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Whether youre taking up the oboe or finessing your Finnish, scientific research offers tips to aid learning

If your aim for 2020 was to learn a new skill, you may be at the point of giving up. Whether you are mastering a new language or a musical instrument, or taking a career-changing course, initial enthusiasm can only take you so far, and any further progress can be disappointingly slow.

From these struggles, you might assume that you simply lack a natural gift compared to those lucky people who can learn any new skill with apparent ease.

However, it neednt be this way. Many polymaths including Charles Darwin and the Nobel prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman claimed not to have exceptional natural intelligence. Most of us have more than enough brainpower to master a new discipline, if we apply it correctly and the latest neuroscience offers many strategies to do just that.

Much research in the field hinges on the idea of desirable difficulties, pioneered by Profs Robert and Elizabeth Bjork at the University of California, Los Angeles. The aim is to deliberately create a slight feeling of frustration as you learn, which leads the brain to process the material more deeply, creating longer-lasting memories. Its like physical exercise: you need to feel a bit of resistance to make significant long-term gains.

Unfortunately, many of our preferred learning techniques such as reading and highlighting textbooks, or the drawing of colourful mind maps to summarise material dont offer enough mental challenge to make the information stick, leading to disappointing results. Our judgment about our learning is often biased towards strategies that feel easy and effortless, says Dr Carolina Kuepper-Tetzel, a psychologist at the University of Glasgow and member of the Learning Scientists website. But they dont translate into long-term retention of knowledge.

The following strategies will help you overcome these bad habits. Whatever you plan to learn, they will make your memory the envy of others.

Fail productively

Lets begin with the pre-test a strategy that is perhaps best explained with an example.

How do you say thank you in Finnish?

The answer is kiitos and Im guessing that most readers who arent Finnish wont have had any hope of answering this correctly. But thanks to that initial struggle, you will now be more likely to remember the answer in the future. Psychological studies show that a pre-test quiz taken before you have studied the material primes the brain to absorb the information afterwards, even if you failed to answer a single question correctly.

This is true for both the memorisation of simple trivia and the deeper understanding of more complicated material. In one study, participants were quizzed on the neuroscience of vision before reading an Oliver Sacks essay on the subject. They ended up learning 10 to 15% more than students who had instead been given extra time to read the text. Whatever you are learning, try to gauge your current understanding of the topic even if it is nonexistent.

Teach it to someone else

After taking the pre-test, you also want to continue quizzing yourself on what youve just learned. To psychologists, this is called retrieval practice and it is one of the most reliable ways of building stronger memory traces. In carefully controlled studies, retrieval practice vastly outperforms other strategies such as mind-mapping the material as you study.

As Dr Kuepper-Tetzel explains: Testing is usually seen as a way to assess knowledge. However, testing in itself is a potent learning strategy and has been shown to increase long-term retention of knowledge.

This may be one reason why flashcards a common form of self-testing dont work as well as they could. If you think self-testing is purely a means of assessing your recall, you may peek at the answer too soon whereas you need to truly rack your brain before giving in, if you want to form the stronger memory. The harder retrieval is, the more the memory for the information is enhanced, says Prof Mirjam Ebersbach at the University of Kassel in Germany.

Physical exercise is known to boost your memory, and it is best to mix both acute and endurance disciplines. Photograph: Martin Novak/Getty Images

If you are studying for exams, try to create your own questions rather than relying on past papers. Ebersbach has found that the process of question generation can itself reinforce learning, since it forces you to reformulate the material in a new way.

Perhaps the most potent technique is to teach the material to another person, since that forces you to demonstrate a deep conceptual understanding. If you dont have a willing partner, you could imagine describing it to someone, or draft an email setting out what youve learned in as much detail as possible.

Mix it up

Try not to spend too long on any one topic rather, switch between them regularly. If you are learning a new language, for example, you might rotate between two or three vocabulary topics, or switch between the different verb tenses you are practising, rather than studying them in turn in blocks. This strategy is called interleaving and like the pre-test, it can feel frustrating since you cant really get into the swing of things before moving on. But according to the theory of desirable difficulties, that is why it works. Numerous studies have shown that this momentary confusion hugely increases your long-term recall.

Besides boosting factual learning, interleaving can also accelerate your acquisition of motor skills. If you are learning a musical instrument, for instance, you might alternate between scales and the pieces of music that you are practising.

Get moving

Contrary to the stereotype of the sedentary geek, the best learners are also the most physically active, since cardiovascular exercise triggers the release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and epinephrine that are essential for memory formation. This means that your mind will be most fertile after a morning jog or a trip to the gym. So try to schedule your learning around your existing fitness plan and you may experience a natural memory boost.

Change your environment

Have you ever noticed that when you return to your home town, recollections of distant events suddenly come flooding back? Thats because our memory is context-dependent meaning that its heavily influenced by environmental cues.

While context-dependent memory can trigger waves of pleasant nostalgia, it can also lead to a mental block in our factual learning. If we only study or practice a skill in one place, our memories become tied to the sights, sounds and smells of that location. This makes it harder for us to recall the same material in a new environment the exam hall, the quizshow studio, a Parisian restaurant without those cues.

To avoid becoming dependent on those cues, you should therefore try learning in different places. One experiment by Prof Robert Bjork and colleagues found that just switching rooms between study sessions increased learning by 21%.

And relax: wakeful rest helps the memory consolidate what it has learned. Photograph: ALEAIMAGE/Getty Images

Do nothing

After pitting your brain against all those desirable difficulties, give it time to recover. I dont mean regular time out like watching TV, but literally doing nothing. Prof Michaela Dewar at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh has found that wakeful rest without any external stimulation allows the brain to consolidate the memories of what it has learned.

So kick back, close your eyes and let your thoughts go wherever they want in the knowledge that your mind is busy cementing your learning for the long term.

David Robson is the author of The Intelligence Trap: Revolutionise Your Thinking and Make Wiser Decisions (Hodder & Stoughton, 9.99). To order a copy go to Free UK p&p on all online orders over 15

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US family split as Home Office makes it increasingly difficult for overseas academics to work in UK universities

Amber Murrey, an American academic, was ecstatic about being appointed associate professor in geography at Oxford University last year. But the dream turned sour two weeks ago when the Home Office refused to grant visas for her two daughters, aged four and nine, to live with her in the UK.

Dr Murrey used an immigration lawyer to make sure the visa applications for her daughters, who have US passports, went smoothly, and was not anticipating a problem. Her husband has business commitments overseeing property renovations in Cameroon, where he is from, and the couple had included joint written consent for their daughters to live with her in Oxford.

When I read those three unemotional sentences saying they were denying my children entry to the UK I felt complete disbelief, she says. I had already packed the girls bags and bought their school uniforms. It is insane that you can have a legal document with both parents consent to have the children with their mother and they simply say no, that cant happen.

Her case will add to a tide of anger among academics, who say the Home Offices hostile immigration environment is making it difficult for talented people from abroad to forge an academic career in the UK.

This is the second time in a month that the Home Office has refused a visa to an American academic based at Oxford University. Last month Education Guardian reported that Dr Elizabeth Ford, a music historian about to start a fellowship at Oxford, was given two weeks to leave after eight years in the UK, because the Home Office said it had granted her last visa erroneously.

Young overseas academics say that universities are now so frightened of the tough new visa regime that, in some cases, they are automatically rejecting international candidates for jobs they should be eligible for.

Dr Murrey, an expert on social change in Africa, who has published widely and previously held positions at universities in Cairo, Massachusetts and Ethiopia, took up her post in Oxford last year. Without proof of residency she couldnt set up schooling or somewhere to live in advance, so the couple decided she should establish a base in Oxford before moving the family. While she has been returning to Cameroon to see her daughters and husband in the university holidays, she says this has been an emotional strain.

