Activity One: Why the Nubian Message?

Step 1: Ask students how they stay informed about current news and events.  Do they watch a specific news network on television?  Do they engage with social media?  Do they talk to their parents?  Make a list of the different media and personal sources through which students stay informed.  Then ask students to name major events or topics in recent news.

Step 2: Divide students into four groups. (This can be accomplished by the "counting off" method: assigning Student A the first exhibit section to read, Student B the second exhibit section, and so forth around the room.) Have each group read the introduction to the online exhibit, “Is the Technician Racist? Debates about Multiculturalism and Post-Racialism, 1991-1992.” Then assign one section of the exhibit for each group to explore. The sections are:

  • “The NC State African American Cultural Center: Space for Campus Dialogue or Separatist Forum?” (Topic: Multiculturalism)
  • ‘“We Are Not All From Africa:’ Fragmentation and the Politics of Identity among NCSU’s African-American Students in the Early 1990s” (Topic: African-American Identity)
  • “Affirmative Action: Biased for African-Americans or a Fix for Historical Inequality?” (Topic: Affirmative Action)
  • ‘“Civility and Civil Rights:’ The Black Cultural Center, Segregated Space, and the Possibility of Interracial Dialogue” (Topic: Incendiary Racial Speech)

Remind students that they should read the primary sources (the articles) as well as the secondary-source information (the exhibit text). Recall that primary sources are generally created during the historical time period under study. Secondary sources interpret and analyze primary sources. They are typically created after the time period under study.

Step 3: Have each group briefly present on the exhibit section that they explored. In their presentation, students should:

  • Summarize the topic and main arguments of their exhibit section.
  • Define important terms and concepts (such as multiculturalism, post-racialism, and affirmative action).
  • Identify the primary and secondary sources referenced in the exhibit.

Remind students of the differences between primary and secondary sources if needed. 

Step 4: Once each group has presented, discuss the exhibit sections as a class.

Questions for Discussion:

  • What did you learn from exploring your exhibit section, or from listening to other groups’ presentations, that you did not already know?
  • How were white and black perspectives on major issues like affirmative action different?
  • What historical events might have influenced the development of different perspectives?
  • Can historians talk about the "white perspective" or the "black perspective"? How were white students’ perspectives different from each other? How were black students’ perspectives different from each other?
  • When writing about difficult and controversial issues in the past, can historians side with a particular group or perspective, or should they remain neutral?

Step 5: Although African-American students at NC State had long-standing reasons for wanting their own campus newspaper, articles in NC State’s main paper, the Technician, finally galvanized students to act.  One article by Steven Crisp appeared in the Technician in September 1992. The article denounced a recent rally at UNC-Chapel Hill’s campus that took an overtly Black Power stance. This article, among others, prompted African-American students to publicly burn copies of the Technician during campus protests two days later. It also prompted Tony Williamson, future founding editor-in-chief of The Nubian Message, to write an impassioned response that challenged Crisp’s views.

Have students read Crisp’s article and Williamson’s article using The Nubian Message collection online. Give students the following discussion questions before they read the article.

Questions for Discussion:

  • What was each writer’s stance on the UNC rally? On construction of an African-American Cultural Center on campus? On racism on campus and in society as a whole?
  • Who were the intended audiences for each article? How did each writer appeal to their audience, and how might each writer have alienated other audiences?
  • How did the writers draw upon history or historical precedent to make their case?
  • These writers, along with others in the Technician, used strong language in making their cases. Should offensive, racial speech be limited in media? Why or why not?
  • After reading these articles and exploring the exhibit, do you agree with the need for a separate African-American student newspaper at NCSU? Why or why not?

Step 6: Return to the list of media topics and outlets that students made at the beginning of class. Ask them to reconsider their main news sources and the ways in which they cover major issues.

Questions for Discussion:

  • Do these media outlets exhibit racial bias in their coverage?
  • Do these media outlets stereotype minorities?
  • How can media outlets present racially charged issues fairly and accurately without stereotyping parties involved?