Accessible Navigation. Go to: Navigation Main Content Footer

Faculty Image
Tobin Miller Shearer, Associate Professor of History; Director of African-American Studies

Office
Location: LA 262
Hours: Spring Semester 2014 Wednesdays, 2-4 pm

Contact
Phone: (406) 243-6225
Email: tobin.shearer@umontana.edu


Description

I am interested in studying the history of race and religion in the United States. To that end I have studied how interactions between white and African-American Mennonites in homes and sanctuaries brought about changes as significant as those initiated in the streets by the formal civil rights movement. My current research focuses on Fresh Air rural hosting programs in which white rural families hosted African-American and Latino children from urban environments and on the role of prayer during the civil rights movement. In the first project, I trace how the host families' perceptions of the children changed during the course of the twentieth century as a means to explore shifts in the religious articulation of racial attitues, conceptions of innocence, and strategies for bringing about racial justice. In the second, I examine prayer as a potent resource activists used to initiate crisis. I have also written extensively on issues of white privilege, religious identity, and nonviolence.

Projects

To see my thoughts on the future of African-American Studies at the University of Montana, clik here:

http://youtu.be/ndnXQm_ZTp8

I am featured in a series on banned books. To see why I love and criticize To Kill A Mocking Bird, point your browser to:

http://exhibits.lib.umt.edu/bbooks/thursday

Education

I hold a dual PhD in History and Religious Studies from Northwestern University (2008).

Hobbies

I enjoy running, hiking, working out at a local Crossfit box, and reading science fiction.

I also make a mean peanut butter pie.

Teaching Experience

2013-present, Associate Professor, History/African-American Studies, University of Montana

2008-2013, Assistant Professor, History/African-American Studies, University of Montana

2006, Instructor, Northwestern University, “Racing Through the Movies: Race in Twentieth-Century Film.”  Freshman writing seminar.
2005, Teaching Assistant, Northwestern University, Introduction to the New Testament.
2005, Teaching Assistant, Northwestern University, Introduction to Christianity.
2004, Teaching Assistant, Northwestern University, Religion in the Human Experience.
2004, Teaching Assistant, Northwestern University, Religion in the Human Experience.
2004, Teaching Assistant, Northwestern University, Introduction to the New Testament.
1993-2001, Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Racism Awareness Program Director, Akron, Pa. Co-founded and led Damascus Road, a national anti-racism training program active among forty-five colleges, mission agencies, congregations, and church-wide conference bodies. Led more than 400 presentations in twenty-five states including sixty-three workshops of a day or more in length and hundreds of lectures, half-day workshops and classroom presentations.

Research Interests

I am concluding a research project on Fresh Air exchange programs in which white rural families hosted African-American children from the inner city. I trace how the host families' perceptions of the children changed during the course of the twentieth century as a means to explore shifts in the religious articulation of racial attitues, conceptions of innocence, and strategies for bringing about racial justice. My new work explores the role of prayer and crisis during the civil rights movement. For an article describing the initial stages of this project, point your browser to:

http://www.umt.edu/urelations/pubs/Research%20View/Winter%202012/Prayer%20Power.php

 

To see my thoughts on the future of African-American Studies at the University of Montana, clik here:

http://youtu.be/ndnXQm_ZTp8

 

I am featured in a series on banned books. To see why I love and criticize To Kill A Mocking Bird, point your browser to:

http://exhibits.lib.umt.edu/bbooks/thursday

 

For a brief clip of my comments on the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington, see:

http://www.kpax.com/news/um-professor-reflects-on-mlk-march-on-washington/

Professional Experience

I am the co-founder and former core trainer of the Damascus Road anti-racism process, a constultation and training program that trains faith-based colleges, universities, mission agencies, and denominational offices for anti-racist action.

I also served as program coordinator of Mennonite Central Committee's service program in New Orleans, Louisiana, for six years.

Selected Publications

     Books:

Daily Demonstrators: The Civil Rights Movement in Mennonite Homes and Sanctuaries. (Johns Hopkins Press, 2010).

Set Free: A Journey Toward Solidarity Against Racism. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 2001 (co-authored with Iris de León-Hartshorn and Regina Shands Stoltzfus).

Enter the River: Healing Steps from White Privilege to Racial Reconciliation. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1994.

     Articles:

“Invoking Crisis: Performative Prayer and the Civil Rights Movement,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion (forthcoming).

“Conflicting Identities: White Racial Formation Among Mennonites, 1960-1985,” Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power, 19 no. 3 (2012): 268-284.

 

“A Pleasing Observation,” Chronicle of Higher Education (March 6, 2012), http://chronicle.com/article/A-Pleasing-Observation/131074/.

