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Professor’s class to be broadcast on C-SPAN

Nov 11, 2020

This month, Kenan Distinguished Professor of History and Director of the African-American Studies minor J. Michael Butler will deliver a lecture to his Rock and Roll History class titled, “From Civil Rights to Black Power in Rock.” The difference won’t be its virtual delivery for the first time in Butler’s teaching career, but the broadcasting of the class by C-SPAN.

“Lectures in History” is a series on the cable news channel that spotlights college classes and professors lecturing on unique and interesting topics. The channel was originally to air the series in the spring, but the onset of the pandemic which sent home college students across the country, essentially halted filming until recently. This is third time a professor from Flagler has been chosen by C-SPAN for inclusion in the series.

His students are excited about the series including their class, which is also a new experience for them to be learning about Civil Rights via class on Zoom. But Butler has found ways to make each class interesting and engaging, including the upcoming class, promising slide decks, music clips, primary source interaction and a healthy dose of enthusiasm.

“Even in the age of Zoom, I want to engage every little square,” he said.

As a professor, he sees his job in leading the students to ask the “So what” question. As a professor of history specifically, he sees his role as leading them further into actually answering that question for themselves.

The pandemic has encouraged Butler to be brave and experiment a bit with his instruction to include making more use of contextualizing activities through the analysis of primary sources. This format is in stark contrast to his normal essay-based exams for example. Now in his history-by-way-of-music class, students will analyze and interpret each source they’re provided and ask questions such as “What made the Beatles a revolutionary group during the sixties” and “How did rock and roll help American soldiers in Vietnam cope with the conflict?”

Butler has interviewed with C-SPAN previously when he served as historian and expert guide for the channel’s coverage of St. Augustine’s 450th birthday celebration. He’s also been featured on an author series for his book on the Civil Rights Movement in Pensacola, Fla.

The professor sees music history and music in general as a way to get people interested in the field without even realizing they’re learning about history. He’s very optimistic that teaching during a pandemic has actually helped, not hindered, teaching pedagogy in a way that allows for further exploration into making the physical classroom, once we all return, more interactive than ever before.

As to why he thinks his class was chosen to feature in the C-SPAN “Lectures in History” series: “I have the passion for my discipline and for sharing it with students, and you can’t fake the enthusiasm or the ability to convey the importance of the content.”


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