Equity and Inclusion at Eastman

Anti-Racism in the Classroom

(and Beyond) - July 2020

This document was begun by the Musicology Department at Eastman School of Music in an effort to collect resources for all those striving to create anti-racist learning environments at our school. It is a work in progress.  An inchoate version was first compiled in 2018, at the “Engaging Race in the Music Classroom” workshop organized by Anaar Desai-Stephens, Chelsea Burns, and Darren Mueller. We are still actively gathering useful tools and inspiration for teaching music with racial justice in mind. The document features a section on antiracist pedagogy broadly defined, followed by some music-specific resources. The nature of the internet means we can’t guarantee links will always remain active.  If you have a suggestion or a resource to add that you think would benefit the Eastman community, please contact Melina Esse at messe@esm.rochester.edu.

General Anti-racist Pedagogy and Teaching Resources

  • Vanderbilt University’s Teaching Race: Pedagogy and Practice, a guide by Amie Thurbin, M. Brielle Harbin, and Joe Bandy.  Addresses common challenges to teaching race, how to meet those challenges through course design, and proposes five guiding principles—from “encouraging reflexivity,” to “welcoming difficulty,” to “embracing affective and embodied dimensions of learning.”


  • Wheaton College’s initiative Becoming an Anti-Racist Educator is based in their Center for Collaborative Teaching and Learning. A graded series of action steps begins with self-reflection and moves to classroom and pedagogical strategies.  Includes an abundance of external, evidence-based resources.



  • Feldman, Joe. Grading for Equity: What It Is, Why It Matters, and How It Can Transform Schools and Classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2019.
    This book explores the history of American grading practices, while blending theory and praxis. Feldman explains how bias is built into standard grading practices, and uses research-based practices to propose new grading models that are 1) accurate, 2) bias-resistant, and 3) motivational. While written for K-12 educators, most of what Feldman proposes is applicable to higher-ed classrooms.


  • Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Translated by Myra Bergman Ramos. 50th Anniversary Edition. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2018. (Hyperlink to e-book copy at U of Rochester libraries.)
    Originally published in 1968, this foundational text of the Critical Pedagogy movement proposes a new relationship between student and teacher. Freiere describes how traditional teaching practices follow a “banking model,” where knowledge is passed from teacher to student with no critical reflection. Freiere argues that as a way of fighting the damaging legacy of colonialism, teachers and students should work together as co-creators of knowledge. (See also James Kirylo, Reinventing Pedagogy of the Oppressed, which deals with contemporary applications of Freiere’s work.


  • Hooks, Bell. Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. New York: Routledge, 1994.
    ———. Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope. New York: Routledge, 2003.
    ———. Teaching Critical Thinking: Practical Wisdom. New York: Routledge, 2010.
    In her “Teaching Trilogy,” Black Feminist scholar bell hooks urges teachers to think of how they can work with students to be conscious citizens, working to oppose racist, sexist, and homophobia bias in their daily lives. Building on Freiere’s vision, hooks encourages teachers to help students challenge societal boundaries in order to advance freedom and justice. She believes that teaching is a practice of love, and that mind, body, and spirit are all essential in combating prejudice in the classroom.


  • For guidance on introducing disturbing content (images of racist violence, for example) in the classroom see this webpage on content warnings from the University of Michigan.  Their whole series on the Inclusive Classroom is worth a look—it contains resources for inclusive teaching in an online context, as well as sample activities on privilege, power, and oppression.


  • The National Museum of African American History and Culture (a Smithsonian Institution museum located in Washington, D.C.) has a very useful portal, “Talking About Race,” with resources for educators, parents, community-builders, and more.  Undergraduates could be directed to this site, which has short articles on topics such as bias, whiteness, historical foundations of race, and social identities and systems of oppression.


  • Teaching Tolerance emphasizes social justice and anti-bias curriculum in the K-12 classroom.  Their classroom resources include lessons and learning plans; this database is searchable—filtering for level “9-12,” subject “arts,” and “race and ethnicity” returns some options that may work for undergraduates. The professional development section of their website features workshops, webinars, and podcasts and a wealth of “self-guided learning” resources that can help educators improve classroom culture, sharpen instructional strategies, etc.


