Black History Matters Coalition proposed requirement for African American History and Culture rejected by UT Martin

The University of Tennessee at Martin’s Faculty Senate Executive Committee has rejected a resolution by the Black History Matters Coalition on the need for a requirement in African American History and Culture.

“Our resolution makes one argument and seeks one commitment. We argue that responsible citizenship, our university mission, is impossible without a meaningful knowledge of African American History and Culture,” said coalition representatives.

“After nearly four centuries of keeping Black people at the bottom of American Society, after nearly four centuries of White supremacy, the ongoing degradation and oppression of African American people, only one answer is possible to our question: we cannot be responsible citizens in American Society without a basic understanding of the history and culture of African American people in this country.”

According to sources, the faculty representative of the Black History Matters Coalition history professor David Barber has repeatedly gained agreement from the Faculty Executive Committee that African American History should be a requirement.

“Nevertheless, a majority of the eight voting members of the EC voted against the resolution,” said the coalition.

“Our resolution was a non-binding resolution. It made no curricular changes and did not violate any of the processes or procedures our university leadership has mentioned—processes and procedures that the FS EC now uses as its reason for rejecting our resolution. We simply asked for a commitment from the Faculty Senate EC, a moral commitment, to work together to develop a requirement for the study of Black History and Culture.

“On November 10, they refused to make that commitment, refused to say that as the leading faculty body on this campus, it would come together and collectively figure out how to make certain that all our students leave UT Martin with a meaningful understanding of Black History and Culture.”

For more information contact BSA Civil Rights Chair and Black History Matters Coalition leader, Alexis Millsaps, at 931-981-2355 or David Barber, UTM History Prof, 931-516-3699

The following is the resolution which the Faculty Senate Executive Committee rejected:

Resolution on the Requirement of a Class or Sequence in African American History and Thought:

Whereas, the mission statement for the University of Tennessee at Martin reads “The University of Tennessee at Martin educates and engages responsible citizens to lead and serve in a diverse world;” and

whereas, after 250 years of slavery and 100 years of segregation, African Americans remain at the bottom of American society, with twice the unemployment rate of White Americans; twice the infant mortality rate of White Americans; suffer twice the poverty rate of White Americans; own 1/10 the wealth of White Americans; largely attend inferior schools as compared with White Americans; live in substandard housing at three times the rate of White Americans; are shot and killed by police at nearly three times the rate of White Americans; are incarcerated at five times the rate of White people; and whereas, the absence of even a foundational knowledge of the African American experience denies African American students the dignity of their history, on the one hand, and the understanding that their current place in society is the product of that history, on the other; and whereas, that same lack of knowledge of the African American experience inhibits white students from separating themselves from 400 years of White supremacist oppression, on the one hand, and from appreciating the strength of African American culture, on the other; and whereas, this lack of historical knowledge inhibits the ability of all students from acting as responsible citizens; and

whereas, UTM’s current educational offerings do not adequately discuss and address the significance of the African American experience in American society—therefore, be it resolved that the Faculty Senate of the University of Tennessee at Martin is committed to the development of a requirement for the study of the African American Experience within its General Education curriculum.

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