Online Forum: A History of Student Activism

January 8–12, 2018

A line of African American students walking through a crowd of white boys in Clinton, TN, during a period of violence related to school integration on December 4, 1956 (Photo: Thomas J. O’Halloran, Library of Congress).

Black Perspectivesthe blog of the African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS), is hosting an online forum on Student Activism. The forum will illuminate the long history of high school student organizing that extends back to the era of Brown v. Board of Education. While society often views adolescents as a problem population, young people have been and continue to be some of the most committed social activists in the past sixty years. The participants in this online forum trace this history and also explore the concept of a 21st century high school organizing tradition. Organized by Dara Walker (Rutgers University-New Brunswick), the forum will feature essays from Tess Bundy (Merrimack University)Aaron Fountain (Indiana University), Jon N. Hale (College of Charleston), Kera Lovell ( University at Hawaii) and Dara Walker (Rutgers University-New Brunswick). 

The forum  begins on Monday, January 8, 2018 and concludes on Friday, January 12, 2018. During the week of the online forum, Black Perspectives will publish new blog posts every day at 5:30AM EST. Please follow Black Perspectives (@BlkPerspectives) and AAIHS (@AAIHSon Twitter; like AAIHS on Facebook; or subscribe to our blog for updates. By subscribing to Black Perspectives, each new post will automatically be delivered to your inbox during the week of the forum.


About the Participants

Dara Walker is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History at Rutgers University. She received her B.A. in African American Studies from Eastern Michigan University in 2009 and a M.A. in Pan-African Studies from Syracuse University in 2011. Her research and teaching interests include African American history, the history of childhood and youth, urban history, 20th century U.S. history, and the digital humanities. She is currently writing her dissertation, They Dared to Fight: A Social and Intellectual History of Black Power and High School Activism in Detroit, 1966-1973, which examines the role of the high school organizing tradition in the development of black radical politics. Using oral histories and archival research, Dara’s work traces the personal experiences, revolutionary ideas, and political activism of Black Power activists who were “too young to vote.” Her research has been supported by the Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship, the Walter P. Reuther Library and the Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs at Wayne State University. Follow her on Twitter @afroshedoc.


Tess Bundy is an Assistant Professor of History at Merrimack College. She teaches courses in recent U.S., African American, urban and public history and is the coordinator for the History Department Internship Program.  She previously served as Chancellors’ Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Department of African American Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Her research interests include educational activism, the civil rights movement in the urban North, the racial politics of community control, and discussion of race in public history sites. Her article, “Revolutions Happen Through Young People,” The Black Student Movement in the Boston Public Schools, 1968-1971 was published in the Journal of Urban History in January 2017.  Her manuscript, “The Schools are Killing our Kids!” Black Power Education in Postwar Boston is currently under revision. She is also at work on an article on a community controlled mental health program created during the desegregation of the Boston Public Schools and an article on a theatre arts training program for black inmates at Norfolk Correctional Institute in Massachusetts. She completed her Ph.D .in U.S. History with a specialization in African American History and Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park.


Aaron G. Fountain, Jr. is a Ph.D. student in the Department of History at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. He received a bachelor in history from Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina in 2014.  His research examines high school student activism/radicalism in the United States during the 1960s and 1970s.  In 2015, he published two articles about high school activism entitled “The Right to Sit: Symbolic Expression and the Pledge of Allegiance in New York Public Schools, 1969-1973” in New York History, and “The War in the Schools: San Francisco Bay Area High Schools and the Anti-Vietnam War Movement, 1965-1973” in California History.  He is currently working on an article about high school student activism and a student free speech legal controversy in Indianapolis in the 1970s.  In recent years, he has published articles in several outlets including Al Jazeera America, the Latino Rebels, The Hill, and Black Perspectives where he has written mostly about African American-Latino relations, which he grew interested in from growing up in a predominately Puerto Rican community in Bethlehem and Allentown, Pennsylvania.  Outside of his Ph.D. program, he works as a mentor for the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program and volunteers as a research assistant for the Monroe County History Center. Follow him on Twitter @aaronfountainjr.


Jon Hale is an associate professor of educational history at the College of Charleston in South Carolina.  His research focuses on the history of student and teacher activism, grassroots educational programs, and segregated high schools during the civil rights movement. His book, The Freedom Schools: A History of Student Activists on the Frontlines of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement (Columbia University Press, 2016) examines the role of educational activism during the Civil Rights Movement. He is a co-editor of The Freedom School Newspapers: Writings, Essays and Reports from Student Activists During the Civil Rights Movement, (University Press of Mississippi, 2015). Dr. Hale currently serves as the executive director of the Charleston Freedom School, co-director of the Quality Education Project, faculty advisor to student chapters of the South Carolina Education Association, and Vice-Chair of the Burke High School Improvement Council in Charleston. Follow him on Twitter @jnhale2.


Kera Lovell is a Lecturer in American Studies at the University of Hawai‘i where she teaches about American colonialism and resistance in Hawai‘i’s past and present. Lovell earned her PhD in American Studies at Purdue University, her Master’s in American Studies at Purdue University in 2011, and her Bachelor’s in History at Agnes Scott College in 2009. She has taught courses at Purdue University, Ball State University, and the University of Hawai‘i. Her dissertation, titled, “Radical Manifest Destiny: Mapping Power over Urban Green Space in the Age of Protest, 1968-1988,” traces an undocumented method of postwar urban protest in which activists challenged police brutality and urban renewal by insurgently converting vacant lots into parks. Putting more than four dozen so-called “People’s Parks” created by white hippies, Chicanos, Puerto Ricans, and anti-racist activists in conversation with one another, the project uses this method of radical spatial protest as a lens into discourses of identity and citizenship within late-Cold War era social justice organizing. As part of her broader interdisciplinary research on the relationship between identity, space, and power within the twentieth century, Lovell has published in a variety of journals, including Gender Issues and Landscape Research Record. Her research has been supported by a variety of institutions, including the Graham Foundation, the Wisconsin Historical Society, the Hoover Institution, and the Purdue Research Foundation. Follow her on Twitter @keralovell.

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