Academic Minute Podcast
Eric Jackson, Northern Kentucky University – A History of Black History
The field of Black Studies has a lot more to teach us.
Dr. Eric Jackson, professor of history and associate dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, Northern Kentucky University. He earned his doctorate at the University of Cincinnati (Ed.D., History, 199), and he has taught history for 32 years. The former director of the Black Studies program at NKU, he has published reviews and articles in a number of journals, including the Journal of African American History, the Journal of Negro Education, the International Journal on World Peace, and the Journal of Pan African Studies. He is coauthor of Cincinnati’s Underground Railroad and Unique Challenges in Urban Schools: The Involvement of African American Parents.
A History of Black History
Lemuel Haynes was born on July 18, 1753, to an African father and a Scottish mother. He began life as an enslaved person of color in Hartford, Connecticut. When he was five months old, he was indentured to Deacon David Rose of Granville, Massachusetts, a Congregational minister.
Lemuel was taught to read and write and also imbued with religious fervor. His intention was to join the clergy, but that goal was put on hold by his participation in the American Revolution.
Beginning in the 1950s, scholars devoted to telling a more complete version of American history began to unearth – and tell – the stories of people like Lemuel Hayne. By doing so, they changed how American history is researched, written about, taught, and understood.
In our more recent times, the Black Lives Matter movement and the emergence of critical race theory have brought new light to this category of scholarship. My research and writing connects this more contemporary interest to work that originated nearly 70 years ago, when the field of Black studies first emerged.
The field itself is part of the story as scholars whose personal histories reflected the struggle of Black people in America, elevated the larger story.
Nathan Irvin Huggins earned a doctorate in history from Harvard but, because so few institutions considered African American history a legitimate field, he first had to establish himself as a historian pure and simple. He taught several other colleges before returning to Harvard in 1980. By then, he had established himself in a field he helped to create and define: Black studies.
Just as other scholars of Black history have unearthed the stories of people like Lemuel Haynes and woven them into the overall story of America, my research seeks to tell the story of how scholars like Dr. Huggins, and their published scholarship, have contributed to American historical scholarship.
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