It has been really hard, because I need to spend more time with my daughters but I am wary of being out of the UK for too long in case it jeopardises the terms of my tier 2 visa, she says.

The news has hit the family hard. Murrey says: My nine-year-old had been so excited about her new school, and our apartment near a meadow. After I told her their visas had been denied she told me: I know why they rejected me, its because Ive been misbehaving this week, Mama. We both cried very hard.

The Home Office rejection letters say that under immigration rules a child may only be given a visa if both parents are living together in the UK. This would be waived if the parent living here had sole responsibility for the children, or the other partner had died.

This policy seems to operate under the guise of keeping families together, but it is splitting mine apart, Murrey says.

Ultimately the couple want the whole family to live together in Oxford, but Murrey says that right now they are just trying to do what is best for our daughters.

She doesnt know whether she has been singled out as a risk because her husband is from Cameroon. We have family members and friends there who have been rejected for British visas in the past, she says.

The Wellcome Trust, a health research charity, has evidence of around 100 cases in which academics, especially from African countries, have been refused visas to come to the UK for conferences, often for spurious reasons.

The African Studies Association UK found that at least 17 delegates were refused entry for its biennial academic conference at Birmingham University last year.

Insa Nolte, a lecturer in African culture at Birmingham, is frustrated that academics cant appeal against these decisions. There is no process to identify immigration officers who consistently misjudge cases or who make racist assumptions, she says.

If we are going to find solutions to global concerns like food security and climate change, we need to collaborate with academics across the world.

Meanwhile, young international academics who have gained their PhDs in Britain say some universities, fearful of the tougher visa rules, are automatically rejecting non-UK nationals for jobs for which they should be eligible.

Dr Lisa Kalayji, an American who did her PhD in sociology at Edinburgh University, says: In one case it was a job at another university I knew I could get a visa for. There was a pop-up as soon as I clicked the box saying I would need a visa. It said: It is extremely unlikely that we would be able to sponsor you and we recommend that you abandon the application now.

She applied anyway, but at 1am the next day received a rejection email. It was clear that was an automated response, presumably because I was not a UK national.

Kalayji has given up applying to British universities. Living with the hostile environment in the UK has worn me down so much that I dont want to be an immigrant any more. The emotional tax is too great. Im going home.

A young Canadian academic, who wished to remain anonymous, recently encountered a similar pop-up window when applying for a full-time lectureship that should have qualified her for a tier 2 visa at a London university.

It said: It is highly unlikely that you would obtain permission to work in the UK on the basis of an offer for this job. It is therefore recommended that you do not continue with your application.

She says this felt like a sign saying: foreigners go home. She blames the government rather than universities, but says that after a year of applying for jobs she is beginning to feel desperate.

Gareth Edwards, a senior geography lecturer at the University of East Anglia and co-founder of International and Broke, which campaigns against high visa costs for academics, says international academics are getting this sort of pop-up warning when applying for permanent lectureships. Those jobs are most certainly eligible for sponsorship, he says.

Melany Cruz, a Chilean PhD student at Birmingham University, applied for an academic position elsewhere and also got an apparently automated rejection at 1am the next working day. Im sure not many HR people are working at 1am. I dont think my application ever made it to the panel, she says. It is starting to feel impossible to find a job as an international PhD student, which is such a shame as I love what I do.

Paul Boustead, chair of the HR practitioners group Universities Human Resources, says universities want to recruit the most talented staff but some roles are simply unlikely to obtain a work permit.

The Home Office says:We welcome international academics from across the globe and recognise their contribution to the UKs world-leading education sector. All UK visa applications are considered on their individual merits, on the basis of the evidence available, and in line with the immigration rules.

This story was amended on 1 October 2019 to correct the spelling of Lisa Kalayjis name.

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Viacom’s Nickelodeon is doubling down on the educational aspects of its preschooler-focused streaming service, Noggin, with the acquisition of the early childhood learning platform Sparkler. Announced on Friday, the deal will see Sparkler’s technology integrated into Noggin over the next year, and makes Sparkler’s co-founder and CEO Kristen Kane the new head of the Noggin streaming service.

Deal terms were not disclosed.

Kane founded Sparkler after previously working as the founding COO of educational technology company Amplify. Prior to that, she served as COO of the New York City Department of Education during the Bloomberg administration, and spent time working at the FCC, where she led development of strategies for applying broadband technologies in the education, healthcare and energy sectors.

With Sparkler, the company had been developing a different type of early learning platform that measured a child’s progress in order to offer personalized content and coaching for parents, along with other tools that allowed parents, teachers or caregivers to help engage the child through learning activities both on and off-screen.

As a part of its efforts, Sparkler was working with schools, healthcare providers and social service providers. Those relationships will continue through a new nonprofit called Sparkler Learning.

Meanwhile, Sparkler’s core technology will be integrated into Noggin, offering a similar ability to personalize Noggin’s content and allow parents to track and support their child’s progress through “playable content and experiences,” both in the app and in the real world.

The acquisition represents a further expansion of Noggin’s educational aspects beyond its original focus on offering subscription-based streaming of kids’ TV.

First launched in 2015, the idea was to allow Viacom to capitalize on some of its less popular kids’ programming — like Allegra’s Window, Blue’s Room, Franklin and Friends, Gullah Gullah Island, Miss Spider’s Sunny Patch Friends, Oswald, Pocoyo, Robot and Monster and The Upside Down Show — by using a few of its more well-known series — like Blue’s Clues, Little Bear and Ni Hao, Kai-lan — as the draw.

Over the years since, Noggin expanded to include Nickelodeon’s current programming, like PAW Patrol, Peppa Pig, Bubble Guppies and others, and added classics like Dora the Explorer, Umizoomi and Yo Gabba Gabba! The expansion made it a more well-rounded service.

Today, Noggin features more than 1,500 full-length episodes, short-form videos, Spanish-language videos and music videos.

A couple of years ago, Noggin took its first steps into offering more educational content with the addition of curriculum-based “play along” videos. These new, interactive videos asked kids to touch, tap, swipe or speak to move through the storylines.

The concept was based on the work originated by the Children’s Television Workshop, which found that when kids participated by singing or talking, they retained more of what they learned. That work had also previously led to Nickelodeon’s development of TV shows like Blue’s Clues and Dora the Explorer, among others, which further standardized the practice of interactive television by having the show’s characters speak directly to the viewing audience and ask the children questions.

Noggin’s focus on its educational aspects — instead of just competing as a “Netflix for kids” —  helped it succeed. The app now regularly ranks highly in the Kids and Family categories on the App Store, and is a Top 10 Kids app on the free charts. It’s also the No. 1 grossing app for Music and Video in the Family Category on Google Play. And Nickelodeon says Noggin subscriptions have grown by triple digits from 2017 to 2018.

As a result of the deal, Kane will serve in the new role of Noggin’s executive vice president, and will oversee the integration of Sparkler’s technology into the app. She will also drive Noggin’s strategy and next phase of development as an educational digital platform, Nickelodeon says.

Kane will be based in New York and report to Nickelodeon President Brian Robbins.

“Pairing Sparkler’s capabilities with our curriculum-driven content will fully transform Noggin into a premier interactive learning destination for preschoolers and their families,” said Robbins, in a statement. “Kristen brings extensive experience in the education and technology space, and she will help drive Noggin’s growth with an increased focus on delivering even greater value to our direct-to-consumer service,” he added.

Sparkler’s website has already shut down, but you can read its archives here.

The startup had previously received a small grant by winning the NewSchools Ignite Early Learning (PreK-2nd Grade) Challenge as part of its accelerator program.

