Over the past four years, the Division of Humanities at Bloomfield College has taken advantage of an innovative program at The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture to introduce Bloomfield College students both to the history of the Civil Rights Movement and to the ways that scholars explore the past.
The 90 year old Center is located in Harlem, New York and was recently named a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service.
In collaboration with Professors Jeanne Theoharis (Brooklyn College/CUNY) and Komozi Woodard (Sarah Lawrence College), The Schomburg Center aims to “bring the campus to the community” for a series of roundtable conversations customarily held on the first Thursday of each month.
This roundtable series, entitled, “Conversations in the Black Freedom Studies” seeks to introduce “a new paradigm that challenges the older geography, leadership, ideology, culture and chronology of the Civil Rights historiography.”
Associate Professor Laura Warren Hill, Ph.D., has twice presented at the roundtable and arranges trips at least once a semester for Bloomfield College students.
"Experiences such as attending the Conversations in the Black Freedom Studies series help students to see that history is not dead, nor is it ever entirely in the past,” said Dr. Hill, whose recently published piece on Malcolm X is available here. “The classes they take at Bloomfield in History and Africana Studies are preparing them to be active and informed participants in their future. A trip to the Schomburg Center shows them the relevancy of their education and that they stand on the shoulders of giants."
Past events have given Bloomfield College students the opportunity to meet scholars and activists who have debated topics as wide ranging as The Biography of Global Black Power Politics: Stokely Carmichael and Walter Rodney, Black and Brown Coalitions, The Church and the Struggle, and the Economics of Black Power.
Once at the Schomburg Center, students have had the opportunity to peruse exhibits on Motown and Black Comics, shop in the bookstore onsite, and catch glimpses of researchers studiously working in the basement archives.
“In class, Professor Hill had just reviewed a chapter on the slave trade. The Center had an exhibit on slavery and we were able to see shackles and advertisements of slaves for sale,” recalled Celeste Walden-Kelley ’15, who attended four exhibits while a student at Bloomfield College. “The exhibits made the information we learned in class come to life. We were able to listen to lectures from educators, authors, and historians who are known across the United States and around the world.”
Walden-Kelley, now working at her alma mater as the STAR Program Office Manager and Program Mentor, finds excitement in watching current students engage with the Schomburg Center.
“Attending lectures at the Schomburg Center is an excellent way to bring history to life,” added Walden-Kelley.
The next Bloomfield College trip to the Schomburg Center will take place on April 6, 2017. Fifty students are slated to travel to Harlem to hear two scholars discuss “Black Athletes and the Freedom Struggle.”