Katrina Sanders

August 30, 2017

Sanders helps create valuable resource for teachers across state, nation

Historic context holds incredible potential for providing an understanding of our modern time. It can be particularly powerful in the realm of U.S. race relations.

Educational Policy and Leadership Studies Associate Professor Katrina Sanders, a Louisiana native, is one of several scholars from across the U.S. who curated the Race Relations in America online database. Sanders is also affiliated with the Schools, Culture, and Society graduate program.

The database is a valuable collection of primary source material about American race relations, which covers a portion of the Civil Rights Movement from 1943 to 1970. The database captures critical historical information on this era in America. Having this data available to pre- and in-service teachers who are of generations that where not yet born during this era can provide a valuable sense of historical context about the Civil Rights Movement.

Sanders and her fellow database curators were asked to work on the project because of their expertise in the field of American race relations, as well as their knowledge of the collection itself. This diverse online collection includes transcripts of lectures by historians, anthropologists, sociologists, legal scholars, business executives, and religious leaders who attended the Fisk University Race Relations Department and its institute who were all interested in improving American race relations.

“We wanted to show the breadth and depth of the collection,” says Sanders “Those who are doing research on American race relations or have an interest in the topic can start with the database, and decide if they would like to travel to New Orleans to explore the rest of the collection.”

The content found in this collection comes as a product of the Fisk University Race Relations Department and its institute. Sanders says Fisk University preserved the material as part of its history and legacy.

“This database is still timely today because we see America continues to struggle with race and living up to its own ideals.”

- Katrina Sanders

“This database is still timely today because we see America continues to struggle with race and living up to its own ideals,” says Sanders. “We witness daily the debates we continue to have over civil rights, voting rights, and the overall basic human rights of those we perceive as other.

“The Institute may have started in the 1940s, but it is still applicable to contemporary America. We are deeply indebted to Fisk because they understood the magnitude of American racial intolerance, and the value of those who participated in the Institute.”

The Race Relations in America online database can be helpful to pre-service teachers or teachers who are new to the field of K-12 education because it can also give them context to American race relations, says Sanders. Many teachers have not had classes on American race relations or histories of ethnic and minority groups, so they enter the classroom simply unaware of why the racial tensions we now see in America exist, she says.

“This database will help them take steps to understand,” says Sanders, noting it will be useful to those working to build their cultural competency.

The database can assist K-12 social studies and history teachers by providing them contextual knowledge on race relations in America. Sanders says it is rich with primary documents – lectures, pamphlets, photos, and other resources, which will give them an insider’s view – and not another person’s interpretation – of social justice efforts. She notes it will help teachers articulate and demonstrate that the American ideals we learn in the curriculum are not yet lived experiences for all in America.

It has just as much value for scholars, activists, and community organizers, too. These individuals now have access to the work of their predecessors that has been inaccessible for those who have not had the time or money to travel to the Amistad Research Center at Tulane University in New Orleans. What’s more important to note is the fact that many people are not aware that much of this material exists.

“This database allows interested parties to more efficiently imagine how to move forward,” says Sanders.

Read more from the 2016-17 College of Education Annual Report.