African American History: A Love Story

by kathleenljackson

I guess I’ve always been an ‘all-or-nothing’ kind of person. I have this intensity about me, a tendency to either throw myself into something or disappear. I threw myself into university to such an extent that I didn’t even realise what was happening until it had happened: I fell in love with African American history slowly and then all at once. It was all consuming. It was all I thought about, all I did, all I wanted to do, I could link (and still can) anything back to it.

To be honest, I think I loved my lecturer, and the masterful way I was introduced to history, before I loved history (and he did essentially groomed me to progress the way I did, to such an extent that I still catch myself doing things that are inherently him; a habit I am desperately trying to break now that my interests, methodologies, and ideologies diverge so deeply). Regardless, I have this thing… I vividly remember every moment in my life when I realise I *really* love something; the day I fell in love with music I was at a school assembly. I was twelve years old and some seniors played the acoustic version of ‘Layla’ by Eric Clapton and I was a goner. I could tell you about the smells, the people who surrounded me, etc., but that’s not the point. The point is, I can do the same with African American history.

Unsurprisingly, it is linked to my love of music. It was the day before my 20th birthday and the lecture opened with Sam Cooke’s ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’; our subject was civil rights in the Kennedy era. It’s a story we are all familiar with, Martin Luther King was leading a movement in the South, Freedom Rides took place, and sit-ins were happening left, right and centre. This was also the very week I first saw the Eyes on the Prize episode about the movements in Albany, GA, and Birmingham, AL. It was a perfect alignment; I was in love.

Recently I have had to talk to a bunch of students about my adventures in education-land. It has been a bit of a challenge. This is the only way I know how to explain how I’ve gotten to where I am; I fell in love and it consumes me… I do what I do because it makes me happy, so happy that the thought of doing anything else never even occurred to me. It’s not the inspirational story people want to hear but it is my truth. #historynerd4lyf