AAS Professor Takes Classroom to the Streets

Larry JacksonIn the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement, the recent death of Freddie Gray while in the custody of Baltimore police literally hit close to home for Professor Larry Jackson.

As a result, Jackson developed an AAS 100 course, which he is teaching this Fall: “Introduction to African American Studies: Baltimore Riots.”

Jackson was born and raised in Baltimore, which erupted into protest and violence when Gray died as a result of injuries suffered while being transported by police.

Jackson, who visited Baltimore this summer, plans to engage Emory students in the public discourse around the Gray case, as well as the rash of deaths of African Americans during encounters with police. In the course, he will use the city of Baltimore, and the Freddie Gray case, as microcosm for exploring the roots and nature of troubling race relations in America.

“I wanted to give (students) the chance to delve into contemporary debates about education, healthcare, prisons and housing, and using a specific city,” said Jackson. “I especially wanted the students to understand the library resources that they have available to them, the important knowledge and communication skills that they have already acquired, and then productively engage with communities that need that.”

A highlight of the course is a planned class trip to Baltimore. Jackson, Winship Distinguished Research Professor, Departments of African American Studies & English, will take his students there from Dec. 3-6.

“Sometimes I get the feeling that the world is changing rapidly and our students are behind or outside of or without the proper forum to reach important issues,” said Jackson. “Some of it is related to the climate here in Georgia, and some of it is the general media consolidation and reduction of information. I think that African American Studies is a dynamic knowledge accumulation and analytical mechanism.”  

Gray was arrested on weapons charge April 12. He suffered a severe spinal cord injury while in police custody. That led to his death seven days later.

Six officers were subsequently indicted in Gray’s death. The officers have pleaded not guilty to all charges. The charges could lead to decades in prison, based on their alleged actions in Gray's death. Among them: illegal arrest, misconduct, assault and involuntary manslaughter.