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In the US, black and Latinx girls are disproportionately punished and assaulted by school administrators for simple infractions such as showing emotions

More than 20 years ago, when I was a 12-year-old queer kid coming to terms with her sexuality, I ran away from home. It was after school had let out for the summer, and I spent two weeks in the Florida Keys, joyriding with neighborhood boys, sleeping under a stilt-house restaurant and smoking cigarettes. I was an angry, depressed girl who had spent her childhood pretending to be someone else except when I found myself in my schools music room. I took guitar and voice lessons, sang in the school chorus and Christmas musical, played the piano. I spent hours writing song lyrics in composition books, choreographed song-and-dance routines for school talent shows. If there was music involved, I was there.


After two weeks in the Keys, I returned home, and was immediately taken to the Miami Beach police department for questioning. Who had I been with? How did I get to Key Largo? Why did I run away? Was there trouble at home? These were all questions I had expected, meant to help the police determine if someone had taken me, if I was being abused. But then the questioning changed course. When exactly had I broken into my elementary school in South Beach? Why had I vandalized the music room? I hadnt, I insisted. What a ridiculous idea! I loved our music teacher, Ms Amor. She had known me for most of my life.

Even though the cops had verified my alibi, had confirmed that I had spent two weeks three hours from Miami, they insisted I had done it. They were convinced I was a delinquent, that I had stolen equipment from Ms Amors music room and tagged my nickname all over her office. The most painful part was how the information had come to them: Ms Amor, they said, had called them to report me herself.

In the United States, black and Latinx girls are disproportionately punished, criminalized and even physically assaulted in their schools by their teachers, administrators and school police officers. Often they are suspended, expelled or arrested for infractions such as falling asleep in class, talking back to school officials or simply for showing what are considered acceptable emotions when it comes to their white classmates.

On 15 January this year, four black and Latinx 12-year-old girls were strip-searched at East middle school in Binghamton, New York. After interacting with the girls in the hallway, the principal, Tim Simonds, found that they seemed to be on drugs. He suspected that they were concealing prohibited substances under their clothes, so he took the girls to the school nurses office where, for over an hour, they were questioned and given sobriety tests. No one called their parents for consent. Instead, as instructed by the principal, the school nurse and the assistant principal, Michelle Raleigh, told the girls to remove their clothes while they watched. The one girl who refused to disrobe was suspended, and no drugs were found.

Why did Simonds suspect the girls of drug use? According to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, which is now representing the students families, the principal called three of the girls parents after the search to say that they had been sent to the school nurse because they had appeared hyper and giddy after lunch. The school board now denies that the strip-search happened.

The racial disparity in punishments enforced at and by American schools is staggering: a 2015 report by the African American Policy Forum and Columbia Law Schools Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies has found that black boys are three times more likely and black girls six times more likely to be suspended than their white counterparts. Black girls, according to the report, have even been punished for wearing their hair naturally.

The cases in point are endless. In 2015, a South Carolina school police officer grabbed a 16-year-old girl named Shakara by the neck, violently slamming her backwards (while her body was still in her seat), and dragging her across the classroom floor, allegedly because she had been disruptive and argued with her teacher. Her classmate, Niya, who yelled at the cop, calling him abusive, was arrested too. In 2013, 16-year-old Kiera Wilmot, an honors student, was arrested and taken to a juvenile detention center in Florida after a science experiment she had been working on reacted badly and caused a cloud of smoke to erupt from a bottle. The small explosion didnt damage any property or hurt anyone, but she was charged with possessing and discharging a weapon. In Hoover, Alabama, 16-year-old Ashlynn Avery, who suffered from diabetes, asthma and sleep apnea, fell asleep in class and was hit with a book by a teacher. Later, the police were called to remove her from the classroom because she kept falling asleep; she was beaten and arrested. In Avon Park, Florida, six-year-old Desree Watson was arrested for throwing a tantrum in her kindergarten class. She was handcuffed and taken to central booking at the county jail.

Although many of these stories make national headlines, and in some cases videos of the incidents go viral, the very real problem of the school-to-prison pipeline is getting worse, particularly for black and brown girls. The Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative found that in 1992, black girls comprised 29% of all girls with juvenile court cases; in 2002, the number was 30%; and by 2009, it was 40%. By all accounts, this increase is not due to a rise in the criminal activity of black girls. It comes down to decisions made by white school officials and police officers the choice to arrest and detain black girls when their white counterparts are not punished similarly.

These decisions, according to an extensive study conducted by the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality, the Human Rights project for Girls, and the Ms Foundation for Women, have been shown often to be based in part on the perception of girls having violated conventional norms and stereotypes of feminine behavior, even when that behavior is caused by trauma. In other words, black and brown girls are typically marginalized at school in these ways because officials judge that they arent feminine enough, or the right kind of feminine. Black giddiness is considered suspect, black hair is distracting and any black girl who expresses unchecked emotion, even a six-year-old, can be sent to the county jail.

Teachers might de-escalate situations rather than involving the police, prioritizing their black and brown students emotional wellbeing and physical safety, as they do with white children. School authorities and police officers could make choices that protect black and brown girls, that support them, rather than choices that lead to their assault and arrest, increasing the risk that they will end up pushed out of the school system and into the juvenile justice system. School policies could, and should, emphasize counseling rather than punishment.

I dont have to tell you that Ms Amor whose name I have changed to protect her anonymity was white. That even though we had spent many hours together over the years she had been my music teacher, even though I loved her and trusted her and felt safe with her, it was easy for her to believe that I had vandalized her property. When she saw the damage done to the music room, to her office, she didnt think of the Whitney Houston-loving child who dreamed of one day being in Broadway musicals, which was how I saw myself. What she imagined was a brown girl capable of vandalism, breaking and entering, stealing. She thought I would destroy the one place that had brought me joy.

And I dont have to tell you that the principal, the assistant principal, and the school nurse at East middle school who saw these black and brown childrens excitement and decided it was criminal were all white. Would they have assumed that white children laughing and playing were on drugs? Would they have demanded that white children who seemed hyper, or happy, or silly, remove their clothes to prove they werent guilty of a crime? Would they have called their parents first? After the incident, when community members heard that the four girls were strip-searched, more than 200 people showed up at a local school board meeting to call for the termination of the involved school officials. So far, nothing has been resolved.

I never saw Ms Amor again. The police eventually dropped the breaking and entering charges, but I was, from that day onward, deemed a delinquent. I lived under a kind of surveillance, with cop cars constantly pulling me over for random searches, and I eventually became exactly what they expected. I wound up dropping out of school, moving through the pipeline to the juvenile justice system. But I was lucky: Im a light-skinned Latina in addition to being black, and in school was rarely read as the latter. If I had been visibly black, all the statistics suggest, things would have been much worse for me. Of this I am sure. Ask any black woman.

  • Jaquira Daz is the author of Ordinary Girls, forthcoming October 2019 from Algonquin Books. She is the recipient of two Pushcart prizes and fellowships from the Kenyon Review, the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing and the MacDowell Colony. She is a visiting assistant professor in the MFA program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

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In 1957, Dorothy Counts endured a taunting mob to integrate a North Carolina school. Sixty-one years later, her work is being undone

One afternoon in early June, graduation week in Charlotte, North Carolina, Dorothy Counts-Scoggins answers the landline phoneand waits for an update on the white people who want to flee the local school system she was the first to integrate.

What happened? she asks me, her voice low, as if she already knows the answer.

Counts-Scoggins is 76 and lives in the west Charlotte neighborhood where she grew up. The black and white photo that reshaped schools in the south adorns her wall. In the frame, it is 1957. Shes 15 and walking toward a previously all-white high school, her chin up and shoulders back, flanked by hunched-over white kids following her menacingly, their spittle soaked into the fabric of her checkered dress.

