Published on September 29, 2020 by Sean Flynt  
The seal of Samford University
The seal of Samford University

“The events of the past several weeks have riveted our attention upon the undeniable reality of the racism that pervades our communities and distorts our perception of neighbors who are created in the image of God,” Samford University’s Howard College of Arts and Sciences Dean Tim Hall wrote in June. “The love of Christ compels us to do more than merely talk. We must act. As leaders within the Howard College of Arts and Sciences, we pledge to act and speak against the sinful curse of systemic racism.”

Following up on that pledge, the college challenged faculty to increase the approximately 40 current arts and sciences courses that address racial justice. The college also asked that the new courses address Samford’s commitment to creating graduates who can apply interdisciplinary, integrative knowledge to challenging problems. Two courses proposed in response have been selected for the spring 2021 semester.

Communication studies professor Niya Pickett Miller’s upper-level course on Race in Popular Culture and Media will explore the current media environment through the perspective of Black/African American identities constituted and articulated in and by social media, music/music videos, fashion, stand-up comedy, art, science and other artifacts of popular culture. Students will be challenged to understand how Black/African Americans utilize popular media to reveal and resist strategic racism and the racialized microaggressions they experience. Moreover, students will consider their personal and society’s participation with and consumption of Black-themed popular culture and media, think critically about the influence of popular culture and contemplate meaningful action towards dismantling systemic anti-Black racism in their own cultural spaces.

History professor Jonathan Bass will explore The African American Experience in the United States from Emancipation to the end of the Civil Rights Era. Students in the course will integrate knowledge from a variety of disciplinary perspectives and engage with the writings of African American thought leaders as they consider how the founding promises of the nation–liberty, equality, justice and freedom—have been denied to African Americans, and how the Black community struggled to make real these promises. Themes will include Emancipation, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, racial violence (lynching), African Americans’ urbanization experiences, prisons, law enforcement and capital punishment.

"These two courses will provide students the opportunity to engage problems and questions related to systemic racism, drawing from a variety of disciplines and areas of study,” said Associate Dean Don Bradley. “We are very pleased to be able to offer these two courses in the Spring of 2020 and hope to offer similar kinds of interdisciplinary and integrative courses in the future."

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.