Listen and Learn this Black History Month

Black history, experiences, and identities are explored in these curated podcast episodes from Learning for Life @ Gustavus.
Posted on February 11th, 2021 by

This February, Gustavus Adolphus College is recognizing Black History Month with a series of posts sharing feature stories, curated content, event postings, and historical information focusing on the experiences of Black community members and educational opportunities for all.

Last spring, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic that forced Gustavus classes to transition to virtual delivery, history professor Greg Kaster partnered with the Office of Marketing and Communication to launch a new podcast, Learning for Life @ Gustavus. The podcast explores the intersections of liberal arts learning, current events, and real-world problem solving with conversations covering everything from from cancer and climate change research to behind-the-scenes glimpses into higher ed decision-making.

Podcast host and historian Greg Kaster

After being in pre-production and development for much of the spring, the podcast launched on Tuesday, May 26—the day after George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police. Moved by renewed calls for racial justice that swept the country, Kaster was intentional about including Black voices and discussion of racial issues in the U.S. in the podcast along with other topics and areas.

Kaster, who also teaches in the College’s African Studies program, is an expert on slavery and abolition in the United States and was one of 25 researchers from across the country selected to spend two weeks in Washington, DC at the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Summer Institute on Slavery and the Constitution in 2018.

“There simply is no understanding the United States, past or present, without understanding the centrality of Black history and, with it, white supremacy to the nation’s history,” Kaster said. “That demands not only understanding and reckoning with the complex history and legacies of the legal and in important ways constitutionally-buttressed enslavement of Black people—some four million persons by 1860—racial apartheid throughout the U.S. long before and after the Civil War, and Black resistance (with white allies) to both. It demands as well understanding and celebrating the myriad ways, some more obvious than others, that the United States has long been profoundly enriched and unflinchingly challenged to live up to its ideals by Black people and culture.”

Below is a series of podcast episodes that touch on the experiences and history of Black life in the United States. Featuring a mix of academics, alumni, and working professionals who discuss issues of race, the episodes have been curated here for those who want to learn more this Black History Month.

Little Rock 1957 / Minneapolis 2020 | Misti Harper, Visiting Assistant Professor of History at Gustavus, discusses the role of “respectability politics” among black women in the integration of Little Rock’s Central High School, the Minnesota context of Mr. George Floyd’s murder by police in Minneapolis 63 years later, and her undergraduate course on musical legend Prince. Listen on Apple. Listen on Anchor.

From Black and Gold to Blue and Gray | Renowned Civil War historian and Pulitzer Prize winner James M. McPherson, Gustavus Class of ’58, reflects on his Gustavus education, his path from there to leading scholar of the war, his civil rights activism as a graduate student in Baltimore, and the searing conflict that preserved the Union and gave it, in Lincoln’s magnificent words, “a new birth of freedom.” Listen on Apple. Listen on Anchor.

“Poetry Is About Reimagining the World” | Gustavus English professor and poet Philip Bryant, Class of ’73, on his path from Chicago’s Southside to Gustavus, the impact of his undergraduate mentor, his experience as a black student on a virtually all-white small campus at the tail end of the long 1960s, the police killing of Mr. George Floyd, and poetry, including three of his own poems. Listen on Apple. Listen on Anchor.

A Child of God and a Black Man | Thomas Flunker, Director of the Center for Inclusive Excellence (formerly the Diversity Center) at Gustavus, talks about his varied background and how it informs his work around diversity, equity, and inclusion, the Center’s role on campus, the annual Building Bridges Conference organized by Gustavus students, and his personal response to the murder of Mr. George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020. Listen on Apple. Listen on Anchor.

“Valuing Youth and Youth Voices” | Gustavus graduate Hope Crenshaw ‘04, Executive Director of Teen Health Mississippi, recalls her experience as a young Black woman from Mississippi at mostly white Gustavus, and talks about her response to the murder of Mr. George Floyd by Minneapolis police, the mission and impact of Teen Health, and leadership. Listen on Apple. Listen on Anchor.

A Vocation in Education | Educator Crystal Polski ’04 on why she aspired to be a teacher, her new position aimed at fostering future educators of color for the Minneapolis Public Schools district, what she learned as a Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching recipient in Finland, learning standards, and reopening schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Listen on Apple. Listen on Anchor.

“A Covenant with Death” | Paul Finkelman, President of Gratz College, a distinguished visitor to Gustavus, and the leading historian of slavery and the law, talks about the proslavery U.S. Constitution, Chief Justice John Marshall’s buying and selling of enslaved people, the proslavery jurisprudence of the antebellum Supreme Court, and the present-day monuments conflict. Listen on Apple. Listen on Anchor.

“Degrees of Freedom” | Educator, lawyer, professor of history, award-winning author, and Gustavus graduate William Green ’72 talks about coming to Gustavus from New Orleans as an African American student in 1968, his time at the College, the social and political history of Black Minnesotans in the 19th and early-20th centuries (including the little-known story of enslaved woman Eliza Winston’s emancipation), and how that history informs Black-white relations in Minnesota today. Listen on Apple. Listen on Anchor.

“A Place for Everyone at Gustavus” | Alum Joy Dunna ’20, whose parents came to the United States from Liberia, reflects on her path to Gustavus, her education as a double major in history and gender, women, and sexuality studies, her varied co-curricular activities like Student Senate and the annual Building Bridges Conference, student teaching online in the time of COVID-19, and what makes Gustavus so compelling. Listen on Apple. Listen on Anchor.

History, Religion, and Adult Sunday School | Sarah Ruble, Professor of Religion at Gustavus, on her love of history, Free Methodist background, book on American Protestant missionaries after World War II, and innovative adult Sunday School video series on Race and Christianity in the United States, as well as white evangelicals’ support for Donald Trump and why learning about religion matters both generally and at Gustavus specifically. Listen on Apple. Listen on Anchor.

Race and the Party of Lincoln | Historian and alumnus Timothy Thurber ’89 of Virginia Commonwealth University, talks about his research and book on the Republican Party and race in the three decades after World War II (it’s more complicated than we might think from today’s vantage point), his book on and assessment of Hubert Humphrey, his undergraduate education, and the personal rewards and helpful perspectives historical study offers. Listen on Apple. Listen on Anchor.


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin


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