The next morning, she was on the front page of the New York Times under the headline Soldiers and Jeering Whites Greet Negro Students. James Baldwin saw the image and said it compelled him to return to the United States from France to write about civil rights in the south.

There was unutterable pride, tension and anguish in that girls face as she approached the halls of learning, with history jeering at her back, he later said. It made me furious. It filled me with both hatred and pity. And it made me ashamed. Some one of us should have been there with her.

Dorothy Counts-Scoggins poses for a portrait outside of the school she attempted to integrate on 4 September 1957. Photograph: Logan Cyrus for the Guardian

Right there in the frame, the next generation of white hate was stalking the next generation of black dignity, right when the civil rights movement was starting to spread.

Counts-Scoggins went on to finish high school and college quietly, but then she dedicated her career to public education in her home city as a mentor, speaker and childcare services administrator. Her lifes mission, she has said over and over, is to make sure no child ever goes through what I went through.

But 60 years later, children are going through it again.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system is now the most segregated in North Carolina: 55% of students would need to change schools for the district to achieve full integration. Charlotte welcomes 60 new residents every day; its allure is not country music or Spanish moss, as in other booming southern cities, but something subtle and less hip: the city is simply a comfortable place to live and raise a family. The diverse economy, with textiles and banking and farming, held up better than most during the Great Depression, keeping the population growing even in the worst years.

For all these reasons, Charlottes schools have been a weathervane for Americas relationship with public education for decades.

In 1957, it was Counts-Scoggins, striding toward Harding High School in a city that viewed itself as progressive, surrounded by shouts of Go home, nigger. In 1964, it was Darius Swann, a black six-year-old denied admission to the integrated Seversville elementary inciting the lawsuit that led to a supreme court ruling in favor of bussing as a means to desegregate.

In the late 1990s, it was William Capacchione, a white parent, arguing that his daughter was shut out of a magnet program because she wasnt black, resulting in a federal district judge ordering CMS to stop using race in student assignments.

And in 2018, its four dove-white suburbs asking for more choice.

The now famous photo of Dorothy Counts-Scoggins hangs on the wall of the den at her home in West Charlotte. Photograph: Logan Cyrus for the Guardian

A bill before the state legislature, HB 514, would allow these towns, each more than 77% white, to develop their own charter schools. If it becomes law, town residents would have priority admission, and kids from the rest of the county would be able to enroll only if seats remain.

Its part of a deconstruction of school systems thats already occurred in other cities Detroit and New Orleans, for instance and a trend that the US secretary of education Betsy DeVos would like to see continue nationally. Congress rejected many of her spending proposals this year, but DeVoss goals were clear when she suggested adding $1bn for school choice programs and vouchers while cutting the US Department of Education by 5%.

Supporters of the North Carolina bill argue that charters provide students and parents with more options than traditional public schools systems, while expressing little concern for kids who may be left behind in a shrinking district.

For Counts-Scoggins, it feels like another thread being pulled out of her lifes work. Shes spent 61 years trying to walk out of that photo. She prefers to be called Dot Counts-Scoggins now, but its a regular occurrence for something to remind her of a time when her name went around the world as Dorothy Counts. Shes a part of a generation of civil rights activists who endured the abuses of the 1950s and 1960s, only to see a surge of repeat offenses late in life. Shes a living lesson, unlearned.

To her, this isnt the standard debate over whether charters are as effective as traditional schools. Its about wealthy towns crouching behind charters to pass a law that builds walls around white zip codes.

The North Carolina general assembly convened on 16 May; by Memorial Day, it was clear that the Republican majority had enough votes to make HB 514 law.

When she answers her phone that Wednesday in June, Counts-Scoggins is prepared for news that her telltale southern city will become an example once more this time of a country chiseling away at the public education system for which she suffered.

Did they pass it? she asks.

Yes, I tell her.

The line goes silent for several seconds before she speaks again.

I just cant believe Charlotte is getting to that point, she says. Its nothing but racism. You know that and I know that.

Unlike Counts-Scogginss, my kindergarten class photo had 13 white kids and 12 black kids. I came through public schools in the 1980s in rural southern Maryland, where my mother was a first-grade teacher. Although we had our problems, our classes taught us to revere civil rights heroes. I moved to Charlotte six years ago to become editor of the city magazine, a job that introduced me to many of the regions leaders. I was more nervous to meet Dorothy Counts than any of them.

Weve since become friends. Ive grown close to her brother, Howard, too. Counts-Scoggins laughs and says that shes adopted me and my wife, Laura, who came through CMS, as part of her extended family.

When Counts-Scoggins tells me she sees racism, I dont question it.

Photograph: Logan Cyrus for the Guardian

As kids, she and her three brothers spent summers at their grandparents house in the tiny town of Rowland, North Carolina, two hours east of Charlotte. Her grandfather was a barber and her grandmother a seamstress. Theyd stopped for gas one day in the early 1900s, only to be approached by two white men who, unprompted, offered to help her grandfather set up a shop and business. Racism seemed like a distant affliction to Counts-Scoggins as she passed the summers lying on the floor, watching her grandmothers foot thump on the sewing machine pedal.

The summer of 1957 was different. She was one of two Charlotte-area girls chosen to join 1,800 Presbyterians at the National Youth Assembly at Grinnell College in Iowa. As she unpacked her clothes, her roommate for the week, a white girl from Illinois, stared at her. Counts-Scoggins asked if something was wrong, and the girl admitted that she had never been face-to-face with a black person.

The girl asked Counts-Scoggins if she had a tail. She asked her if her skin rubbed off. Counts-Scoggins stopped her.

Believe it or not, you and I are alike in a lot of ways, Counts-Scoggins told her. They were friends by the end of the week.

A month later, her parents learned that she and three children at other schools would be the first black students to step into all-white public schools in Charlotte.

A group named the White Citizens Council chose Harding as the place they would protest. The temperature was already in the 80s on 4 September 1957, when the mob filled two city blocks on the west side of uptown.

At about the same hour, 750 miles away in Little Rock, Arkansas, armed state militia stopped another 15-year-old, Elizabeth Eckford, as she clutched a notebook to her chest while trying to enter Little Rock Central high school with eight other black students. No troops greeted Counts-Scoggins, but the crowd grew angrier each step she took. White boys in buzz cuts and plaid shirts filed in behind her and made faces that would remain stuck that way in photos. Others threw pebbles at her from behind a tree. One woman, a parent, skittered up behind the crowd and hollered: Spit on her, girls! Spit on her!

Inside, teenagers tugged on her dress and hurled erasers at her head, harassment that was unofficially sanctioned by teachers and administrators who didnt stop it.

It remains Charlottes most disgraceful moment. Even the woman who shouted Spit on her, girls! later quit the White Citizens Council, saying: I am ashamed of the white race.

That night, though, Counts-Scoggins thought about the white girl in Iowa who asked if she had a tail.

If they just get to know me, she told her parents, theyll like me.

But the Harding kids didnt like her. The next Wednesday after school, boys heaved rocks painted like oranges through her brothers car window. That night, she sat on the couch next to her parents as they told a news crew that it was too dangerous. They sent her to live the rest of the year with relatives in Philadelphia. Two weeks later, then president Dwight Eisenhower ordered federal troops to Arkansas to escort the Little Rock Nine into Central high.

On 3 September 1957, the day before schools opened, then North Carolina governor Luther Hodges asked for voluntary separate school attendance. Basically, the idea was that black parents should choose to keep their kids in black schools for their own good, of course.

Can these few citizens seriously believe that they are helping remove any real or fancied stigma from their race by placing their children in schools formerly attended only by white children? Hodges said. Where are the Negro leaders of wisdom and courage to tell their people these things? Have they none?

