By: Rebekah Crozier
Samford added two new classes to next semester’s class catalog that are intended to focus on race and diversity: The African American Experience and Race and Violence.
The addition of these courses is just one of the ways that Samford administration has worked alongside the Office of Diversity to incorporate the topic of race and diversity on campus. These classes are intended to increase an awareness of diversity, offering students more opportunity to learn about important issues facing the world today.
Both classes will be taught by Professor S. Jonathan Bass, a professor of history who has been part of the Samford faculty since 1997. He specializes in Civil Rights, Legal History and the American South, and he has conducted much research on these topics.
The African American Experience is a 200-level course that is available to all undergraduate students and will count as a General Education humanities course. According to Professor Bass, The African American Experience curriculum will explore African American history and culture from the Civil War until modern-day.
“Students will have the opportunity to consider the founding promises of the nation, liberty, equality, justice and freedom, and how they have been denied to African-Americans,” Bass said.
Race and Violence is a more intensive course that will focus on systemic racism and the relation of crime, law and violence to race in the 19th and 20th century South.
“We will pay particular attention to violence associated with both systemic racism and vigilante justice, including lynching, capital punishment, criminal law and justice, convict lease and policing,” Bass said.
Bass stated that his recent book, “He Calls Me By Lightning: The Life of Caliph Washington and the forgotten Saga of Jim Crow, Southern Justice and the Death Penalty,” has inspired much of the material that will be covered in the Race and Violence course. Professor Bass believes that these two classes are very necessary to Samford’s curriculum.
“It is important to understand the rich complexity of the African American experience and explore not only history, religion, politics, literature, music and thought, but also examine systemic racism, social institutions, racial violence and cultural perceptions – all from a variety of interdisciplinary perspectives,” Bass said.
When asked what he hopes students will gain from taking these classes, Bass explained that students will certainly gain a better understanding of the African American culture in the American South and how this “culture thrived, through the horrors of slavery, Jim Crow, racial violence and systemic racism.”
These two new classes will offer insight into a culture that has been important to shaping the world. With all the racial tension in our country today, students will be able to gain perspective of injustices and struggles that, perhaps, they had not realized before.