History Faculty Statement: Black Lives Matter

The History Department faculty at Middle Tennessee State University write in support of the peaceful and sustained national and international multiracial protests to end police brutality towards people of color and to make systemic changes to institutionalized racist practices. For decades Americans have witnessed the killing of unarmed African American men and women at the hands of the police and vigilantes. Each time there are protests and media coverage, but systemic reform has yet to be enacted. This time, with the brutal murder of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police, documented by horrified bystanders, tens of thousands of American citizens have risen up to demand an end to police brutality and for systemic change.

The changes must be deep seated. Activists, academics, journalists, and policy-makers have outlined substantive proposals to change police departments nationwide (See, for example, No More Money for the PoliceAnguish and ActionPodcast The Daily: The Systems That Protect the PoliceAmerica’s Protests Won’t Stop Until Police Brutality DoesBlack Lives Matter: News  There must also be equal access to wealth, to educational resources, to housing, to jobs, to healthcare and to the promises of a democratic society. Over and over again, the tremendous inequities based on race nationwide have been documented. Over and over again these inequities have been ignored by those in government responsible for creating policy. As inequality, already at its most dramatic extreme in the United States, continues to grow as a result of the pandemic, people of color are, once again, impacted disproportionately.

In the MTSU History Department, faculty commit to researching, teaching and designing community engaged projects that relate in significant ways to the history of race, gender and power. We further commit to increasing our outreach to community groups of color, to directing departmental resources to diversity initiatives in the department and in the larger university, and to advocating for substantive changes that will impact the lives of people of color. These may include advocating for equitable conditions for employees of color (including contracted employees such as food service workers), improving outreach to students of color for the graduate program in Public History, discussing how to better serve students of color, inviting scholars of color to speak on campus, making our curriculum more inclusive and diverse, increasing hires of diverse faculty and staff, and advocating for a more equitable distribution of resources (including salary) for all employees of color on campus. Through our Public History Program, we will increase our efforts to diversify the interpretation of area museums and historic sites, and to design projects that reveal systemic racial injustice to broad public audiences.

This country has the capacity to change. We can institute widespread changes that make it a more democratic, a fairer, and a more just society. As historians who teach courses on African American history, slavery, the international slave trade, race and the law, the Civil Rights Movement, we know well the long and painful history of racism in the United States. We also know that there have been periods in the history of this nation when the people have risen up and demanded change and that change—labor reforms, voting rights, civil rights—has resulted. We demand that this be a moment of systemic, decisive change. Black Lives Matter.

Signed,

  • Emily Baran, Interim Chair, Department of History
  • Martha Norkunas, Professor of Oral and Public History
  • Louis Haas, Professor of History
  • Louis Woods, Associate Professor of History
  • Susan Myers-Shirk, Professor of History
  • Sean Foley, Professor of History
  • Kelly Kolar, Associate Professor of History
  • Aaron Treadwell, Assistant Professor of History
  • Michael Paulauskas, Senior Instructor in History
  • Mark Doyle, Professor of History
  • Cyrana Dowell, Lecturer in History
  • Lisa Pruitt, Professor and Public History Director
  • Andrew Polk, Associate Professor of History
  • Ann Mulhearn, Lecturer in History
  • Stacey Graham, Research Associate Professor, Center for Historic Preservation
  • Aliou Ly, Associate Professor of History
  • Mary Evins, Associate Professor of History, University Honors
  • Louis Kyriakoudes, Professor of History and Director, The Albert Gore Research Center
  • Yuan-Ling Chao, Professor of History
  • Brady Holley, Lecturer in History
  • Becky McIntyre, Associate Research Professor
  • Adonijah Bakari, Associate Professor of History
  • Benjamin Sawyer, Senior Instructor in History
  • Andrew Fialka, Assistant Professor of History
  • Kathryn L. Sikes, Associate Professor of History
  • Molly Taylor Poleskey, Assistant Professor of History

 

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