On the 10th July 2017, thirty enthusiastic students from England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales came together for UNIQ’s ‘History: Race and Protest’ summer school. The aim of the week was primarily to encourage students to think about new and different ways of doing History, alongside giving them a taste of undergraduate life.
The team (myself, Evan Matsuyama and Isabelle Waterfall) were lucky to host speakers throughout the week who lectured the students on a variety of issues. On Monday, Professor Stephen Tuck opened the week with an informative overview of ‘Race and Protest within the Global Civil Rights Movement’ before a talk by Dr Jed Fazakarley introducing the students to protest in modern Britain. This was followed by discussion groups in which students discussed some of the key questions arising from the morning’s sessions as well as broader ideas arising when thinking about the Civil Rights movement as a global phenomenon. These included questions surrounding how the Civil Rights movement is defined and taught in Britain as a rather US-centric phenomenon and how history differs depending upon the scale and scope through which it is studied. By adjusting their view of Civil Rights movements from a local to national or international scale, we observed the changing narratives which emerge. Much like a mosaic with thousands of pieces, with history we see something different depending on how close we are standing to the pieces being assessed.
The following day, a lively and well-received lecture was held by Dr Siân Pooley who thoroughly engaged the students with an interactive session introducing them to the more specific details of the British movement whilst proposing new ways of thinking about types of protest, agency and strategy versus tactics - from reactive politics to everyday acts of resistance. Just as the day before, this seminar sparked thought-provoking discussions from the students on the changing form of resistance within past and contemporary protest movements in our breakout session before lunch.
After lunch, DPhil student, Evan Matsuyama, gave the day’s second lecture entitled ‘Americans from the South and East: A brief history of Asians, Pacific Islanders and Latin Americans in the United States’. Evan’s session presented an alternative and often overlooked perspective of the making of the 20th century American movement for civil rights by introducing the narrative of Japanese Americans in U.S. concentration camps during the Second World War. Alongside our earlier talks of the week, the day’s sessions inspired students to consider a more global, alternative perspective of the Civil Rights Movements rather than simply the nationalistic perspective of one single country’s movement when reading for their essays to be submitted at the end of the week.
On Wednesday morning, Pembroke College opened its doors, and following a welcome from Dame Lynne Brindley, Master of Pembroke, students had a Q and A session on admissions in higher education. Prior to the summer school, students had been sent a copy of Professor Stephen Tuck’s The Night Malcolm X Spoke at the Oxford Union and were extremely excited for the afternoon’s talk by Stephen on Malcolm X’s visit to Oxford, held inside the Oxford Union Debating Chamber. In the same room 53 years ago, Malcolm X stood up for the Oxford Union’s end-of-term debate in support of the motion, “Extremism in the defence of liberty is no vice”. Recounting this moment, Stephen’s talk provided the audience with an understanding of the transatlantic nature of the civil rights movement, intertwining a familiar life story of the black revolutionary with a broader and contemporary narrative relating to the struggle for racial equality in places such as Oxford.
Thursday saw our last speaker of the week, Dr Patricia Daley, Professor of Human Geography of Africa and a recently serving assessor for the university’s ‘Equality Report’, deliver an enlightening talk on equality in higher education and her own journey into and within academia. This inspiring talk was followed by a film screening of The Black Power Mixtape (2011).
During the week’s afternoons, students were hosted by the Philosophy and Theology Library and other university libraries using their study time to select and read primary and secondary sources around the topic of their essay. I gave various sessions throughout the week alongside the students’ studying for their essays– from advice on note-taking and using sources to advice on essay-writing. These essays acted as the culmination of the week’s events and themes, with students answering a question surrounding the value of a global perspective when studying the Civil Rights Movements. On Friday morning, we held Oxford-style tutorials with the students, discussing their answers to the question and providing them with both written and verbal feedback to their essays and reflecting on the week in general.
