A New Mexico State University history professor was among 23 faculty members from across the country selected to participate in a month-long summer institute to study African-American history at Harvard University.
Jamie Bronstein and other professors came together at the Hutchins Center for African and African-American Studies for an intensive study of the Civil Rights Movement. During the institute, sponsored by Henry Louis Gates head of the Hutchins Center, Bronstein and others heard from speakers about the Civil Rights Movement and participated in discussions, readings and worked on projects.
Bronstein’s project was to develop a syllabus for an African-American studies course she plans to teach in fall 2018 at NMSU.
“Clarence Fielder was an adjunct professor of history at NMSU,” Bronstein said. “When he passed away a few years ago, we didn’t have any consistent teaching of African-American history here in the department.”
Bronstein, who teaches American history in NMSU’s College of Arts and Sciences, applied to the Harvard summer institute, which was sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities, to learn more about African-American history.
“I’ve always been interested in African-American history and I always make issues of race and ethnicity really central to my teaching of American history,” she said. “But I didn’t have the depth of background that I felt I needed so I would be confident in teaching a class that would serve the needs of the students. But now I do.”
Noted scholars of and participants in the Civil Rights Movement came to speak at the institute, such as Cornel West, a professor at Harvard, and 99-year-old Esther Cooper Jackson, who, along with W. E. B. Du Bois and his wife, Shirley Graham, and Edward Strong, chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley from 1961 to 1965, founded Freedomways, a political journal published from 1961 to 1985 focusing on the Civil Rights Movement.
“Clark Johnson also came to speak,” Bronstein said. “He was an actor on ‘The Wire’ and he made a feature film in 2001 called ‘Boycott,’ about the Montgomery bus boycott.”
Peter Guralnick also spoke at the institute. Guralnick has written a number of books on “this country’s intertwined black and white musical traditions,” his website says, specifically about Elvis Presley and Sam Cooke.
Bronstein said the institute allowed faculty to exchange knowledge and collaborate in research, which she said will enrich the course she plans to teach at NMSU.
“I hope students who take the course will take away an appreciation for the struggles that people have been willing to undertake in order to pass legislation to get equal access to public and private facilities, get the right to vote,” Bronstein said. “And also how we as a society are not finished with that. We have more people that are in prison than any other country and a large number of those are people of color. That’s considered part of the Civil Rights Movement, a part that isn’t finished yet. So we have a long way to go still.”