School choice has advanced since then. But every iteration is underscored by a reluctance to commit to a public education system that benefits everyone. Throughout the 1960s, small, private Christian schools popped up across rural North Carolina especially in the eastern part of the state, where some families still control land granted by King Charles II as white parents shuffled their kids out of integrated public systems.

North Carolinas legislature had bipartisan support to open the state to charter schools public schools that run independently and are subsidized by private funding with a 100-school cap in 1996. The appeal of charter schools seemed straightforward tax money goes to the school instead of inflated administrations, and instructors have freedom from standardized testing. A decade later, the results were mixed.

As with most things that are inconclusive, charters became a partisan issue with plenty of gray space for politicians to manipulate. Republicans say they inspire innovation; Democrats say they undermine public systems.

One example is in rural Northampton county, North Carolina, where 26% of residents live in poverty and more than 70% of the student population is black. The charter school there, KIPP Gaston College Prep, consistently scores high. But the other 80% of the students in the county remain in underperforming traditional schools. A charter-school advocate, likely Republican, would note the single success; an opponent, likely Democrat, would note the overall failure.

The book I Am Not Your Negro: A Major Motion Picture Directed by Raoul Peck sits on an ottoman inside Dorothy Counts-Scoggins home. Photograph: Logan Cyrus for the Guardian

Dorothy Counts graduated from an all-black girls high school, earned a degree from the historically black Johnson C Smith University, moved to New York, got married, and then came home as Dot Counts-Scoggins to live in a predominantly white suburb named Matthews.

By then, the Swann v Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education decision had helped make CMS a national model for desegregation. TheCharlotte Observer called it the citys proudest accomplishment. But not all parents were happy.

A woman knocked on Counts-Scogginss door one day, upset that her kids were being bussed from Matthews to a school in a predominantly black neighborhood. When the woman held out a petition she was circulating, Counts-Scoggins said: Youve come to the wrong house. I dont think you know who I am.

Parents like that eventually ended bussing in 1999, rocking the demographic makeup of the district. Within 15 years, a third of CMS schools were segregated by poverty, and half were segregated by race.

In September 2016, Charlottes inequities received national attention during a weeklong string of protests following the police shooting of Keith Scott, a black man, in a north Charlotte apartment complex.

One cannot disentangle the state-sanctioned school resegregation that poor black students in Charlotte experience from the police killing of a black man waiting for his son to get off the bus from elementary school, Clint Smith wrote in the New Yorker.

Eight months later, CMS took the first major policy action after the protests. The board approved a modest student reassignment plan that would affect only about 10% of the districts 147,000 students. No children in Matthews would have to switch schools, but the mere threat of it made people there skittish.

State representative Bill Brawley, a Matthews Republican, introduced HB 514 that month.

Supporters say its not about race. They point to things like last years $922m school construction bond package that included little for the northern suburbs. [HB 514] gives us an option to add capacity should CMS opt not to, Huntersville mayor John Aneralla told me in May. They will not add capacity unless pushed.

The school board responded to HB514 in late August by doing the opposite, passing a measure to block future construction in the four suburbs unless they agree to a 15-year moratorium on municipal charters.

Regardless, opponents like Counts-Scoggins see capacity as an ornament hanging on a tree of a different concern, one more like what then-Matthews mayor Jim Taylor told the Charlotte Observer when the bill was introduced.

I am pleased with the new proposed student assignment plan but the concern I have is that student assignment will come up again, Taylor said in 2017. We will be fine today, but there is no guarantee for the future.

In 2006, Counts-Scoggins opened an email from a white man named Woody Cooper, admitting that he was one of the kids in the photo. He wanted to apologize.

They met for lunch at the now 67-year-old Open Kitchen restaurant near uptown. In the 1950s, white teenagers could eat in the restaurants dining room, but black teenagers ordered to-go plates from the back window. Cooper asked Counts-Scoggins if she could forgive him. I forgave you a long time ago, she said. This is an opportunity for us to do some things for our children and grandchildren.

They agreed to share their story with former Charlotte Observer columnist Tommy Tomlinson. The piece ran on the 50th anniversary of Counts-Scogginss walk, and the state press association named it the best story in North Carolina that year. From there Counts-Scoggins and Cooper did as many speaking engagements and interviews as they could.

Cooper got cancer a couple of years later. On a Wednesday in September 2010, Counts-Scoggins drove to a Huntersville hospice facility to say goodbye. She sat with him for two hours. Cooper never opened his eyes. She kissed him on the forehead and left. The next morning, Cooper s wife, Judy, called to say he was gone.

Dot, I think he was waiting for you, Judy said.

Counts-Scoggins has always been there. Shes told her story thousands of times all over the country. Shes a mentor at a high-poverty school. Shes part of the Womens Inter-Cultural Exchange, an organization that builds trust across race and culture. This September, shell receive the United Negro College Funds Maya Angelou award for lifetime achievement. Next spring, shell be surrounded by children of all colors on a one-mile Unity Walk that will end at the old Harding high school.

But instead of talking about how far weve come, she talks now about recognizing mistakes from the past as they pop up again today.

In 2016, there were the Charlotte protests after a police shooting. Last year, there were white supremacists terrorizing Charlottesville, only a few hours north.

And then there was an event this spring, one that made headlines only in her family. Counts-Scogginss great-nephew, a brilliant fifth-grader who spends as much time with her as she did her grandparents, came home from school one day and said that a teacher told him that slavery wasnt all bad.

She called the school and the administration and anybody whod listen.

What gives him the right to talk to any child about slavery like that? she tells me. I did not think after all these years Id still be fighting this.

Michael Graff is a writer in Charlotte

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The country stars Imagination Library initiative, set up as a tribute to her illiterate father, reaches major milestone

Dolly Partons Imagination Library, the initiative she set up in honour of her illiterate father, has handed out its 100 millionth free book.

The book, a copy of Partons childrens picture book Coat of Many Colors, was donated to the Library of Congress in Washington DC, with which Parton has set up a partnership to live-stream story readings.

Dolly Parton (@DollyParton)

Today we dedicate the 100 Millionth @DollysLibrary Book to the @librarycongress! I always like to say that 100 million books have led to 100 million stories. #100MillionBooks

February 27, 2018

Parton began the Imagination Library in 1996 in Sevier County, Tennessee, where she was raised. Children whose families sign up are posted free books, funded via charitable giving.

Parton, who grew up with only the Bible in her house, has said she was inspired by the example of her father, who worked hard but didnt have the chance to learn to read or write. I thought, well, Im gonna do this: to get books in the hands of children, because if you can read, you can educate yourself, she told CNBC in 2016. The initiative expanded across the US in 2000, then set up in the UK in 2007 and Australia in 2013.

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A year of political change effected by young people tipped the balance of power in a shortlist including such buzzwords as Antifa, kompromat and Milkshake Duck

Youthquake, defined as a significant cultural, political, or social change arising from the actions or influence of young people, has been selected by Oxford Dictionaries as the 2017 word of the year.

The term saw a 401% increase in usage year-on-year as 2017 saw the often-maligned millennial generation drive political change. The publishers cited the UK and New Zealand general elections as examples of young voters mobilising to support opposition parties.

Youthquake was chosen off a shortlist of 10 words that includes other timely political terms, including Antifa a shortening of anti-fascist that has morphed over time to become a proper noun for a political movement and kompromat a word for compromising information gathered to be used in blackmail, typically for political purposes. It made headlines in September, when Russian politician Nikita Isaev threatened to hit Donald Trump with our kompromat on state TV.

