Category Archives: Faculty Profiles

Professor Westenley Alcenat Featured in CBS News on “Did you learn about Juneteenth in school? Many American history lessons fall short on black history”

The content below is reproduced verbatim from Caitlin O’Kane’s June 19, 2020, story, “Did you learn about Juneteenth in school? Many American history lessons fall short on black history.”

Westenley Alcenat, an assistant professor of History, Urban & American Studies at Fordham University, says black history curriculums in all schools are either “inadequate, inaccurate, or simply non-existent.” 
 
“I went to high school in Minneapolis, actually, exactly in the same areas that were deeply affected by the George Floyd incident,” Alcenat told CBS News. “I can confidently tell you that much of what I know regarding American history within the context of what contributions or roles black people made to it… was not something that I really learned as much about in high school as something I learned in adulthood.” 
 
Alcenat said African American history is often sequestered from the larger narrative of American history. Instead, children at all education levels should be learning about the contributions African Americans made throughout history.
 
“We are not taught enough about how black men and women put their lives on the line to create what we know today as the multiracial vision of American democracy,” Alcenat said. 
 
“Given the type of society we’re striving towards, the type of society we’d like to be, let’s let our kids know very early on what [African Americans’] particular contributions really are,” he said. 
 
In the wake of nationwide protests against racial injustice, new efforts are being made by many American institutions to advance diversity and equality and address longstanding biases. Companies are suddenly recognizing the need to rebrand products like Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben’s due to their racist imagery, the country band Lady Antebellum changed its name, and NASCAR banned the Confederate flag.

While these changes may be welcome, some believe real progress can only be made if a fuller version of history is taught in schools. 

“Without knowledge of history, how do you put together an empathetic, humane response to horrible situations like the George Floyd murder, which we know is a symptom of the larger historical forces of racism in this country?” Alcenat said. “It’s incredibly important that we try to provide a correctness to how it’s all being taught at the moment. Or else we risk not necessarily repeating history, we risk not knowing how to deal with ourselves when these moments of history come upon us.”

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What Is Global History at Fordham? (Part 4 – Prof. Westenley Alcenat)

This is part 4 of our new series, “What is Global History at Fordham?” Today, we hear from Professor Westenley Alcenat, a member of Fordham’s Global History consortium, on what global history means to him and how it shapes his work.

“Most historical tools of analysis we have at our disposal are inherited from the territorial logic of the late nineteenth century European academy. Now that we live in a time and place where the realities of a networked and globalized world disrupted this nation-state model, the pervasive tendency to conceive of national histories as the history of localized, discrete, self-contained spaces has to exist as only one among other analytical frameworks of historical methodology. Modernizing contemporary historical inquiry cannot operate outside of an understanding of systems of interactions, institutional patterns of connectedness, and historical complexes (race, class, gender, nations and nation-states, regional, geographical, etc.,). In other words, to ignore the global in the local, and vice versa, is to articulate an almost vacuous history.

As a historian of comparative Caribbean and American slavery and emancipation, I try to avoid that analytical trap by examining my sources, as well as approach my pedagogy, through the lens of comparative historical analysis. This means starting foremost by understanding global history as NOT a study of globalization; rather, globalization is the core of global history. And in order to get closer to the historical properties at that core, I encourage students to ask questions that place events and problems in their global context. Historians working within traditional national, transnational, or world-based historical approaches can situate their different conceptual frameworks within that globalized paradigm.”

Westenley Alcenat

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