, Tuesday, September 20th in the ARRK Meeting Space for the first discussion of the academic year!

We will be discussing the Introduction to Reckoning : Kalamazoo College Uncovers Its Racial and Colonial Past (6 pages total) by Anne Dueweke and possibly applying some of the ideas from Justice at Work to look at K’s past and use our collective power to dismantle systems of oppression on campus.

Please note we are considering spending the year focusing on Reckoning; however, we would love your feedback on this layout. Please provide your answer through the ARRK anonymous survey


The AntiRacism Reading Knook (ARRK) is a collaboration between the K College library staff and our Inclusive Excellence (KCIE) leadership team. This initiative is NOT a book club, but seeks to facilitate campus-wide engagement with the books in the KCIE Reading for Change book collection. This collection was created to encourage learning about and facilitate greater access to antiracism information to all members of the campus community.

ARRK aims to:

  1. reduce barrier to entry into reading antiracism books,
  2. identify and highlight campus facilitators with experience teaching and/or disciplinary expertise who can provide context and guide discussions of specific texts,
  3. foster broader relationships among faculty and staff, and thus
  4. build greater capacity for an inclusive campus through sustained and focused engagement with shared texts.
  5. help catalyze members of the campus to engage in small group discussions of entire books in the collection (self-organized book clubs, if you will).

For further information on #ARRK see the KCIE AntiRacism Reading Knook page. To volunteer to lead one of these sessions complete the ARRK Discussion Leader application.

19: This Month in Black History – The State of Education of Black Folks in the USA

Black student and woman in tech working on her laptop.

The State of Education
of Black Folks
in the USA

by Dr. Regina Stevens-Truss, Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry, Director of the HHMI IE Grant

As we begin our school year and because of the landscape of higher education in the USA, I thought that a ‘feel good’ story was in line, albeit, I will add some caution to this.

The U.S. is doing better (said out of one side of my mouth) when it comes to educating the Black population. According to the 2020 US Census report “88% of Blacks have a high school diploma.” In that report they also state that ~90% of the U.S. population have graduated high school, putting the Black community in almost parity with the rest of the Nation. As a point of comparison, in 1940, only 7% of Blacks completed high school when the National average was 24%. Many credit this increase to the Compulsory Education Laws enacted by states in the late 19th and early 20th centuries – Massachusetts was the first U.S. state to enact a compulsory education law in 1852. In a 2012 report that examined whether schooling laws matter, it was found that the “introduction of compulsory attendance laws had positive and statistically significant effects on schooling in states that passed laws after 1880.” This means that overtime then, the educational gap between Black students and the National average had closed to about 2%, as measured in 2019; at least at the high school level.

The college degree gap has also closed, but nowhere as tightly; in 2019, the gap between Blacks and the National average was 26% for college degree attainment. It is important to note that the vast majority of college degrees attained by Blacks before 1967 in the U.S. were from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). HBCUs were the only game in town in educating Blacks prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. To be clear, Blacks were “allowed” to attend White universities in northern states before the abolition of slavery. However, because of institutionalized racism and discrimination at these institutions, as well as the poor college preparation that Black students were afforded, their education was hampered. HBCUs were the predominant means of African American post-secondary education for about 100 years (from right after the Civil War to the Civil Rights era of the 1960’s). Before the establishment of the first HBCU in a southern state (Atlanta University – now Clark Atlanta University on September 19, 1865), there were four HBCUs established in northern states: Cheyney University of Pennsylvania in 1837, University of the District of Columbia in 1851 (then known as Miner School for Colored Girls), Lincoln University in 1854, and Wilberforce University in 1856. Atlanta University (Clark Atlanta University) was one of the first graduate institutions in the Nation to award degrees to African Americans, and the first to award bachelor’s degrees to African Americans in the south. According to Wikipedia, “HBCUs have a rich legacy of matriculating many leaders in the fields of business (Spike Lee, film director and producer – Morehouse), law (Thurgood Marshall, Supreme Court JusticeLincoln and Howard; featured in our 19 story in July 2020), science (Katherine Johnson, NASA mathematician – attended West Virginia State College, now West Virginia State), education (Booker T. Washington, educator, orator, and advisor – Hampton), military service (The Tuskegee Airmen were educated at Tuskegee University), entertainment (Oprah Winfrey, talk show host and media mogul – Tenn State), art (Erykah Badu singer, entrepreneur, and actress – Grambling State), and sports (Jerry Rice, considered the greatest NFL wide receiver of all-time – Mississippi Valley State).”

Despite their excellent track record of educating Blacks, HBCUs have struggled to stay open. Once predominantly white institutions committed to educating Black students and opened their doors during the Civil Rights Era, and because of the government’s affirmative action goals, enrollment at HBCUs began to drop. While the number of Black students enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities increased by ~377% from 1966 to 1976, only 18% were enrolled in HBCUs; which dropped to only 9% in 2010. The reduced number of students attending HBCUs has also led to a decrease in the number of these institutions (from 121 in 1930 to 101 in 2019).

