Jonathan is deeply committed to teaching in the classroom as well as outside it. His teaching at the college level began at Brown University and then continued when he was selected to be the Brown-Tougaloo Exchange Faculty Fellow and offered courses at the historically Black college outside Jackson, Mississippi, Tougaloo College. At Tougaloo, he added a course on nineteenth-century Black intellectuals to the curriculum and offered a Civil War course that made a voyage to the nearby Vicksburg National Military Park. The trip brought students to the site of war and emancipation, so they could learn about the experiences of soldiers and freedpeople where history happened. For his teaching, students at Tougaloo and Brown nominated him for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching, which he received in May 2018. After Brown and Tougaloo, he taught at the New School and Weber State University and now teaches at Purdue University.
My interest in teaching began…
in 2012 as part of City Year Chicago, an organization dedicated to helping teachers and working with students on the cusp of dropping out. Working at Amos Alonzo Stagg Elementary in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago, I taught literacy to sixth- and seventh-grade students. Many of my students had difficulties putting words together and grew weary working through paragraphs. To thwart frustration, I learned to energize learning by reaching out to students’ interests. As a first-generation student long plagued by troubles in school, I knew that a lesson customized to reach individual interests could calm students and activate intellectual curiosity. I decided that as a teacher I would let students interests inform and often guide the delivery of content. As a professor pursuing a broader goal, I aim to teach students empathy while engaging them in critical thinking yet maintain a commitment to engaging students as individuals with individual minds.
At Brown University, I evolved as a teacher. I served as a teaching assistant in courses on American history, looking at topics including political movements, empire-making, legal development, and the Civil War. During the Summer at Brown program, I taught a course on the social history of war. In “The People’s History of War,” students assessed the often-overlooked part women and Black Americans played in wars. They wrestled with the irony of violence as a means of liberation and entree into the body politic.
In 2017, I began teaching courses at Tougaloo College, an institution steeped in the history of the civil rights movement. In the fall, I taught “African American Leaders of the Nineteenth Century,” looking at notable trailblazers like Mary Ann Shadd Carry, Harriet Tubman, and Frederick Dougalss. In the spring of 2018, I offered “The American Civil War” and “Soldiering in the African Diaspora,” exploring the military service of men and women of African descent in Africa and the Americas from sixteenth century to the twenty-first century. In the course, students analyzed the decisions of men and women of the African Diaspora to support military forces as they navigated oppressions rooted in slavery and anti-Black racism. (See Tougaloo’s History Department newsletter here.)
As a Schwartz Postdoctoral Fellow at the New School, I continued guiding students through the past and used the metropolis as the backdrop to enhance learning. I taught “African American Intellectual History” and “War and Protest in the Black Atlantic.” The courses allowed me to expand content I previously offered, yet most significantly during the courses, I brought students to historic sites around New York City, including the Ulysses Grant Mausoleum, and had them look at primary sources at the New-York Historical Society. The most rewarding trip was to the Schomburg Center for the Study of Black Culture. In an exhibit on “Black Power,” students learned about the social, political, and economic contours of the twentieth-century movement, which we then placed in conversation with the writings of nineteenth-century Black leader Martin Delany. The discussion yielded a rich discussion of the changing — and unchanging — aspects of racism and myriad efforts to overcome oppression.
My teaching interests include…
- U.S. History
- African American History
- Military History
- U.S. Legal History
- The U.S. Civil War and Reconstruction
- History of Slavery and Race (in the U.S. as well as the wider Atlantic)
Courses I’ve taught…
- Civil War and Reconstruction (Fall 2021)
- Transformative Texts: Modern World (Spring 2021)
- History of American Military Affairs (Fall 2020)
Weber State University
- The American Civil War at Gettysburg (on-site learning course in Pennsylvania) (Summer 2020)
- The Era of the Civil War and Reconstruction (Spring 2019)
- American Civilization (three sections), Weber State University (Spring and Fall 2019)
The New School
- War and Protest in the Black Atlantic, Lang College at the New School (Spring 2019)
- Black Thinkers, Lang College at the New School (Fall 2018)
- American Civil War, Tougaloo College (Spring 2018)
- Soldiering in the African Diaspora from the 15th to 21st Century, Tougaloo College (Spring 2018)
- African American Leaders of the Nineteenth Century, Tougaloo College (Fall 2017)
- A People’s History of War, Brown University (Summer 2017)