A Three-Part Miniseries
2020 was an unprecedented year. The dual pandemics of COVID-19 and international racism, combined with economic depression and political unrest, forced new conversations to confront global public health issues and widespread systems of racial injustice. Places of history and education—in classrooms ranging from kindergarten to postgraduate levels, museums, historical sites, or digital public history platforms—are at the center of these historic events and conversations.
This miniseries explored the role of public health as public history. Universities have been on the front lines in combating the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic by supporting research and scholarship that searches for a vaccine, as well as protecting the large populations that gather in a school environment. But universities are not the only spaces that communities gather to learn and reflect. The virus has forced museums and public history sites to close their doors and explore new methods of public engagement. Finally, the pandemic has revealed the physical side effects of institutionalized racism in the United States. Black communities are twice as likely to be hit by COVID-19 and twice as likely to die if infected. The recent protests in the wake of the murders of George Floyd, Brianna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many more have captured public attention in a way the nation has not seen since the Civil Rights movement. Perhaps the combination of the pandemic and racial injustice is simply too much to bear, or perhaps it’s because Americans are home and a captive audience without the daily distractions of work, sports, and social activities. The protests during the pandemic reveal that racism is a public health issue.
2020 demonstrated that public health, broadly defined, cannot be separated from public history. The host, Dr. Lindsay M. Chervinsky, interviewed a series of experts on public health, disease, education, slavery, and race over the course of three episodes. They discussed how education and cultural institutions can interpret the history of disease, medicine, and racism as interrelated issues that continue to challenge the nation.
Episode 3: Public History Sites and the Dual Pandemics
Episode three ties together the themes covered in the previous two episodes—the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and structural racism and injustice, and the role of education spaces in this conversation going forward—and considers the role of public history sites in this current moment. How should public history sites address the pandemics? What do they have to teach us and offer as we consider how to move forward as a nation? Why are the stories they tell so important? These are just some of the questions covered in the final episode of Public Health – Public History.
The National Great Blacks in Wax Museum | Charles H. Wright Museum of African American Museum | Royall House and Slave Quarters | Bush Holley House | Sixth Floor Museum | Dallas Heritage Village | Dallas Jewish Historical Society | Dallas Mexican American Historical League | Slave Dwelling Project | Remembering Black Dallas | Dexter Parsonage Museum
Kyera Singleton is the Executive Director of the Royall House and Slave Quarters. She is also a Ph.D. candidate in the department of American culture at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, and currently a dissertation fellow in the history department at Harvard University. She has previously held academic fellowships from Emory University and the American Association of University Women. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in American studies and women’s gender and sexuality studies from Macalester College.
Before joining the Royall House and Slave Quarters, Singleton demonstrated her commitment to making history both visible and accessible through public history projects in museums and nonprofits that are committed to social justice. She served as the Humanity in Action Policy Fellow for the ACLU of Georgia, where she worked on various issues including mass incarceration, reproductive justice and voting rights. And she served as a research fellow for the Charles Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit.
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Dr. Sharron Wilkins Conrad joined the Center for Presidential History in September 2019. Her project examines how perceptions of John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson’s civil rights leadership developed, hardened and continue to circulate within the black community. A key aspect of her scholarship focuses on the process by which Kennedy emerged as a civil rights hero for African Americans while Johnson—who fought for and signed into law historic civil rights legislation—has been viewed as being motivated solely by political self-interest.
Sharron received her Ph.D. in Humanities from The University of Texas at Dallas in 2019. She holds a BA in History and Anthropology from Penn State University, and a MA in Public History from Howard University. Previously, she served as Director of Education and Public Programs at The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, interpreting the life and legacy of President Kennedy. Her professional career has included appointments at history museums around the country.
Sharron has published articles on African American chefs in the White House, as well as an excerpt from her master’s research on the life and times of Thomas Dorsey, a black caterer in 19th century Philadelphia. Her research has been supported by a Theodore C. Sorensen Research Fellowship from The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, a Moody Research Grant from The Lyndon Johnson Foundation, and a UTD Dean of Graduate Education Dissertation Research Award. In 2017 she was awarded the UTD President’s Teaching Excellence Award.
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Music: Breathe by Shane Ivers
Episode 2: The Dual Pandemics
Episode two continues the conversation by analyzing the second of the duel pandemics attacking our country—structural racism and racial injustice. Our expert guests, Dr. Darrell Wheeler and Dr. Tony Brown, explain how racism produces structural inequalities that affect minority communities from birth to death, and how structural racism makes certain communities more vulnerable to the other pandemic, COVID-19. Dr. Wheeler and Dr. Brown will also consider how universities and education institutions exacerbate these conditions and how they might play a leading role in producing positive change going forward.
