Teaching Black Lives Amidst Black Death

Reflections from a Black Visiting Professor


  • Robert P. Robinson John Jay College, City University of New York




place-making, stealin’ the meetin’, Black education history, Black affinity groups, anti-blackness


In this essay the author addresses the struggles of teaching a special topics course, Black Freedom Movement Education, in the midst of a global pandemic and Donald Trump’s proposed ban on anti-racist training and critical race theory. The educator framed the course under the conceptual lens of stealin’ the meetin’—a Black Antebellum practice of creating otherwise literacy practices under repressive circumstances. This form of educational resistance continued beyond enslavement as Black communities used the resources available to educate each other by any means necessary (Robinson, 2020). On a smaller scale, this class carried on the resistance through critical meta-cognitive engagement with Black education history. The author discusses how he navigated the course when, less than halfway through the quarter, a Black man was killed and burned in a trench. Using emails, lecture notes, student evaluations, texts, and reflections, the author shares vignettes of tension, Black affinity, and communal restoration.