Lily Michal Walters

Whitewashed: A Look into the Evolution of Race Conversations in American Classrooms

April 10, 2021   /  

Name: Lily Michal Walters
Majors: History, Education
Advisor: Dr. Jordan Biro-Walters

Following the events of this past summer, I felt an urge to analyze the kinds of conversations Americans have about race or absence of. My project seeks to follow the evolution of race conversations in the classroom through generations of people after the Civil War. My thesis is that curriculum excluded positive mentions of Black people after the Civil War until the Civil Rights Movement, when Black individuals crafted a more accurate and impartial curriculum. American curriculum’s exclusion of positive Black representation left white people unable to have positive race conversations in general. Additionally, through a case study of my family, I examine how generations of people shaped their ideas on race through conversations. The written portion of my IS begins with curriculum from the end of the Civil War, through the Jim Crow Era, and ends in Civil Rights Movement. I follow the turbulent history of the education of Black folks in America through industrial schools after the Civil War, to submissive education in the Jim Crow Era, through Freedom Schools in the Civil Rights Era. Additionally, I trace the consistent white supremacist-based education of white people until the end of the Civil Rights Era, when there was a slight shift in positive Black representation in curriculum.From there, I continue with my investigation of generational change in race conversations in my podcast Whitewashed. Here, I analyze my four-times great uncle’s memoir about being a confederate prisoner of war in the Civil War, I interview my great grandmother, grandfather, and mother to examine their experience with race conversations and education or lack thereof.

Lily will be online to field comments on April 16:
10am-noon EDT (Asia: late evening, PST: 6-8am, Africa/Europe: early evening)

56 thoughts on “Whitewashed: A Look into the Evolution of Race Conversations in American Classrooms”

  1. An innovative and important project, Lily. Will there be another episode of the podcast? I want to keep listening to your exploration of generational conversations about race in America.

    1. Thank you Dr. J! I have been thinking about how a series would take shape, if I were to continue with it. I could possibly interview other families in different parts of the US or think about the future of race conversations in schools. We will see!

      1. I encourage you to continue it. I was thinking it would be interesting to have a discussion with your college peers as well as students and educators at different grade levels.

  2. I really enjoyed your podcast, Lily! The depth of content and the production quality are quite impressive! Your project is one of the most challenging and personal projects I’ve seen. I’m curious – how do you think you were changed in the process of completing your I.S.?

    1. Thank you Dr. Pollock — I really appreciate it! This was definitely a challenging project, as it dealt with family and uncomfortable conversations. I think doing this work has only made me more motivated to get out of my comfort zone to push myself and those around me to reckon with our collective past.

  3. I love that you were able to write your paper and have the podcast to go along with it, very unique. I can’t wait to listen!

  4. I think this is such an important conversation and I am proud you took it on. I know it was not easy. In doing it you also make a podcast with a high production value. Much for you to be proud of.

  5. Great job with your podcast, Lily! I am so glad that I got to assist you and see what amazing work you did with everything. Wishing you all the best.

  6. WoW! What a great topic of conversation. I’m excited to give it a listen. Congratulations on your amazing work, Lily!

  7. Absolutely incredible work Lil, I am so excited to listen to your podcast on such an important, relevant subject. Your work is integral to future education, have you thought about continuing your research or recording more podcasts on this topic? I so admire the genuine nature of your IS. I am so grateful to know you.

    1. Hi Camryn! Thanks a lot for your comment. I could definitely see myself making this a series of podcasts from different angles — maybe coming up with some sort of curriculum that does have open, honest conversations about race. We will see what the future holds!

  8. Great job Lily! I’m curious did you learn anything new about your family throughout this process?

    1. Hi Mike! I definitely did. I think any time you talk to people about their past, you learn something new about them. I was able to learn a lot about how my great grandmother grew up, the kinds of challenges my grandfather faced as he was looking for work , and the school system that my mom was raised in. All of their specific experiences have shaped who they are today, and I was able to gain a bit more insight into their perspectives. It was a very insightful and challenging project, and I am grateful to be a little closer to my family because of it.

  9. Lily, this is so good. You have powerfully woven together different voices, including your own. I enjoyed the podcast immensely…and it made me uncomfortable. To explore (and argue about) the disgrace and residue of slavery with people whom you love and respect is risky. You seemed to approach the topic and your family with care. I am very impressed.

    1. Hi Ryan! I am glad this made you a little uncomfortable — it should! I am so grateful for your support and encouragement throughout this process. I am lucky to have such a great mentor!

  10. Hi, Lily, First, congratulations on producing such a timely and important I.S. project. I loved the podcast format and the music and voice for your ancestor…. How courageous for you and your family to step out of their comfort zones and discuss this.

    I am the mom of a COW Alum (’13), and I participate in these presentations because I am uplifted and encouraged by the intelligence, energy and enthusiasm that you all show. Our country surely needs critical thinkers now more than ever.

