A North Carolina Collection - Higher Education

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Higher Education News and Jobs

A North Carolina Collection

by ANGELA P. DODSON

Fayetteville State chancellor outlines a vision for diversity, and the University of North Carolina Press presents volumes on Black gays in the South and the post-Emancipation era.

In keeping with the focus on higher education in North Carolina for this issue, Diverse Bookshelf looks at new academic books with a connection to the state, one from a Fayetteville State University administrator and two from the University of North Carolina Press.

Driving Change Through Diversity and Globalization: Transformative Leadership in the Academy, by James A. Anderson, Stylus Publishing, (November 2007), ISBN-10: 1579220983, ISBN-13: 978- 1579220983, pp. 208.

It is not enough for institutions of higher education to espouse or even achieve diversity if they do not figure out how that sometimesamorphous goal fits into the mission to teach and if they do not document their success at it, warns Dr. JamesA. Anderson in this book. Anderson became chancellor of Fayetteville State University earlier this year, returning to the state where he had spent 11 years as a vice provost at North Carolina State University. His recent work has been in institutional assessment and diversity, lending authority to his message that diversity by the numbers should not become the end but rather the means for teaching all students to navigate in amulticultural society and prosper in a globalmarketplace.

“How do we know that the learning and social environment of a campus prepares its students to challenge stereotypes, or become good citizens in a pluralistic society, or develop the necessary skills and competencies to work effectively with colleagues from diverse backgrounds?”Anderson asks. If institutions cannot answer that, he notes, “diversity detractors and nonsupporters can capitalize on environments that are rifewith vague definitions andmessages.”

“Even the most committed leaders can unknowingly create the conditions that limit the progress and implementation of diversity goals,”Anderson continues.

As “laboratories of preparation for the 21st Century,” he argues, colleges and universities must find better ways to evaluate and document what students learn as a result of diversity. Along with solid insights and vision, he suggests some tools for incorporating inclusiveness into the fabric and the curriculum of institutions of higher education.

Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men of the South, by E.Patrick Johnson, $35,University of North Carolina Press, (August 2008), ISBN-10: 080783209X, ISBN-13: 978- 0807832097, pp. 584.

The banter of old men at a cookout, swapping stories about what it was like to be Black, gay and Southern, was the inspiration for this book, writes Dr. E. Patrick Johnson. Even as a Black gay man from Hickory, N.C., he had never heard stories like theirs. By the time he traveled to document this history, those men, who were part of an HIV/AIDS outreach in 1995, had passed on, but the author captures their spirits in the oral histories compiled in Sweet Tea. (The title appropriates and blends slang terms related to Black homosexuals.)

Johnson began his research in the Research Triangle region and spread out across the South, finding subjects through personal contacts and word of mouth. His primary conclusion is that being gay-while-Black in the South is not necessarily harder than elsewhere, as many might think. Southernness itself — as defined by polite acceptance of eccentricity, a tendency to avoid any talk of sex and churches that provide a kind of cover — is amitigating factor that allows Black gay men to co-exist with everybody else, Johnson argues.

Despite the reluctance of manymen to talk, he interviewed 63, ages 19 to 93, in 15 Southern states, about their childhoods, love lives, family ties, faith and life in general. The result is a complex portrait of people often stereotyped, overlooked or disparaged that should affirm them and educate others. The book suffers a bit from too much verbiage on some matters and not enough depth on others, but those do not detract fromits overall contribution.

Johnson, who is a professor of performance and African-American studies at Northwestern University, adapted some of the material into a one-man touring show,“Pouring Tea.”

Freedom: A Documentary History of Emancipation, 1861-1867: Series 3, Volume 1: Land and Labor, 1865, by Leslie S. Rowland, $85, University of North Carolina Press, (September 2008), ISBN-10: 0807831476, ISBN-13: 978-0807831472, pp. 1112.

A critical turning point in history springs to life in this compilation of documents culled from a vast store of records, letters and testimony in the National Archives, accompanied by essays for context. The work expands an important series about the transition from the enslavement of Blacks to what passed for freedom after Reconstruction. This volume is the first of two to focus on the struggle to establish a new systemof labor and land rights and the first published atUNC.

—Angela P. Dodson is an online editor for Diverse: Issues inHigher Education.

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