Other words in the running this year include broflake, a label for men who was easily enraged by progressive attitudes that conflict with their views; unicorn, a description for items of food and drink that are altered to be colourful and glittery; and Milkshake Duck, a term for a person or thing that inspires a positive reaction on social media, but is revealed to have a negative past. Taking its name from an internet meme, this phenomenon has most recently been observed in the case of Keaton Jones, an American child who appeared in an emotional video about bullying, but whose parents were revealed to have posed with Confederate flags.

While the word of the year is usually added to Oxford dictionaries, youthquake is already listed; it was originally coined in the 1960s by Vogue editor Diana Vreeland to describe how British youth were changing fashion and music around the world.

Lexicographer Susie Dent said the 2017 shortlist showed that theres not a lot of sunshine in the standout words this year. Words like Antifa and kompromat speak to fractured times of mistrust and frustration. In youthquake we finally found some hope in the power to change things, and had a little bit of linguistic fun along the way. It feels like the right note on which to end a difficult and divisive year.

Young protesters in Catalonia, Spain. Photograph: Juan Carlos Cardenas/EPA

Youthquake may not seem like the most obvious choice for word of the year, and its true that its yet to land firmly on American soil, but strong evidence in the UK calls it out as a word on the move, said Casper Grathwohl, president of Oxford Dictionaries.

In a blogpost explaining the decision, Grathwohl wrote: We chose youthquake based on its evidence and linguistic interest. But most importantly for me, at a time when our language is reflecting our deepening unrest and exhausted nerves, it is a rare political word that sounds a hopeful note. Sometimes you pick a word as the word of the year because you recognise that it has arrived, but other times you pick one that is knocking at the door and you want to help usher in … I think this past year calls for a word we can all rally behind.

Other words of the year selected by dictionaries include fake news, which was crowned by Collins Dictionary, and feminism, which was picked by US institution Merriam-Webster based on the increased interest in the term after the global Womens March in early 2017.

Oxford Dictionaries word of the year 2017 shortlist

Antifa noun: A political protest movement comprising autonomous groups affiliated by their militant opposition to fascism and other forms of extreme right-wing ideology

broflake noun, informal, derogatory: A man who is readily upset or offended by progressive attitudes that conflict with his more conventional or conservative views

Unicorn Frappuccino coming to a coffee shop near you. Photograph: AP

gorpcore noun: A style of dress incorporating utilitarian clothing of a type worn for outdoor activities

kompromat noun: Compromising information collected for use in blackmailing, discrediting, or manipulating someone, typically for political purposes

Milkshake Duck noun: A person or thing that initially inspires delight on social media but is soon revealed to have a distasteful or repugnant past

newsjacking noun: The practice of taking advantage of current events or news stories in such a way as to promote or advertise ones product or brand

unicorn adjective [attributive]: Denoting something, especially an item of food or drink, that is dyed in rainbow colours, decorated with glitter, etc.

white fragility noun: Discomfort and defensiveness on the part of a white person when confronted by information about racial inequality and injustice

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Career of Delia Derbyshire, an under-appreciated electronic music pioneer, recognised by hometown university

The under-appreciated electronic music pioneer behind the Doctor Who theme is to be honoured posthumously with a doctorate from her hometown university as the programme gears up for the debut of its first female lead.

Largely ignored in life and barred from working in studios because she was a woman, Delia Derbyshire, will be awarded an honorary PhD from Coventry University on Monday.

Mostly unknown and uncredited during her lifetime, she created a new wave of sounds and arrangements in music during the 1960s and 70s, and paved the way for more women to work in the music production business.

Born in Coventry in 1937, Derbyshires unique sonic palette was shaped by sounds of the Blitz and the air raid sirens that surrounded her as a child. Highly academic, she won a scholarship to study maths and music at the University of Cambridge, where she immersed herself in sound.

After graduating, Derbyshire struggled in what was predominantly a mans industry, being told by Decca Records that it did not employ women in its studios. She turned to teaching but refused to give up and eventually found work as a trainee studio manager at the BBC.

It was here, in 1962 that she gained access to the experimental Radiophonic Workshop, developing an entirely new type of music by playing notes on tape and then speeding them up or slowing them down.. She went on to transform a written score by Ron Grainer for a new TV series, Doctor Who, into an iconic piece of electronic music.

Due to BBC policies at the time, Grainer unwillingly is still officially credited as the sole writer.

Derbyshire stayed at the workshop for 10 years, recording sound for Inventions for Radio and Cyprian Queen all in the days before modern synthesisers and machines. She was later approached by Paul McCartney to work on a backing track for the Beatles hit Yesterday.

But despite her talent and credit from her peers, Delia failed to gain widespread recognition during her lifetime, eventually becoming disillusioned with the industry and finding work as a radio operator in Cumbria. She later worked in a museum in the area, before taking up a position in a bookshop in Northampton where she met her partner, Clive Blackburn.

She died aged 64 in 2001, and has since been widely acknowledged as a pioneer in electronic music, having inspired the likes of the Chemical Brothers and Sonic Boom.

Mark Ayres, a composer and sound designer at the Radiophonic Workshop, said: Any composer of my generation with an interest in electronic sound and music cannot fail to have been influenced by Delias talent. It is very fitting that Delia is receiving this posthumous honorary doctorate from Coventry University. Delia was proud of her roots in the city and deeply affected by the damage wreaked upon it during the second world war, though much inspired by the sounds she heard around her during that time.

Blackburn, Derbyshires partner of 21 years, said: Delia would be really excited by the developments in electronic music. Digital technology is finally catching up with what she managed to achieve manually in the 1960s using the most rudimentary of equipment.

Coventry University will launch a series of school workshops in Derbyshires name on Friday to try to inspire a new generation of children especially girls to pursue maths and music. Linked to a touring play about her life, Hymns for Robots by Noctium Theatre, the partnership project will share the story of Derbyshire and her creations at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.

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Choice of Thomass Battersea makes four-year-old prince the first direct royal heir to be educated south of the river in London

Prince George has started school; a royal enrolment that has upped the desirability of properties in the well-heeled environs of the south-west London prep school chosen to tutor the four-year-old.

Plans for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to accompany their firstborn on his first day were changed due to her recently announced pregnancy and the severe morning sickness she has been experiencing. Instead the duke did the school run solo.

A crowd of well-wishers had gathered outside the school gate to watch. The young prince arrived shortly before 8.50am and was driven through a side entrance and a security gate closed behind them.

The third in line to the throne arrived for his first day at 18,000-a-year Thomass Battersea, where he will learn to be kind, acquire confidence, leadership and humility and not have a best friend to prevent other children having hurt feelings.

Holding his dads hand and looking a little apprehensive, George walked from the car and then had a formal handshake with Helen Haslem, head of lower school. the duke was holding his sons school bag.

It was a low-level arrival as far as media were concerned. Unlike Williams first day, which was witnessed by a bank of photographers, the fiercely protective Cambridges stipulated only one TV camera and one photographer would be there to capture the moment of Georges first day.

The newest and most famous pupil, who will be known as George Cambridge, was escorted into the reception class.

Kitted out in his John Lewis uniform (also available at Peter Jones in Sloane Square) winter and summer uniforms, red art smock, and PE kit including black ballet shoes total more than 365 the young prince can look forward to a broad education.

Prince George arrives with the Duke of Cambridge at Thomass Battersea in London. Photograph: Kensington Palace/PA

Along with maths, English and science, the curriculum includes classes in understanding the world, expressive arts and design and communication and language. Art, ballet, drama, ICT, French, music, and PE are all taught from day one.

If, like his great-uncle Edward, he inclines towards thespianism, the school performs eight different productions and a nativity play every year, and has its own sound and lighting crew. Any musical leanings will be encouraged enthusiastically through weekly concerts and summer and winter galas.