    Do you have any sense of how much discussion of race goes on now in your Grandfather’s old high school in Terre Haute now?

    I love your idea of traveling around the country and creating more podcasts on this topic.

    Good luck to you!

    1. Hello Bambi! That is a great question. I am not sure exactly and do not have an exact way of finding out, unless I was able to get in contact with someone who attends the school or works there currently. Your question, though, has sparked interest. This is a great idea for a follow-up episode!

      Thank you for your interest. I really appreciate it!

  11. Congrats Lily! What primary sources did you look into to study how curricula about the Civil War has changed over time?

    1. Hi Glenna! Thanks for the question. My primary sources were mainly the oral histories that I collected from my family members. I was able see the change in my family members’ experience with school curriculum through that.

      I also used a memoir written by my four-times great uncle, Captain William Arthur Wash, who fought for the confederacy. His book –Camp, Field and Prison Life — was published in 1870. I was able to pick up on pieces of his experience and education, which was the starting point for my exploration on change over generations.

  12. Wow, Lily! I love that you incorporated a podcast in your project 🙂 I think it is so cool that you had the opportunity to use your great great great uncles memoir and learn more about your family history in the process. I got to listen to a little of your podcast but I can’t wait to finish it. You should be so proud! Congrats lil!

  13. Hell yeah Lily, this is great! A truly bold and unique way to go about your IS. While obviously you might not be able to answer this completely, how would you compare your process with that of a more traditional IS? In addition to the uncomfortable situations you probably had to experience in, what was the most difficult aspect of putting together the podcast specifically?

    1. Hi Nick! Thank you for your questions!! You’re right, I can’t specifically speak for a traditional IS. However, I believe that the alternative IS was the best method for me specifically. I think that there was a lot more room for creative freedom in my format. Additionally, I think it is important for this work to be accessible, so that others could feel inspired to have the same kind of conversations. The podcast format allowed me to be able to share it more easily and have it be digestible for a broader audience.

      The most challenging aspect of putting together a podcast was being able to balance insight/scholarship with entertainment. My second semester was dedicated to analysis of oral histories and crafting something that can be enjoyable, but also have an impact. Lastly, sifting through interviews and deciding what points I wanted to highlight from my family members. Each experience they have had is important to shaping their perspectives, so placing value and ultimately selecting bits of that was difficult!

  14. Lily, this is such an interesting approach to race conversations, and I think it was so great to include your own family history. While this topic can make people uncomfortable, I think it is incredibly necessary to bring issues like this to light. I took a course this semester that requires us to participate in discourse surrounding racial inequality, and your IS widens my understanding of the systemic racism found in many institutions, especially schools. Great job and best of luck in the future!

  15. Lily, you’re the coolest. This project is so important always, but especially right now. Thanks for putting this out in the world and making it accessible to all! I admire you so much.

  16. What a joy to learn more about your work! I really appreciate the ways that you think about making your it accessible and engaging to diverse audiences. What do you hope to see more of in academia moving forward with regard to presentation of research/accessibility? I am so PROUD of you and honored to know you.

    1. Hi Ella!! Thank you for your comment! <3
      Something that I look for in academia is simply accessibility. I think a lot of scholarship is incredibly influential and moving. However, historians, specifically, have kept that knowledge on such an unattainable level. I hope that one day, this work will be more accessible to allow people to see importance and open themselves to change.

  17. I enjoyed listening and learning from Lily. Great job pushing your Grandpa out of his box

  18. Hey Lily! That was amazing. you did a fantastic job researching and conveying your interviews!

  19. Lily,
    I am so glad that we were able to talk about your project this past year and I am even happier to see the end product of all your work.

    Thank you for sharing your podcast. You should be quite proud of yourself for all that you have accomplished in tackling this difficult subject.

  20. Thank you again for allowing me to have such an important part to play in this awesome project.

  21. Nicely done project, thank you for sharing, those conversations with your grandfather and great grandmother had to have taken courage.

  22. This was such a unique and moving project! Race conversations can be hard and I am grateful that you and your family were able to share these stories with us and the world. I think your research is deeply impactful, especially in our social climate, and I am glad that you were able to put together an accessible and wonderful I.S. like this. Congratulations, Lily!

  23. Doing a podcast is such a creative idea, I’m excited to listen! Congrats Lily!

  24. Congratulations Lily! This is such an important and interesting project, and I can’t wait to listen to your podcast! Thank you for sharing this work with us, you’re awesome and I’m so so proud of all you’ve done.

  25. I am blown away by the great variety of subject matters you Wooster seniors are interested enough in to research in depth. ‘Twas not the case in the 1960’s. Your podcast was so well done. Thanks for sharing.

  26. Great work Lily- such an important topic to talk about in the field of education! Thank you for sharing.

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