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Focus on FergusonHashtags & History: Dual Events Focus on Ferguson, Explore Issues of Race and Social Justice

By Jenny Whalen
Oct. 30, 2014

Twitter and its 140-character limit may seem an inadequate medium to explore the history of race and social justice in the United States, but as some at Michigan Law have discovered, there is a lot to be said for—and with—hashtags.

#FergusonSyllabus swept into Twitter feeds following the fatal shooting of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. The hashtag's creation is credited to Georgetown University Prof. Marcia Chatelain, who started the hashtag as a challenge to educators to discuss Ferguson in their classrooms in a meaningful way. Within weeks, the hashtag became a crowd-sourced syllabus with materials addressing issues ranging from policing to civil rights in the U.S.

"In late August 2014, as many of us were preparing our fall classes, events in Ferguson were on our minds," said Prof. Martha S. Jones, co-director of Michigan Law's Program in Race, Law & History. "The #FergusonSyllabus movement unfolded on Twitter in effort to share ideas and resources for teaching about this powerful moment in our nation's history. At Michigan, many faculty have embraced this challenge."

Prof. Len Niehoff​ joined these efforts and worked to incorporate #FergusonSyllabus into his fall evidence course. Niehoff and his students will reflect on the semester and how the ongoing events in Ferguson, Mo. have reshaped teaching and learning for them during a lunch talk Nov. 4. The discussion will run from 11:55 a.m. to 12:50 p.m. in room 1020 South Hall. A non-pizza lunch will be served.

"The 'Focus on Ferguson' program asks us to think out loud about what we teach, how we teach it, and why it matters," Jones added.

Michigan Law will live-tweet the program from its Twitter handle @UMichLaw. Join the conversation using #UMichLawTalks.

A second "Focus on Ferguson" event​ will take place Nov. 5 and discuss the events preceding the death of Michael Brown, subsequent local and federal investigations, and where Ferguson is now. Profs. Samuel Bagenstos, the Frank G. Millard Professor of Law, and Margo Schlanger, the Henry M. Butzel Professor of Law, will provide expert commentary alongside two National Lawyers Guild Legal Observers.

The Nov. 5 event will run 11:45 a.m. to 12:40 p.m. in room 0225 South Hall. A non-pizza lunch will be served.

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