Vanderbilt History Department Statement on Black Lives Matter
We, the members of the Vanderbilt History Department, support the Black Lives Matter movement. We share the movement’s outrage, and stand firm with the protests sweeping the US and the world. We recognize the violence and racism perpetuated in policing, education, health, and other social institutions.
As teachers, we commit to a curriculum that values and represents Black lives and Black experiences. From courses on Black Nashville and Black Lives Matter, to those on the Civil Rights Movement, the Age of Obama, colonialism in Africa, slavery, and the anti-apartheid struggle, we encourage a robust interrogation of the violence of racism and amplify the heroism and complexity of anti-racist struggles.
As scholars of the past, we are all too aware of the ways that contemporary forms of violence are made possible by collective forgetting, and how remembering the past can open up possibilities for a better future. We back the removal of racist and offensive historical monuments from shared, ecumenical public spaces, and the marking of public spaces with monuments that critically register histories of racism and enslavement, on the one hand, and that celebrate Black creativity, accomplishment, struggle and survival, on the other.
We believe that students should know and remember the names of Rayshard Brooks, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, Sam Dubose, Philando Castile, Terence Crutcher, Alton Sterling, Jamar Clark, Jeremy McDole, William Chapman II, Walter Scott, Eric Harris, Tamir Rice, Akai Gurley, Michael Brown, Cordie Cheek, and Eric Garner, and understand the circumstances of their deaths, as a necessary part of this struggle against forgetting. That the names of those killed are too numerous to include in their entirety is indicative of the scale of this outrage and tragedy.
As a department, we will foster conversations around the questions the movement has broached. The Vanderbilt History Department stands ready to do its part to not only help clarify this history-making moment, but also to help students find answers to their questions and resources for their struggles. It is only through an ongoing, unending reckoning with its past and present that any society can move forward in the direction of justice. We understand our energies as contributing to this movement’s campaign for a just society in which racism must have no part.
(Nashville, June 23, 2020)