  • Teaching for Change describes its mission as “Building Social Justice Starting in the Classroom,” and has collected teaching resources to further that goal.  Mostly geared toward K-12, but some content could possibly be adapted for undergraduates. 


  • The Zinn Education Project aims to provide resources to teach “the people’s history….a more accurate, complex, and engaging understanding of history than is presented in traditional textbooks.” Resources seem to be geared to K-12, but searching their database for keyword: “high school” lessons on keyword: “African American” topics yields several possibilities for undergraduates as well; they also have a section on “Arts and Music.”


  • The American Anthropological Association’s “Understanding Race after Charlottesville” is a collection of resources for better approaching and teaching race in the classroom. A collaborative effort between the American Anthropological Association, the American Historical Association, the American Sociological Association, and the Society for Applied Anthropology. The page contains teaching resources, but as of 7/15/20, unfortunately many of the links no longer work. 


  • #UnderstandingRace on Twitter – curated by American Historical Association and American Anthropological Association.


  • Colorlines is “a daily news site where race matters, featuring award-winning in-depth reporting, new analysis, opinion, and curation.”




  • Dena Simmons, author of the forthcoming White Rules for Black People has a brief article entitled “How to Be an Antiracist Educator” that outlines a five-point strategy. 



  • Working document for scaffolding anti-racist resources created by Stamborski, Zimmermann, and Gregory gathers a wealth of books, video, social media, etc. in a progressive format that helps educators meet students where they are—from “I don’t see color” to grappling with privilege.  Assumes an audience who identifies as white. 


  • Extensive list of antiracism resources compiled by Flicker and Klein includes everything from short articles, podcasts, books, films, and television series. Lots of inspiration for course readings/viewings. Also features resources for children. 


  • Comprehensive list of anti-oppression resources at Conspire for Change from the White Noise Collective. (This large list of anti-oppression tools seems to be inaccessible from their main portal for resources.)  Of particular interest is the section on “Understanding Systems of Privilege and Oppression,” “Tools for Having Difficult Conversations About Systems of Oppression,” and “Resources for Parents and Teachers.” 

Teaching Music from an Anti-racist Perspective


  • Journal of Music History Pedagogy special issue on Decolonization (10/1, 2020).  Features articles by Walker (“Toward a Decolonized Music History Curriculum”) unpacking European exceptionalism, Stimeling and Tokar (“Narratives of Musical Resilience and the Perpetuation of Whiteness in the Music History Classroom”)—which includes a unit plan linking the music of enslaved Africans, European settlers, and Indigenous people for an eighteenth-century music history course—and Figueroa (“Decolonizing ‘Intro to World Music’?”).


  • Zeck, Melanie. “The Transformation of Black Music Pedagogy: A Fifty-Year History.” In The Norton Guide to Teaching Music History, edited by C. Matthew Balensula, 199-212. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2019. This essay traces the history of scholarship on the inclusion of Black music in music-history curricula in North America. Zeck demonstrates that this is not a new issue; rather, there have been calls to diversify the teaching canon since the Civil Rights movement, though for various reasons, these changes were not implemented.


  • Special issue of the Journal of the American Musicological Society on Music, Race, and Ethnicity features Matthew Morrison’s “Race, Blacksound, and the (Re)Making of Musicological Discourse” (JAMS 2019 72 (3): 781-823), which addresses the racialized “exclusion(s) embedded in musicology” and “defines and applies the concept of Blacksound—the sonic and embodied legacy of blackface performance as the origin of all popular music.”


  • Philip Ewell at Hunter College has a series of six blog posts entitled  a series of “Music Theory’s White Racial Frame”.  It has since been published as an article in Music Theory Online. Uncovers the racialized discursive structures at the heart of music theory and, in section 6, proposes concrete ways to “deframe and reframe” in classroom, discipline, and university contexts.  Newell has also created a very useful supplemental bibliography on this topic.


