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Protest Urges UT Martin To Require Students Take African-American History Class

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Courtesy of Alexis Millsaps
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A student government leader at the University of Tennessee at Martin says about a dozen protesters -- making up faculty, students, and community members -- gathered on campus Friday to urge university administration to require students to take an African American History and Thought class. This follows the university launching an investigation into a video of UT Martin students using racial slurs, still under investigation. 

Alexis Millsaps, 22, is a senior at UT Martin, who serves as a student senator for the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, and is the civil rights chair for the Black Student Association at UT Martin, an organization that sponsored the protest. 

 

Millsaps said requiring a class in African American History and Thought is important given the current moment of nationwide protests calling for racial justice.

 

“We’ve grown up learning America’s history, but in reality we’ve learned America’s white history,” said Millsaps. “I know for a fact that there have been Black people other than Martin Luther King [Jr.], other than Rosa Parks, other than Malcolm X who laid these foundations for America, for these freedoms we have today.”

 

She said she wants other students at UT Martin to be aware of that history, also. An online petition calling for making African American History a required course currently has more than 1,800 signatures as of Friday. Protesters are also demanding UT Martin create and fund an African American Studies Institute to help support education efforts regarding African American history. Millsaps also wants UT Martin to hold students who said racial slurs in a video that’s under investigation, accountable. 

 

“We’ve gotten a lot of statements [from the university] that have been a little tonedeaf, but I’m not upset about that fact because I’ve talked to faculty,” Millsaps said. “It makes me think African American history is so important because those kind of statements can be vague and go out, and the white administration will think that’s acceptable and think that’s enough.”

 

University spokesperson Bud Grimes said the investigation into the video is ongoing. Millsaps said she and others are planning more protests and discussions for the upcoming fall semester.

 

"Liam Niemeyer is a reporter for the Ohio Valley Resource covering agriculture and infrastructure in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia and also serves Assistant News Director at WKMS. He has reported for public radio stations across the country from Appalachia to Alaska, most recently as a reporter for WOUB Public Media in Athens, Ohio. He is a recent alumnus of Ohio University and enjoys playing tenor saxophone in various jazz groups."
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