NewsPositively Milwaukee


Positively Milwaukee: Keeping Democracy alive, and a warning from a Marquette University historian

Posted at 7:08 PM, Mar 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-02 20:08:32-05

MILWAUKEE — Marquette University history professor Dr. Robert Smith describes how America's Black Holocaust Museum has the power to educate.

"Whether it's a global experience in conversation about people of African descent, whether it's a national conversation about Black people in the long black liberation struggle, or if it's the richness of our own local Milwaukee history, it's all right here," Smith says.

Dr. Smith believes lessons on the constitution need to be taught earlier in schools.

"We do a terrible job as a country making sure that all of our citizens understand that fundamental contract that we have with our government, republics like the Republic of the United States," he says. "Our fragile new systems, our sense of democracy and our approach to different kinds of practices, only work to the extent that we believe in them."

Smith warns failing to do so threatens our democracy and our future.

"We have to do a re-education campaign as a country, to make sure that all of our citizens are buying into this project that is the American experiment with democracy. Otherwise, as we saw recently, it could very easily be torn asunder," he says.

But Dr. Smith sees hope when he enlightens young minds.

"You see a young person say, 'I get it now! I'm a part of that rich experience.' That's the best part for me. There's no price I can put on that!" Smith said.

When it comes to teaching African American history, he notes, we must not forget the pain of the past, but we also must take pride in those who have paved the way.

"As much as we need to teach the difficult histories, we have to also continually teach the rich beautiful histories that show African Americans in pushing back against racial oppression. Whether it was during the institution of slavery, during Jim Crow, the Civil Rights movement, and even today, there are so many brilliant stories of black excellence and we have to herald those. We absolutely have to," he said.

Report a typo or error // Submit a news tip