Public Scholarship

Recently, I have been thinking about ways to translate my research into public forms of writing. I wrote two essays – both of which drew directly from my research. The goal of each was to use the history of student activism in the 1960s as a lens onto contemporary campus protest today. I tried two different frameworks. For the “The Philosophy of a Young Activist,” I used Mario Savio’s little-known 1993 lecture as a way to shift the focus from free speech to deeper moral questions about the university. After some reflection, I decided it didn’t work. So, I tried again, this time emphasizing the relationship between sixties activism and service learning. The goal here was to resurrect the ideas of sixties activities and demonstrate that their ideas (and actions) have positively impacted American colleges and universities.

Unfortunately, neither got published. One lesson that I draw from both attempts: the moral argument is still unclear. When rooted in the scholarship and directed to more narrow audiences, the argument is much easier to write. The challenge going forward is how to more effectively ground the moral argument and (hopefully) provide my readers with a different lens to think about higher education and student activism today.

Despite the fact that neither articles were accepted for publication, I found the writing process useful and will try again (perhaps next Spring). Until then, I wanted to share these drafts with you. Happy Reading!

  1. The Philosophy of a Young Activist 
  2. Moral Politics and the University


Digital Update

A quick (and long-overdue) update on my digital project:

Still working on my databases, in particular, the database on volunteer backgrounds that includes home locations, universities, racial identity, and gender). Currently, I am at 475 volunteers out of 970 (roughly). I also began to contact former volunteers and have had some fascinating and enriching conversations with Heather Booth, Gail Falk, and others. Much of this is preliminary. For this winter, I hope to digitize a couple of the post-summer movements of the volunteers. The long-term goal is to make this part – the post-summer networks and post-sixties work of the volunteers – the main draw of the digital project. But, before I can do that, I need to finish the back story – hence the databases.

And, I added another database…

In late summer, I decided to map the WATs line from Freedom Summer.  Prior to, during, and after the summer, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) used the WATs line to communicate eyewitness accounts on the ground. By identifying and mapping these accounts, I hope to a) convey the violence during the summer and contextualize volunteer and staff experiences b) analyze the locations of violent acts in relation to voter registration, mass meetings, and freedom schools c) analyze the location of violent acts in relation to the grouping analysis map. Along with locating the various events during the summer, I have also linked the events directly to the WATs line (Thank you to Bruce Hartford, who has does some amazing work with digitizing movement documents).

If all goes as planned, I hope to have the first iteration of the summer map and site up and running by January. Check back then to see how the project has evolved since my earlier updates.