Having attended the UNIQ course myself many years ago, I know how valuable the experience can be and have been delighted and privileged to plan and deliver this week and very grateful to Stephen, Evan, Isabelle, the UNIQ team and all of the academics who kindly gave up their time to speak to the students. I would also like to take the opportunity to thank TORCH and the Philosophy and Theology Faculty for hosting us throughout the week.
Beth Kume-Holland (Co-ordinator and tutor for UNIQ’s ‘History: Race and Protest’ summer school)
In many ways the week that I spent at UNIQ was crucial in helping me to decide that I definitely want to go to university and also cemented my desire to study history. The academic side of UNIQ was fascinating as it challenged me to look at parts of the Civil Rights movement in an entirely different perspective. This has inspired me to continue research in the future as well as giving me analytical skills I can use to succeed in my A levels and beyond. The variety of ways in which we were taught - lectures, seminars, and tutorials - gave me a really useful insight into university teaching. As well as this, both the extra-curricular activities and the time spent with the student ambassadors allowed me to gain a holistic understanding of university life, as well as enabling me to meet people who had similar interests to me with whom I’ve made great friends. Overall, UNIQ was a brilliant experience, and one that I would highly recommend to everyone.
I applied to the UNIQ summer school after my head of year told me about the course. She directed me toward the Oxford UNIQ website and I started to explore the many course options available to applicants. As a History student I found the idea of studying the history of civil rights very intriguing. I wrote a short personal statement explaining why I wanted to attend the summer school, filled out the online forms and waited to find out whether I would be able to attend.
When I found out that I had been accepted to the course I was both surprised and thrilled. The letters and emails I received from the UNIQ team were friendly and easy to understand. The information I received about the summer school was very clear and left me feeling calm and confident about the week. Receiving pre-reading for the course was very helpful as it allowed me to explore the topic we would be studying and get a feel for the language we would be using and the issues we would discuss.
The lectures and discussions we had on this course introduced me to a new way of looking at history. I particularly enjoyed learning about the history of the British civil rights movement; an area of history which I never heard of, let alone learnt about. I learnt about the Bristol bus boycott of 1963 and discussed with other students the parallels between this stand for civil rights and the ‘freedom rides’ held in cities all across America. During our independent study time at the end of each day I was able to read about what we had discussed and dig deeper into sources to discover first person accounts and personal stories. For me this brought the learning to life as I read about the struggle for equal rights the black community of the world had to fight for.
The academic sessions were a mix of lectures, discussions, question and answer sessions, documentaries and independent study. Being taught a variety in of ways meant that it was easy to stay engaged with the content of the sessions. I found it very useful to experience university style lectures where I was taking notes and listening to the lecturer. It was also very great to have the opportunity to ask questions and contribute ideas.
As a part of the course we were asked to answer a question and hand in an essay. We were supported in the research and writing process by the course leaders and our ambassadors were also on hand to answer any questions. I wrote the essay in my free time in the evenings after having dinner with other people in my college and participating in social activities. The week was challenging and interesting and I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent at Oxford. An amazing experience which has given me the confidence to apply to study History at Oxford and other respected universities.
Going on the UNIQ summer school was a brilliant experience. Every day I would have lectures or group discussions with people interested in the same subject as me and eager to learn. Lunchtime meant being allowed to explore the city with my friends and buy food with the vouchers we were given- I barely spent any of my own money during the whole week! In the evenings, we had a choice of activities, all of which I enjoyed, especially the social evening on the last night, complete with a disco and games room. The Oxford students running the course were all friendly and helpful. My group leader, upon hearing I had questions about English at the university, a subject which she didn't do, called a friend who did to provide the answers, while my site manager directed me to an English student so we could have a conversation about it. The same student later kindly emailed me a reading list. Before coming on the course, I was slightly worried that the other people there might be intimidating, which wasn't the case. Although everyone there was bright, they were incredibly supportive. I particularly enjoyed how asking questions was encouraged. I would definitely recommend the course to anyone considering Oxford, or just wanting to learn more about their favourite subject. I learnt so much in just a week!