Professor writes book to correct misconceptions about racism


After more than 20 years of working as a reporter for newspapers across the country, Associate Dean of International Studies & Programs and journalism professor Eric Freedman likes to continue to keep as heavy a workload as possible.

“I enjoy variety, and I enjoy keeping busy,” he said. “I have a relatively short attention span — I tend to take things on, get them done and go on to the next thing.”

Freedman, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1994 for beat reporting at The Detroit News, has focused on researching racism and racial diversity, which he said he has been passionate about since his reporting days. He and Stephen Jones, an African American history professor at Central Michigan University, recently wrote their second book together, which was released in February.

The book, “Presidents and Black America: A Documentary History,” details the history of several U.S. presidents known for breaking racial barriers and corrects many misconceptions about racism commonly taught in the average American classroom, Freedman said.

“(Jones and I) realized that there were lots of little-known stories to be told,” he said. “Many of the things we teach our children are misleading or are simply incorrect nuances. For example, Abraham Lincoln was remembered for leading the nation through the Civil War, but in reality, he was often very racist when he talked about differences between races.”

Psychology senior Joel Ruffin, who is the president of the MSU chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., and a supervisor of MSU organization Motivating, Advancing, Learning and Evolving, said the book could fix many misleading principles about racism that he dealt with as a child.

“History, depending on the environment, can be tremendously obscured,” he said. “Racism is here and happening, and we have to understand it within the context of the time before we earn the right to be subjective.”

Jones said many of today’s issues involving racism cannot be solved without taking a look back into the past.

“We don’t know the complexity of our own history,” Jones said. “If we don’t understand the depth of its roots in our society, how are we expected to resolve it?”

Freedman, along with his own individual upcoming projects on racism and history, plans to work with Jones on another book in the near future. He said he also will continue to keep himself busy as a professor, making sure to help his students understand the truth about the past.

“I believe it’s important to be as historically correct as possible,” he said. “But if you don’t understand the bad and the good, it’s hard to keep that goal.”

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