Episode 21: Education and Race

Check out our Being Mixed-Race Series, inspired by Nicole Zelniker’s book, Mixed. You can also find our podcast episodes on Apple PodcastsGoogle Play Music, iHeartRadio, and Stitcher.

Most people know about Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 landmark case that integrated US schools for the first time. What many people don’t realize—especially if they’ve been brought up in very white communities—is that race is still a contentious topic in education. In fact, we’re more segregated today than we were in the late 1960s, according to The Atlantic, PolitiFact, Vox, and others, but most people wouldn’t know that from their high school history classes.

Race is still something we don’t teach in school unless it’s firmly placed in the past, like the trans-Atlantic slave trade or the Civil Rights Movement. When race is taught, it’s contained, like in an African American literature course or a class on the history of Japanese American internment. Going against the grain, both James Shields from Guilford College and Sean Frederick Forbes (listen to episode 16) from the University of Connecticut teach about race, just in very different ways.

Historian James Shields has worked in the Bonner Center for Community Learning, a community service scholarship program, since 2001. Our interviewer, Nicole Zelniker, was a Bonner Scholar at Guilford from 2013 to 2017. During James’s tenure as director, the center has been nationally recognized for its innovative community service programs. He’s a sought-after speaker on anti-racism, community engagement, and Underground Railroad history. Here he is, discussing his experience teaching race in higher education.

The Nasiona Podcast shares stories that explore the spectrum of human experience and glimpse into foreign worlds. We focus on stories based on facts, truth-seeking, human concerns, real events, and real people, with a personal touch. From liminal lives to the marginalized, and everything in between, we believe that the subjective can offer its own reality and reveal truths some facts can’t discover. Hosted, edited, and produced by Julián Esteban Torres López.

Our theme song is “Into the West,” courtesy of Tan Vampires.


James Shields

James Shields is a 2000 Guilford College graduate in history and has worked in the Bonner Center for Community Learning since 2001. He began as the Volunteer Training Coordinator and has served as the director of the center in 2002. During his tenure as director, the center has been nationally recognized for its innovative community service programs. He oversees a campus-wide service program that exceeds over 40,000 hours of service annually. In 2008, North Carolina Campus Compact named Shields Civic Engagement Professional of the year.

Shields is a sought-after speaker on anti-racism, community engagement, and Underground Railroad history. He is also a long time musician and actor. His latest project is a one man show depicting the life of Frederick Douglass. He shares a home with his partner of 37 years, Elaine, and their daughter, Keisha.


Podcast Producer, Managing Editor

Nicole Zelniker is a graduate of the Columbia Journalism School and an editorial researcher with The Conversation US. Her work has appeared on The Pulitzer Prizes website and in USAToday and Yes! Weekly, among other places. A creative writer as well as a journalist, Nicole has had several pieces of poetry published including “Cracks in the Sidewalk” (Quail Bell Magazine) and “Surge” (The Greenleaf Review), as well as three short stories, “Last Dance” (The Hungry Chimera), “Dress Rehearsal” (littledeathlit), and “Lucky” (Fixional). Zelniker’s book, Mixed, is a work of non-fiction about race and mixed-race families.

Follower her on Twitter and Instagram.



Founder, Executive Director, Editor-in-Chief

Julián Esteban Torres López is a Colombian-born journalist, publisher, podcaster, and editor. Before founding the nonfiction storytelling organization The Nasionahe ran several cultural and arts organizations, edited journals and books, was a social justice and public history researcher, wrote a column for Colombia Reports, taught university courses, and managed a history museum. He’s a Pushcart Prize and Best Small Fictions nominee and has written two books on social justice. Torres López holds a bachelor’s in philosophy and in communication and a master’s in justice studies from University of New Hampshire and was a Ph.D. candidate at University of British Columbia Okanagan, where he focused on political science and Latin American studies.

Twitter: je_torres_lopez


Managing Editor, Podcast Producer

Aïcha Martine Thiam is a trilingual writer, musician, and artist who goes where the waves take her, and an Assistant Editor at Reckoning Press. She will quote obscure film facts at you, unprovoked. Her collection of poems, “AT SEA” was shortlisted for the 2019 Kingdoms in the Wild Poetry Prize. Some words found or forthcoming in: BerfroisThe RumpusBright Wall/Dark RoomMetaphorosisSouth Broadway Ghost SocietyRIC JournalLamplight, TERSE. Journal, Gone LawnTruancy MagCrack the SpineConfessionalist ZineGhost City ReviewRogue AgentBoston Accent LitDéraciné.

Twitter: @Maelllstrom


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