A possible shiny light for HBCUs – while in 2020 (the year when Black Lives Matter issues was heightened) the enrollment of Black and White students attending secondary institutions declined, however, some HBCUs experienced a surge in enrollment – Howard University, for example, increased 15 percent from 2019 to 2021. This could be a sign that Blacks are finding needed support at these institutions. Historically, HBCUs have been a pillar in the lives of many successful Blacks, offering an education that is unmatched by many of the Nation’s other institutions. For non-HBCU institutions to truly ensure access to students of color, these institutions (like K) have a duty to make sure that these students are supported in all the ways!

19: This Month in Black History – Juneteenth Culinary Traditions

by Drs. Fari Nzinga and Regina Stevens-Truss

Happy Juneteenth everyone! Today, everyone in the United States can enjoy a federally-recognized holiday in honor of Juneteenth, and many may have heard the story of its roots at least once – on June 19, 1865, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, enslaved Africans in Texas were finally informed that they could claim their freedom. Imagine the joy and celebration, and the birth of Juneteenth (celebrated since 1865 by many Black people – you can re-read this Juneteenth story). By now then, you may know about the why behind the holiday, so this final story of the 2021-22 school year will focus on some of the how to celebrate Juneteenth – the culinary traditions.

As in most cultures around the world, Black people typically celebrate with and gather around food. Red-colored foods and drinks are of primary significance to the culture. Culinary historian and chef, Michael Twitty, discusses in Oprah Daily (The Traditional Foods of Juneteenth Carry a Rich History, Dating Back Centuries), “Texas was at the end of the world to the Antebellum South. There were a lot of enslaved Africans who were coming to Texas from the continent and through the Caribbean. The color red is highly associated with the cultures that would’ve come through the later years of the trade, which would have been Yoruba and Kongo.” Twitty also writes in his blog, Afroculinaria, “enslavement narratives from Texas recall an African ancestor being lured using red flannel cloth, and many of the charms and power objects used to manipulate invisible forces required a red handkerchief” (Juneteenth, A Culinary History Part 1).

The places where many newly-imported African laborers passed through, cultural and culinary traditions were carried along and continue to manifest. For example, Dr. Fred Opie, makes the connection that West African peoples like the Asante, Yoruba and Kongo among others, marked special occasions with the offering of sacrifices, especially the red blood of white birds and goats.

Soul Food Scholar Adrian E. Miller has further traced red drinks served at Juneteenth celebrations to the fruits of two native West African plants: the kola nut and the hibiscus flower. The kola nut, typically white or red, was and still is served to guests throughout West and Central Africa as a snack to chew, used as a water purifier, or steeped for tea. The flowers of the hibiscus, too, are often stewed to make a reddish-purple, tartly-sweet tea called sorrel or bissap.

A traditional Juneteenth spread consists of barbeque and red foods: tables lined with bbq chicken, hot links, watermelon, hibiscus tea, and, more recently, strawberry soda and red velvet cake. In addition to the cultural and spiritual meanings behind the red-colored foods, the color red symbolizes not only the bloodshed of enslaved people who never tasted freedom, but the resilience of all Black people in the face of continued oppression. Sides like cabbage, collard, turnip or mustard greens, and black-eyed peas are typically served as well. Often called prosperity dishes and eaten during the new year, black-eyed peas are said to bring luck and greens and cabbage, of course, money and abundance.

However you choose to celebrate Juneteenth, the point is to place one’s experience within a larger, historical context; to connect with family and cultural traditions, and to realize one’s own definition of freedom. This June, and in the many to come, take a moment to reflect and honor those who have demonstrated resistance to oppression (check out the Freedom Lifted “6 Ways to Resist” exercise by Mia Henry).

As Adrian Miller so eloquently puts it: “I think about all of those Emancipation celebrations, church suppers, family reunions and other occasions when people got together to celebrate, renew family ties and friendships, and affirm their humanity.” Chew on that.

Again this year, these monthly Black History stories have been brought to you by the ACSJL and the HHMI Inclusive Excellence team, and are aimed at educating the K community on African-American history and culture as we continue to work towards being an anti-racist Institution. The number 19 marks multiple important dates in the lives of Blacks in the USA – 1619 being the year in which the first set of African slaves were brought to what would become the United States, and June 19, 1865, marking the day that Blacks celebrate the end of enslavement in the US.

We need to know our history, we need to teach our history, we need to remember our history.

Would you like to contribute a story?

Anyone can contribute a 19 story. Contact Regina Stevens-Truss at Regina.Stevens-Rruss@kzoo.edu for information on how to get started!