Centenary students complete project to address awareness, knowledge of Black history in Shreveport

SHREVEPORT – Centenary students enrolled in Dr. Chris Ciocchetti’s Trek 116 course, Bloody Caddo: Race and Policing in Caddo Parish, created a hands-on project to address awareness and knowledge gaps about Black history in predominantly White areas of Shreveport as part of their work in the course. The students presented their project at Centenary’s annual Student Research Conference on Thursday, April 21.

The project, entitled “Educating a City Afraid of Itself,” was researched and designed by students after they investigated several key topic areas for Shreveport at the beginning of the spring semester: poverty, economics, and education. Students researched these topics in groups and then collectively designed a project to address the intersection of poverty and education. To address a longstanding legacy of misinformation and a lack of education about minority groups among White citizens in Shreveport, the students placed books by Black authors and about Black experiences in Little Free Library sites around Shreveport, primarily in predominantly White neighborhoods.

“One aspect of our research was interviewing people who had been educated in Shreveport to get first-hand accounts of what they did and did not learn about Black history,” explained Josey Fountain and Madison Ersoff, two students in the course. “Those interviews gave us an idea of what knowledge gaps we could address with books in the Little Free Library sites.”

After designing the project and outlining its goals, Ciocchetti’s students had to obtain funding for purchasing the books and make a plan for distributing them. The students made a presentation to Centenary’s Student Government Association and were awarded funds to purchase books. The class also used a local website to identify Little Free Library sites and chose the 15 sites closest to the Centenary campus, then assigned eight students to deliver books to the sites in early April.

The students’ Research Conference presentation contextualized their Little Free Library project with a discussion of specific historical factors, such as redlining and segregated education, that have contributed to the present-day racial divide in Shreveport. The presentation also focused on encouraging all Shreveport citizens to take concrete action toward addressing misinformation and knowledge gaps to continue to bridge this divide.

For more information about the Centenary Research Conference, including a full program of presentations, visit centenary.edu/researchforum.

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