“I knew Jim Crow,” writes Dr. Marvin Dunn in his book A History of Florida Through Black Eyes (2016). “I grew up in Florida under his dark, suffocating wings. I knew him intimately, as did every Black person I knew growing up in Deland and Miami in the 1940s and 50s.”
Dunn will be visiting Sarasota and New College of Florida on Apr. 20 to speak on his work documenting Black history in Florida, informed in large part by his own first-hand accounts. A professor emeritus from the Department of Psychology at Florida International University (FIU), Dunn will be a guest speaker for Visiting Assistant Professor of History Erik Wallenberg’s American History Survey the morning of Apr. 20.
Later that evening, Dunn will be speaking publicly at the Betty J. Johnson North Sarasota Public Library from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., with a hope to engage the larger Sarasota community about Black history and educational freedom in the state of Florida. The event in the evening is co-sponsored by the NCF history, anthropology and gender studies departments, along with the Black Student Union (BSU).
Recently, Dunn has been taking his teachings on the road with his “Teach the Truth” tour, which started on Jan. 8 and brought Florida high school students to multiple historic sites in order to learn directly about Black history. The tour was in defiance of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ decision to censor the new Advance Placement (AP) African American studies course. The tour began in Rosewood, where in 1923 the Black town was destroyed by a racially-motivated massacre. After visiting the town in the 90s, Dunn and a partner purchased six acres of land in the area with the intention of turning the land into a park to preserve the areas’ history.
Dunn was also integral in founding the Miami Center for Racial Justice (MCRJ).
“The Miami Center for Racial Justice will be a beacon in our community,” Dunn included on his about page. “We seek to foster a safe space for dialogue on racial issues, to promote unity and allow for frank confrontation of the history of racial terror through the examination and preservation of stories of racial terror in Florida.”
Additionally, Dunn has been a staunch critic of DeSantis’ “Stop WOKE Act”, as it prohibits him and others from teaching the truth about black history—something that Wallenberg believes is important for his U.S. History students to know, and making Dunn a perfect candidate to bring in as a guest speaker.
“Teaching [Black history] is under threat right now from the highest level of government in the state, and that’s a scary proposition,” Wallenberg said. “Part of bringing Dr. Dunn here is to remind us all, this is history that not only we should know, but it’s our responsibility to understand what’s come before us here.”
Wallenberg explained that he’d been planning to bring Dunn into his classroom since January, expressing that he wants his students to have an in-depth lesson about Black history—especially in Florida.
“We have to be able to talk about it,” Wallenberg emphasized. “I think Dr. Dunn is the perfect person to bring onto campus to help us do that, and to help remind people that we need to be doing that.” Those who wish to attend professor Wallenberg’s class Thursday morning can email him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.