Sunday, June 9, 2024

The Important & Exciting Work of Humanities Texas

From June 3 - 6, Humanities Texas partnered with the LBJ Presidential Library and the College of Liberal Arts at The University of Texas at Austin and held an institute for schoolteachers focusing on the history, literature, and culture of the Cold War. 

The institute includes 50 social studies, English language arts, and history teachers from schools across the state of Texas. They gathered to listen to presentations and exchange ideas about best practices. 

I was invited to participate and provide information about African American literature in the context of the Cold War era, 1945 - 1991. I discussed some of the major works published during that time--Richard Wright's Black Boy (1945), Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man (1952), and most notably Toni Morrison's Beloved (1987).

I noted that African American literary histories of this moment often start before the Cold War period with Wright's Native Son (1940). That novel is often viewed as a starting point for what we refer to as modern African American literature. I noted the Black Arts Movement (mid-1960s - mid-1970s) as another important moment of the era. 

Beyond my formal presentation, I really enjoyed interacting with the teachers. They represented multiple kinds of schools from different regions of Texas. I benefitted hearing the challenges that they face as teachers navigating landscapes where some students and parents crave particular subject matter while others find it challenging. 

Humanities Texas is really on it. In addition to running educational programs to assist teachers, they support libraries and museums and offer programming for lifelong learning series.
This Cold War Institute was just the start of their summer. Over the next few weeks, they are coordinating various activities, including an institute on Teaching the Literatures of Texas, a workshop on Evidence-Based Reading Practices, an institute on The New Nation: American, 1800-1860, and a webinar on Taylor Swift in the Literature Classroom

In short, they're doing important and exciting humanities programming. 

I've directed two National for the Endowment (NEH) Institutes focusing on Frederick Douglass, and I've participated in a few. So I have a sense of how much work goes into the programs. Seeing the lineup of various programs offered by Humanities Texas lets me know that they're putting in a serious time and effort. 

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