“More Than Fresh Air: African-American Children’s Influence on Mennonite Religious Practice, 1950-1979,” The Journal of Race, Ethnicity and Religion 2, no. 7 (May 2011): http://www.raceandreligion.com/JRER/Volume_2_%282011%29.html.

“Daily Demonstrators: The Civil Rights Movement in Mennonite Homes and Sanctuaries, Mennonite Life 65 (Summer 2011): http://www.bethelks.edu/mennonitelife/2011/daily_demonstrators.php.

Specialized Skills

I have twenty years experience as an anti-racism consultant and workshop facilitator.

Field of Study

African-American History; Race; Religious History

Courses

AAS/HSTA 141 Introduction to African-American Studies
AAS/HSTA 343 African-American History Since 1865
AAS/HSTA 345 The Black Radical Tradition
AAS/HSTA 374 Voodoo, Muslim, Church: Black Religion
AAS/HSTA 417 Prayer and Civil Rights
AAS/HSTA 562 Problems in African-American History

HSTA 595 U.S. Religious History

DC 120 Introduction to Honors: Imagining the Future

Honors

 

2013, Helen and Winston Cox Educational Excellence Award, College of Arts and Sciences, University of Montana, awarded annually to UM faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences who are not yet tenured based on superior contributions to the education of UM students; in particular, awardees show superior teaching, advising and mentoring of students.

 

2012, Paul Lauren Undergraduate Research Faculty Mentor Award, Davidson Honors College, University of Montana

 

Publications

Video scripts

The Myth of Race, Mennonite Central Committee, 2000 (with Regina Shands Stoltzfus).
Free Indeed:  Of White Privileges and How We Play the Game. Screenplay co-author.  Akron, PA:  MCC, 1995.  (Finalist in New York International Film Festival.)

Curriculae
Leap, Twist, Spy, Listen:  Doing Nonviolence. Elkhart, IN: Mennonite Church USA, 2001. 
Racism and Wisdom Literature, Link High School Bible Study.  Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1998.
Living Without Violence. Newton, KS:  Faith and Life, 1994.
Challenging Racism. Newton, KS:  Faith and Life, 1993.

Articles

“Lament Sung to My Sons,” Conspire, Vol. 5, No. 1, Winter 2013.

“I am a white man who lives in Montana and teaches black history,” Reflections West, Montana Public Radio Commentary, Year 3, Episode 61, air date December 12, 2012, http://www.reflectionswest.org/episodes/ep61_shearer.php.

 “Twelve Signs of the Kingdom at a Clumsy Congregation,” The Mennonite, November 2012.

“Protest and the Power of Images: From Birmingham in 1963 to Davis in 2011, Those Who Repress Dissent Are Put on Public Display.” The Missoulian, Tuesday, November 29, 2011, 4.

  “Supper Club, Keith Wilson, and the Twigs of Grace,” The Mennonite, February 2010

“Trentin’s Gift,” Together, Fall 2002
“God is Faithful,” Evangel, November 3, 2002
“Bag the Baggage,” With, July/August 2002
“When Doing Good Does Bad,” With, July/August 2002
"White Spaces," The Other Side, March & April 2002.
"Angels and a Dork," With, March/April 2002
"Racism Kicks Back, God Heals The Wounds," Purpose, November 4, 2001.
"An Open Letter to Alex Chadwick of National Public Radio," The Mennonite, September 25, 2001."
"Spitwads:  A Re-Telling of Mark 8:22-26," With, November/December 2001.
"Quieted by the Land," The Mennonite, June 19, 2001.
"Following Fake Latinos," The Mennonite, May 1, 2001.
"Fake Latinos," The Mennonite, January 9, 2001.
“Pearls, Swine and Beloved,” The Mennonite, December 29, 1998.
"Wall of History as Ritual and Remembering," Conciliation Quarterly, Summer 1998.
"Where on the Damascus Road?  Reflections for Urban Peacemaking," Urban Connections, Fall 1997.
"Public Schools:  Learning with the Neighbors," Christian Living, September 1997.
"Mennonites and Racism:  Much Work to Do," The Mennonite, January 14, 1997.
"Has Change Come?" a Common Place, May 1996.
"Categorical Denial:  Racism, Identity and the Possibility of Change,"  Christian Leader, January 1996.
"A Quiz on Racism," The Mennonite, January 9, 1996.
"Everyday Peacemaking," With, December 1995.
"Butter sandwiches, train rides, and affirmative action," Gospel Herald, October 31, 1995.
"Beyond Easy:  Building Racial Reconciliation,"  The Christian Ministry, May-June, 1995.
"Why is it so hard to talk about racism?" Gospel Herald, November 22, 1994.
"Stopping the Hate," With, July-August 1994.
"Waiting for a dream," Christian Living, April-May 1994.
"Racism and a Running White Boy," Builder, January 1993.