The Dawn of Tomorrow Community-based Research Project

This website documents the work of students in History 3313F – The Movement: Civil Rights and African American History in the 20th Century at Huron University College in London, Ontario, Canada. As part of a community-based learning project in partnership with the London Public Library’s Ivey Family London Room, students have digitized some of the earliest issues of the community’s The Dawn of Tomorrow newspaper. This community-based learning project is part of a SSHRC Insight Grant – Canada’s 19th Century Black Press: Roots and Trajectories of Exceptional Communication and Intellectual Activism, led by Dr. Boulou Ebanda de b’Beri (University of Ottawa) with co-investigators Dr. Claudine Bonner (Acadia University) and Dr. Nina Reid-Maroney (Huron University College at Western).

History 3313F explores themes in African American history, beginning with the activist response to the rise of racial segregation in the last decades of the nineteenth century and ending in the early days of the Obama presidency.  In the Fall of 2016, we take up our studies against the backdrop of wider debates over the legacy of the first African American president, the emergence of #BlackLivesMatter, renewed calls for reparations, new concerns over the future of voting rights, and the diminishing prospect of a once-predicted ‘post-racial era’ in American politics.  Our course is about the past, but also highlights the tremendous contemporary importance of historical scholarship.

In the pages of The Dawn of Tomorrow, students see course themes from the fresh and astonishingly underexplored perspective of local history. Work with primary sources and local materials brings an immediacy to the course themes that is unmatched by reading texts and secondary literature. This project is part of an innovative community-based pedagogy that has been developed over the past 10 years in the History Department at Huron. This project strives to create a bridge between community and classroom, engaging students and community partners as co-creators of knowledge about the past. By participating in a public history project, students gain experience in communicating the results and importance of their research to others and develop a critical understanding of how and why our knowledge of the past matters in contemporary discussions of race, justice, and identity.