He may, of course, prefer to just charge around the rooftop playground, with climbing frames and stunning views across the river Thames and Battersea Park.

Ben Thomas, principal of Thomass London Day School, who was headteacher at Thomass Battersea for 18 years, said he hoped George would learn to be himself.

The whole aim of these precious early years of education is to give children that confidence in who they are. So we are not going to try and mould him into any kind of particular person and we wouldnt do that with any of our pupils.

I hope he will have the confidence to be himself with all his quirks and his idiosyncrasies and characteristics.

The choice of Thomass Battersea makes him the first direct royal heir to be educated south of the river, but then he is only the third-generation heir to attend public school.

His father, the Duke of Cambridge, attended Wetherby school in Notting Hill, west London, gaily waving to photographers on his first day, and leaving the establishment with the distinction of winning the Grunfield Cup for the child with the best swimming style.

Diana, Princess of Wales, following her sons Prince Harry (right), then five, and Prince William, then seven, on Harrys first day at the Wetherby school in Notting Hill. Photograph: Ron Bell/PA

His paternal grandfather, the Prince of Wales, then the Duke of Cornwall, did not start at Hill House school, Knightsbridge, until the age of eight. On his first day, he painted a picture. Breathless newspaper reports, based on the imaginative accounts of witnesses, described it variously as a red and blue seascape, a green ship going under Tower Bridge, or the royal yacht Britannia. One thing is clear, on his first day at school the Duke of Cornwall painted a picture, the Manchester Guardian reported.

With just 560 boys and girls between the ages of four and 13, Thomass Battersea school, in a Grade II-listed building, parts of which date to 1700, has a ballet room, science labs, a pottery room, two libraries and a one-acre playground with AstroTurf.

Morning snacks include organic milk, freshly baked pain aux raisins and wholewheat breadsticks. For lunch, pupils are promised freshly cooked meals which, whenever possible, include organic meat, vegetables and dairy, all of which grandpapa Charles will undoubtedly approve.

According to the Good Schools Guide, it has a wide-ranging mix of international parents, with 19 different foreign languages spoken at home. Competitive and oversubscribed, it is looking for children who have a measure of confidence, are responsive, sociable, and with a light in their eyes.

It is busy and slightly chaotic and for cosmopolitan parents who want the best English education money can buy, the guide continues. That is what they want and, to a large degree, that is what they get. It adds: Withdrawn types might find it all overwhelming.

Tatler advises to get childrens names down at birth. According to the society magazine, new headmaster Simon OMalley, who, like George, starts this September, is a silver fox whose previously stated mission is for pupils to leave school confident and comfortable, the sort of people others turn to.

Duke of Cambridge with his son Prince George on his first day of school. Photograph: Chris Jackson/Kensington Palace

Known for his attention to detail, OMalley once told the Daily Telegraph how it was the little things that count: such as emailing the parent of an expat pupil to say they performed a great rugby tackle because the parent is not at the match to see it and say well done.

The school, whose alumni include model and actor Cara Delevingne and singer Florence Welch, is said to discourage pupils from having best friends, instead encouraging lots of friends to stop others having their feelings hurt.

Its website stresses along with the highest academic standards, the schools ethos, aims and values actively support the upholding of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.

These are British values which we cherish and which equip pupils for life in modern Britain.

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The long read: Tommy J Curry thought forcing a public discussion about race and violence was part of his job. It turned out that people didnt want to hear it

One Thursday morning in May, Tommy J Curry walked through the offices of the philosophy department at Texas A&M University with a police officer at his side and violence on his mind. The threats had started a few days earlier. Since you said white people need to be killed Im in fear of my life, one person had written via email. The next time I see you on campus I might just have to pre-emptively defend myself you dumb fat nigger. You are done. Curry didnt know if that person was lurking on the university grounds. But Texas is a gun-friendly state, and Texas A&M is a gun-friendly campus, and he took the threat seriously.

Curry supports the right to bear arms. It was part of how he ended up in this situation. In 2012 he had appeared on a satellite radio show and delivered a five-minute talk on how uneasy white people are with the idea of black people talking about owning guns and using them to combat racist forces. When a recording of the talk resurfaced in May, people thought the tenured professor was telling black people to kill white people. This idea swept through conservative media and into the fever swamps of Reddit forums and racist message boards. The threats followed.

Anonymous bigots werent the only ones making Curry feel unwanted. Michael K Young, the president of Texas A&M, had called the professors comments disturbing and contrary to the values of the university. Curry was taken aback. His remarks on the radio were not a regrettable slip of the tongue. They were part of why the university had hired him.

A police officer met Curry inside his academic building and rode with him in the elevator to the philosophy department, on the third floor. In a hallway, the professor pointed to photos of his graduate students so the police officer would know who was supposed to be there. The officer told him to keep an eye out for unfamiliar faces. Curry picked up his mail. There were a few angry letters, and also an envelope marked with a Texas A&M logo. He put the hate mail into a folder and carried the whole bundle downstairs. Back in the car with his wife, he opened the university envelope. Inside was a copy of a letter from a campus official that he had received a few days earlier by email before his inbox was flooded with racist messages.

I am delighted to offer my congratulations on your promotion to Professor at Texas A&M University effective September 1, 2017, said the letter. This measure of your achievement is an indicator of the very high esteem in which you are held by your peers. We are honored to have you on our faculty.

As the car pulled away from the campus, Curry reread the letter and rolled his eyes. He has not been back since.

The drama that unfolded at Texas A&M is about a scholar who was welcomed by a public university because of his unusual perspective, and who became estranged from the university for the same reason. It is a story about what a university values, how it expresses those values under pressure, and how that pressure works. It is about freedom and control, reason and fear, good faith and bad. Mostly, it is a story about a black man in America who did exactly what he said he set out to do, and who became a cautionary tale.

It starts in Lake Charles, Louisiana, where Curry grew up in the 1980s and 90s. His family lived in a mostly black neighbourhood on the east side of the city. The white folks lived on the other side of the highway. At the Woolworth store downtown, he saw the faded outline of letters that remained visible on the window glass: No Coloreds. Currys father sold insurance. He told his son stories about how white people used to break into black peoples homes and terrorise them. The family kept a shotgun behind the couch, and Tommy Sr owned a pistol as well. He constantly told us that there is a very real threat of white violence, said Curry. The idea of black people having a right to defend themselves is just something I grew up with.

The Texas A&M University campus. Photograph: Spencer Selvidge/Reuters

His mother, a social worker, told him to arm himself with an education. Curry was a serious child who hoarded information. He joined his high schools debate team, where he learned how to arrange information into arguments and recite them at breakneck speed. He became accustomed to being the only black voice in the room, although he occasionally met other black boys in the debating scene. One was Rob Redding, a preachers son from Atlanta who was going to college in Lake Charles. Redding, who was a few years older, was struck by the high-schoolers confidence. I remember him coming to the debate room, and a lot of people thinking he was very bright, but maybe a little too self-confident, too self-assured, said Redding. Even some black people, who should know better, would think he was too cocky.

Curry used debate scholarships to attend Southern Illinois University, where he won an award for his prowess as a cross-examiner. After getting his masters degree in Chicago, he went back to Southern Illinois to work on a doctorate in philosophy. He showed little deference to the canon, often challenging the universal claims that western philosophers made in their work. That annoyed a lot of people in the department, but Currys adviser, Kenneth Stikkers, considered Curry a model student who inhaled the texts he recommended, reading them closely even if he disagreed with them. It was always a delight when hed come to see me, said Stikkers, because I was always going to learn something.