Dr. Darrell Wheeler is the Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at Iona College in New Rochelle, New York. He is an educator and researcher with interests including the identification and exploration of individual and communal resiliency in HIV prevention and intervention in the African-American gay, bisexual, and transgender communities. His work has demonstrated a deep understanding of social work practice methods and the social work community. Wheeler has used research to advance the use of data and evidence in developing innovative programs and policy initiatives. A well-regarded and active scholar, Wheeler has published and presented extensively in the areas of health and mental health disparities, HIV prevention and intervention, minority health, individual and community resilience, LGBTQ community health and intervention, social justice, and community service.
Wheeler earned his doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh in 1992, a master’s degree in public health at the University of Pittsburgh in 1990, a master’s in social work from Howard University in 1988, and a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Cornell College in 1981. He served as Vice Chair of the US Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (2016-17) and was the President of the US Board of the National Association of Social Workers 2014-2017. He has also served on the Office of AIDS Research Advisory Council. In 2015, he was named among the 30 most influential social workers alive today.
Dr. Tony Brown, a critical race theorist, investigates how racism works, from the womb to the tomb, to disadvantage blacks and privilege whites. Mechanisms of racism include interactions across interpersonal, institutional and cultural levels, implicating the mundane and extraordinary in the maintenance of white supremacy. In his quantitative research, Brown avoids attempting to explain away the race coefficient, instead highlighting heterogeneity within black populations thereby demonstrating that race is socially constructed and represents shared experiences, attitudes and beliefs. Funded from various federal agencies, Brown uses survey data from community-based samples to examine the mental health significance of racial discrimination, the social construction of race in Brazil, race socialization during childhood, the epidemiology of racial trauma, the psychological wages of whiteness, and culturally-specific conceptualizations of mental health.
Brown earned his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan and completed postdoctoral training at Michigan’s Institute for Social Research. Before joining Rice University in 2016, he was tenured in the sociology department at Vanderbilt University. While there, he co-edited the American Sociological Review, served as the inaugural faculty head of Hank Ingram House in the Martha Rivers Ingram Commons, and held appointments in numerous departments and programs across the main and medical campuses.
Music: Breathe by Shane Ivers.
Episode 1 – COVID-19 & the College Environment
Episode one kicks off the miniseries by examining the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on college and education environments, how universities and professors are adapting to meet the demands of a virtual world, and opportunities that might come out of this difficult year.
Dr. Jeanne Zaino specializes in public sector, government, and media and entertainment. Her experience includes extensive work with public policy building in federal and local state government and higher education entities. Dr. Zaino has more than 25 years of experience across a range of complex and often high-profile strategy, operations and transformation initiatives. She is regarded as an expert on electoral politics, and her ideas are widely used in governments, industries and organizations throughout the world.
As a member of the Political Science and International Studies faculty at Iona College, Dr. Zaino teaches courses in American government, voting, elections, public opinion, political parties, presidency, congress, the courts, civil liberties, constitutional law and research methods. During her tenure at Iona College she has served as Chair of the Political Science Department, Director of the Honors Program and Interim Dean of the School of Arts and Science.
Her work has been published in journals as varied as Campaigns and Elections, Journal of Politics, Journal of Political Science Education, Dispute Resolution Journal, Education Week, Journal of Pastoral Counseling and The Chronicles of Higher Education. She is the author of Adventures in Social Research: Data Analysis Using SPSS and Core Concepts in American Government.
Micol Zweig is an epidemiologist and the Associate Director of Clinical Research for the Hasso Plattner Institute at Mount Sinai in New York City. She leads the Digital Discovery Program, a comprehensive program of patient-centric health studies utilizing wearable, mobile and sensor technologies to generate and integrate multi-modal data to better understand complex diseases and serve as a scalable platform for digital clinical trials. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, her team launched the Warrior Watch study. It uses a unique phone App to administer questions and collect data from an Apple Watch, worn by participants, in order to better understand the impact of COVID-19. The first goal is to study and understand the impact that COVID-19 is having on the psychological well-being of health care workers and understand how this stress can be improved. The second goal is to identify COVID-19 infections in our employees prior to the development of symptoms. She is personally committed to understanding how to make health technology approachable and usable for diverse communities.
Dr. Joseph Stabile is the Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at Iona College. He also teaches courses in ecology, evolution and toxicology. His primary research interests are in population ecology, genetics and environmental sciences, and the relationship of genetic diversity and the ecological success of marine organisms.
Music: Breathe by Shane Ivers