Dr. Carnell Jones, director of enrollment services at the University of Rhode Island, is teaching a progressive course in the Africana Studies Department on Black Lives Matter and the Civil Rights Movement.
The idea of the class this semester is to understand the history of Black Lives Matter and the Civil Rights Movement through a post-Obama Administration lens.
Jones said he is getting emails all the time from people asking for his syllabus. He added that many people said they would never get away with naming a class “Black Lives Matter.”
Having this class at URI is “ground-breaking,” said Jones. “URI is really leading the way.”
In fact, a course like this is not offered at many universities across the nation, especially in many of the more southern, conservative universities.
“I’m from St. Louis, Missouri,” Jones said. “I’m [from] the same city where this stuff is happening…I bring a little bit of that midwestern flavor to how I see things out here and how my [family] sees things down [south, while] also looking at things nationally.”
This is the second semester Jones is teaching a course on Black Lives Matter. The first was held this past fall as a 100-level honors program course. In this course, Jones said, “basically the central question I was asking [the students] was, is [Black Lives Matter] a movement or is it a moment?”
This differs from the 300-level, Africana studies (AAF) course offered this semester. In this course, the students have a greater understanding of what has, and is going on with Black Lives Matter and the Civil Rights Movement. Instead, Jones explains that the class is more focused on what does it mean for the movement with the new Presidential administration. “It’s really looking at history in modern day,” Jones said.
Currently, the class is reading and giving an analysis on the things they’ve been seeing in the news and around them, specifically President Donald Trump’s cabinet picks. Jones wants the students to respond to questions like, “what does that say to the community, what does that say to the movement, [and] what does that say to the people who may be on the wrong side doing wrong things?”
Later in the semester, Jones will have his students go find a person on campus who’s been involved in civil rights. “There’s tons of people who remember and can give [the students] a little perspective,” Jones said. “Let them tell [the students] what their movement was versus what they see today.”
Last fall the majority of the class was white students who “had read everything, but didn’t have the life experience.” This year Jones said it seems like there is more of a “street level” in his students. This different dynamic in the two classes astonished Jones. “For me, on the teaching side, it just blows my mind,” Jones said. “But it also shows it doesn’t matter from what walk of life, everybody can learn.”
Jones would love to continue teaching this course in the following semesters. If that’s what the university wants, Jones would continue to teach this class in both the Honors department and AAF.
“To me this is timely, and as long as there’s interest I would be more than happy to continue to teach [this course],” Jones said.