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African-American Studies celebrates 40 years at UM

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by Kayla Matzke, Montana Kaimin

Faculty, students, administration and staff celebrated the University of Montana’s 40 years of African-American Studies – the third program of its kind in the nation – on Tuesday.

George Price, the current adviser and professor of the program, said UM was the first state other than California to have an African-American Studies – previously known as Black Studies – program four decades ago.
Ulysses Doss, the founder of UM’s program, gave the keynote speech for the celebration, which also featured a showing of the documentary film based on the 1960 Greensboro, N.C., Woolworth’s store sit-in against racial discrimination in public places.
Jibreel Khazan, one of the original four students who took part in the sit-in, attended Tuesday’s celebration.

Doss, who was active in the Civil Rights Movement and worked with personal friend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., came to Montana in the spring of 1968.
Doss said he felt he was called to teach, and he was invited to Missoula by a couple he knew from Christian Action Ministry, of which he was a part.
Right after Doss was hired to teach in the Humanities Department at UM – about a month after King was assassinated – Doss hung a sign on the door of Liberal Arts room 428 stating that he was the director of the Black Studies Department.
Price said Doss taught black history and black culture, and he didn’t ask for permission when he founded the African-American Studies department.
Five hundred students enrolled in Doss’ first four classes, and his popular class entitled “Gandhi and King” was standing-room-only for 25 years.
Price said when Doss first came to UM there were only 10 black students enrolled, but at a high point during the 1970s, Doss’ recruitment of students boosted the population to 116.
Price said shock and negative stereotypes are common reactions when people find out that UM was at the forefront in African-American Studies education. There is an assumption about Montana, a state that is 94 percent white, that has been proven wrong, he said.
Since it was launched by Doss 40 years ago, African-American Studies classes have always been full, usually with an approximately 90 percent white student population, Price said.
He said this shows Montanans want to stretch their knowledge beyond their own racial backgrounds.
Founding the program in Montana was more than just the history one can read about, Doss said; a person would have to have been a part of the program to understand it.
Doss said he couldn’t have started the program without the help of the program coordinator, Judy McBride.  Together, the pair recruited students to UM from around the nation.
Doss said he would start each of his classes with music, a pause before he would begin teaching. One day, he started the music and a professor next door came into his classroom and yelled at him, telling him to turn it down because he was trying to teach a class.
Doss said the professor didn’t treat or view him as a colleague.
But that wasn’t the only opposition Doss faced when he came to Montana. He received harassing phone calls at home telling him to leave the state and false accusations from women; and he even found out one of his students was recording his lectures – a huge invasion of privacy at the time.
Doss said he remembers driving down Arthur Avenue at 25 miles per hour when he heard police sirens behind him. When he rolled down the window, the officer asked him if he was Professor Doss at UM. The cop said he just wanted to introduce himself to the professor.
In the 25 years he spent at UM, Doss was an ally to the young Native American Studies and Women’s Studies programs.
He also served as a faculty adviser to the Lambda Alliance and said he learned much more from those students than he could ever teach them.
Besides Doss’ speech, Dr. Tunde Adeleke – former director of African-American Studies from 2000 to 2006 – returned for the 40-year celebration to present his research on the first decade of African-American Studies for the afternoon.


Written by Symphony

September 14, 2008 at 5:54 pm

One Response

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  1. Is the Judie McBride mentioned in this article the same Judie that lived in Gelnhausen, Germany in 1961 -1964? If so, please pass this along to her with my email address.
    John Reid, Atlanta, Ga

    John reid

    November 11, 2008 at 7:57 pm

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