Teaching the Afro-Atlantic

Teaching the Afro-Atlantic

In my teaching, I use slavery’s global legacy to examine the complicated dynamics of race and gender in the United States and around the world.  My teaching experience ranges from large undergraduate survey courses on United States history to smaller seminars on histories of women and slavery.  Courses I’ve designed include “Black Women & Slavery in Diasporic Perspective” and “Black Women in Atlantic New Orleans.”

“Black Women & Slavery in Diasporic Perspective” is a small seminar where students compare and contrast histories of women of African descent in Africa, the Caribbean and mainland North America, from 1650 to 1865.  In this course, I make considerable use of online databases like the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, Atlantic Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Americas: A Visual Record, and Afro-Louisiana History and Genealogy, 1718-1820.

“Black Women in Atlantic New Orleans,” is another small seminar.  Students in this course explore the history of New Orleans as a site for Afro-Atlantic women’s transnational political and social engagement.  In this course, I use microblogs and social media to connect students to news and events occurring in present-day New Orleans, and to teach students the importance of historical and media literacy.

Pedagogically, my courses combine the most recent scholarship in the field with classic material and primary source documents from archives around the world.  By doing so, I expose students to the best in current research and show them that history is a contact sport.  I also integrate blogs, microblogs, social media, and digital archives and exhibits into my courses to teach critical thinking, media literacy, and visual literacy, and to encourage students to see themselves as public intellectuals and media-makers.  Although lecturing is important and satisfying for both me and my students, I also try to save class time for conversation and debate.  In singles, pairs, or groups, students take turns providing questions for reflection, offering critiques, and moderating class discussions.

My goal is to create classrooms where students feel responsible for their own learning and accountable to both the historical subjects and the present-day communities those subjects belonged to.  I encourage students to see me as a guide and not their main source of information, and I equip students with the tools they need to feel confident doing so.  There is nothing more exciting for me than being in a classroom with my students and discovering they are teaching me as much as I am teaching them.  My ultimate goal is to create intelligent, bold, and dynamic citizen-scholars invested in the common good and imbued with an intimate knowledge about the world (local and global) around them.



Image Credit:  Plaque on the ‘The Tomb of the Unknown Slave,’ St. Augustine Church, New Orleans, 2010.  Photo by Jessica Marie Johnson.

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