Department of American Studies in Solidarity with the Movement for Black Lives

Author: Katie Schlotfeldt


The Department of American Studies at Notre Dame supports the Movement for Black Lives and the call to end anti-black racism, police violence, and systemic racism. As faculty, students, and staff, we share in national and global grief and anger regarding the killing of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department on May 25, 2020, as well as the many other senseless killings of Black Americans, including Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and Breonna Taylor, among others. We also want to amplify the words of the Black Student Association’s statement and call to action regarding race relations on campus.

From a faculty perspective, our mission in AMST is to explore the American experience in all its diversity. We are a department committed to anti-racist pedagogy, intersectional analysis, and scholarship that challenges systems of oppression. We find this approach to be warranted by the Catholic Faith’s emphasis on Social Justice and the Dignity of the Person, as well as compelled by the other faith traditions to which some of us belong. While a focus on racial justice has been central to much of our professional training in American Studies, we are constantly learning, especially from our colleagues and students of color. We promise to never assume we know everything there is to know about the insidious ways that race, racism, and racialization work in the United States and abroad. We are committed to critically examining our syllabi to make sure we highlight the socially-constructed nature of race while emphasizing its very real effects. In the coming semesters, we will have departmental conversations about how to include more Black and other authors of color in our syllabi. We will also look for ways to ensure that, as educators, we do not draw only a picture of oppression when we focus on communities who have been subjected to discrimination, but also challenge students to see those communities as sites of complexity, agency, struggle, joy, and achievement.

As part of our ongoing mission to fight for racial justice, we are committing to taking some pragmatic next steps:

A Racial Justice Book Club, organized by Professor Perin Gürel, will be held online monthly from July forward. We invite students, faculty, staff, and alumni associated with American Studies to join us in a series of conversations about race in the United States. Please email for details;
A Teach-In on Policing, to be held in the fall of 2020 and open to all, will bring together a panel of local and national experts to discuss activism that calls for defunding and abolishing US police forces, as well as concerns about policing our own campus;
An Annual Racial Justice Award recognizes an outstanding senior major in American Studies whose work advances racial justice or shows commitment to eradicating racial and ethnic injustice on campus;
A Summer Community Organizing Grant for majors to pursue an internship at a non-profit organization that works on criminal justice reform, racial injustice, environmental injustice, voting rights/suppression, or similar issues.

You can reach our incoming Department Chair, Professor Jason Ruiz, directly at with further comments or ideas.

We also recommend a list of resources to educate & to take action that grew out of our AMST community meeting on June 8, compiled by recent alumnae Irla Atanda and Bailey Kendell in conjunction with students, alumni, faculty, and staff of American Studies.