  • In addition, Ewell’s video performance in response to the murder of George Floyd and in memory of all Black victims of police violence—entitled In Memoriam [CW: disturbing/violent images of police brutality]—could provide a starting point for classroom discussions on musical responses to racial injustice, especially if it is connected to the violin vigils held in memory and protest of the killing of Elijah McClain (CW: racist violence, police brutality), a 23-year-old Black violinist who died in police custody in August 2019 in Colorado.  Elizabeth Alexander’s work on the spectacle of black bodies in pain would make a good foil to these responses and help create a foundation for discussion on music’s role in protest and commemoration as well as aestheticization and trauma. 


  • Anna Rastas and Elina Seye. Popular Music and Society 42:5 (2019), 592-610 “Music and anti-racism: Musicians’ involvement in anti-racist spaces”. Ethnographic description of musicians involved with anti-racism in Finland.  Could be a useful starting point for class discussions.  According to the authors, examining the actions of individuals (at protest/demonstration spaces) in this predominantly white society provides a “more complex and multidimensional” picture of the link between music and anti-racism than do studies that focus on genres or movements.  


  • Madrid, Alejandro. “Diversity, Tokenism, Non-Canonical Musics, and the Crisis of the Humanities in U.S. Academia“. Journal of Music History Pedagogy [Online], 7/2 (2017). Argues against the “add and stir” approach to including marginalized musics and peoples into curricula, proposing instead a critical approach to the canon and the music history sequence.  Using Cornell University as an example, he proposes a focus on “specific codes of behavior, political struggles, and uses that give music its historical and transhistorical meanings.”


  • Eileen M. Hayes, president of the College Music Society, reflected on the state of our discipline in “Toward an Anti-Racist CMS.”  It is a must-read, combining personal testimony with broader diagnosis of disciplinary problems. For history on the work the CMS has done regarding reforming the undergraduate music history curriculum, see the 2014 manifesto of their task force, “Transforming Music Study from its Foundations.”  (There have since been published critiques of this manifesto, but I don’t include them so as to not go down a rabbit hole.) 


  • Rethinking Difference in Music Scholarship edited by Bloechl, Lowe, and Kallberg is a collection of essays offering new critical-theoretical tools for approaching the study of difference in music. Many possible readings on music and race, sexuality, gender for graduate or undergraduate courses.    




  • Bradley, D. “Music education, multiculturalism, and anti-racism: ‘Can we talk?’” Action, Criticism, and Theory for Music Education, 5/2 Examines the discourses of multiculturalism within music education as racialized discourses, and advocates for a decolonization of music education.  Case study of college-age choir singers and how their “socially-produced disciplinary knowledge” (in the form of abstract “truths”) influenced their perceptions of the South African works they were singing—often the experience of performing this music was not enough to undermine these previously held stereotypes. 


  • The blog “Not Another Music History Cliché” is the effort of the late Linda Shaver-Gleason to puncture myths about the classical canon and address classism and elitism in music historiography.  A guest post by Michael Vincent about the Arab origins of solfège is an example of the useful class resources here. 


  • Schenkerian Gang Signs – Scholarly music blog run by Kira Thurman and others focusing on popular culture, with posts on race and difference.


  • The “Diversifying Music Academia—2018” symposium led by Project Spectrum “explored why many people marginalized by their race/ethnicity, gender, sexuality, disability, and/or class continue to have difficulty in finishing graduate degrees, attaining gainful employment, and receiving tenure within all fields of music studies. Furthermore, the aim of this symposium was to develop concrete tools to inspire systematic change within these fields.” The schedule, list of presenters, and some of the papers (with AMS membership access) are available online.   


  • Gillian Gower’s recent presentation “Toward a Decolonized Medievalism” (scroll down and accept the privacy statement in the third window) is a short introduction to efforts to reform early music scholarship—in her comments, she mentions the “Inclusive Early Musicology” bibliography, which contains a multitude of sources, including Geraldine Heng’s The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages. Alice Clark recently gave a talk at the Teaching Music History Conference in teaching early music inclusively, but I have been unable to locate a transcript or recording of this presentation.