Stikkers, who is white, understood that not everybody would find Currys iconoclasm as energising as he did. Philosophers consider themselves open-minded, he said, but the department was still a white neighbourhood with expectations of how a black guest should behave. Curry was not interested in playing that game. In comments on Currys papers, Stikkers found himself repeating a refrain: Dont unnecessarily antagonise your audience. Currys patience for that advice was limited. He would say at times that he liked nothing more than pissing white people off, said Stikkers. I think he did get a certain thrill from that.

In 2004, while Curry was studying at Southern Illinois, the people of that state elected a young, mixed-race law professor to the US Senate. Liberals at the university had high hopes for Barack Obama as a unifying political figure, and a symbol of how far US race relations had come. Curry did not share their optimism. In the days after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, he heard that the police had opened fire on a group of unarmed black families on the Danziger Bridge in New Orleans. It would take years for courts to determine the guilt of the officers, but Curry didnt need an official judgment to convince him it was true. The aftermath of the hurricane bolstered his belief that anti-black racism in the US was a storm that would never end.

The evidence of the last 50 years has convincingly demonstrated the failure of multicultural coalitions, civil rights legislation and integration, he wrote in a 2007 paper. The current task of radical Black thought now rests in the development of alternatives in light of this disappointment. Those alternatives might include violence: Historically, the use of violence has been a serious option in the liberation of African people from the cultural tyranny of whiteness, he wrote, and should again be investigated as a plausible and in some sense necessary political option.

It was a provocative thesis, and Curry knew it. He did not consider himself a violent person. Even when he was a teenage socialist, his revolutionary vision had been passive: white capitalism would collapse under its own weight, and black unionists would help build a more egalitarian society in its ruins. Anyway, philosophy was supposed to be about asking hard questions without fear or prejudice, and Curry was not interested in steering clear of topics just because they made his white colleagues uneasy.

Stikkers urged him to pre-emptively defend himself against charges that he wanted to incite violence. In the paper, Curry explained that he wanted to raise violent resistance in the context of US racism not as a call to arms, but as an open-ended political question. Still, the young philosopher knew he was treading on dangerous ground. To some, he wrote, for a black scholar to even ask if violence should be used to combat racism is a career faux pas.

The paper was published in Radical Philosophy Today, and Curry put it on his curriculum vitae. Two years later, he earned his doctorate from Southern Illinois, and Texas A&M brought him on as a diversity hire, he said. The universitys philosophy department, like philosophy departments everywhere, was all white. They sold it to me based on the idea that they were trying to change, he said.

Black philosophers are rare in academe. In 2013 a study counted 141 black professors, instructors and graduate students working at US colleges, accounting for about 1% of the field. At Texas A&M, Curry turned heads almost immediately. In 2010 he taught a course that used hip-hop as a lens for philosophical ideas. The rapper 50 Cent was on the syllabus alongside Thomas Hobbes.

Curry didnt want to confine his teaching to the classroom. In 2012 he reconnected with Redding, the acquaintance from his debating days in Lake Charles, who had gone on to become a radio host. His show, the Redding News Review, played online and was broadcast in several cities. Redding began featuring Curry in a segment called Talking Tough With Tommy. Every Thursday the professor would call in and lecture about race, fear and complacency during the Obama years. He warned listeners of what might happen as white America began to feel the levers of power slipping from its grasp. We despise black people who are pessimistic about the political situation, he said in one episode, as if history hasnt already borne out what happens when black people make progress, even if its illusory.

Earlier that year, grim news from a Florida suburb had reminded the nation of how precarious the political situation was, no matter who was in the White House. Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, had been stalked and killed in a gated community where his fathers girlfriend lived. George Zimmerman, a neighbourhood watch volunteer, had seen Martin and assumed he was up to no good. He grabbed his gun and followed Martin. There was a confrontation. Martin broke Zimmermans nose and injured the back of his head; Zimmerman then shot Martin in the chest. The case brought attention to stand-your-ground laws, which gave the residents of some states, including Florida, the right to use lethal force rather than retreat if they fear they might be in serious danger. (In court, Zimmerman was later acquitted.)

That December, Django Unchained was released in cinemas. The film starred Jamie Foxx as a black gunslinger in the antebellum south who frees his wife and murders her white slavers. In a Saturday Night Live monologue, Foxx joked about how great it was that he got to kill all the white people in the movie, prompting some white pundits to accuse him of racism.

Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio in Django Unchained. Photograph: Allstar/Weinstein Company/Sportsphoto

Curry made plans to talk about Django on Reddings show. He wanted to place the film in the context of Nat Turners slave revolt of 1831, the writings of the civil rights leader Robert F Williams, and the history of black people taking up arms. Once again, conjuring visions of black-on-white violence would be risky. The audience this time was not just the subscribers of Radical Philosophy Today. Currys words would go out on the public airwaves and the internet. He knew that saying that would be controversial, said Redding. They decided the professor should focus on self-defence.

When it came time to record the segment, Curry spoke without a script. When we have this conversation about violence or killing white people, it has to be looked at in these kinds of historical terms, he said. And the fact that weve had no one address, like, how relevant and how solidified this kind of tradition is, for black people saying, Look, in order to be equal, in order to be liberated, some white people may have to die. Ive just been immensely disappointed, because what we look at, week after week, is national catastrophe after catastrophe where black people, black children, are still dying.

White conservatives speak reverently of gun rights, said Curry. But when we turn the conversation back and say, Does the black community ever need to own guns? Does the black community have a need to protect itself? Does the black individual have a need to protect himself from police officers?, we dont have that conversation at all.

The segment aired, and nothing happened. Redding posted Currys piece on YouTube in December 2012 with the title Dr. Tommy Curry on killing whites, then forgot about it.

Until Rod Dreher found it.

Dreher, too, is from Louisiana. Born 12 years before Curry, he grew up in St Francisville, a small town 160 miles north-east of Lake Charles. Only a few years before he was born, white vigilantes there had stalked and terrorised black men who had tried to register to vote in the town. In 1963, a tenant farmer named James Payne told a justice department official that a white mob had showed up at his house a day later. The intruders disarmed him, threatened to burn his family alive, and fired a bullet from his own pistol into the ground between his legs.

Dreher had a fling with progressive politics during his college years, at Louisiana State University, but his ideology took a right turn and he moved to the north-east, where he became a writer, cultivating an urbane Christian conservatism. Personal experience made him wary of vigilantism. In a 2001 column for the New York Post, Dreher bemoaned an elaborate funeral procession that black mourners had arranged for Aaliyah, the 22-year-old R&B artist who had died in a plane crash. A traffic-snarling, horse-drawn cortege in honor of a pop singer most people have never heard of? he wrote. Give us a break!

Dreher has vivid memories of what happened next. Callers flooded his voice mailbox with messages. They cursed him out, hurled antisemitic slurs (Dreher was raised Methodist and had converted to Catholicism), called him racist and said he should be fired. All of the callers had black accents, he later recalled. Dreher tried to brush it off. He recorded a cheeky voicemail greeting that instructed his critics to press 1 to leave a death threat, 2 to leave a bomb threat, 3 to get him fired, and so on. Still, the outrage scared him. Every time a black man got within 10 feet of me, I thought: Could this be one of the people who made the death threat? he wrote in a blogpost years later.

Dreher came to regret the Aaliyah column, admitting that it was insensitive, but he nevertheless saw himself as a victim of racial venom coursing through parochial networks. He blamed black radio hosts for using their influence to mark him as the enemy of a race. He eventually moved back to Louisiana and cultivated an online following as a blogger for The American Conservative magazine. His take on the Trayvon Martin case was that Martin had overreacted to Zimmerman confronting him with a gun, and that black people had overreacted to Zimmermans just acquittal. Dreher didnt see Django Unchained, he said, because revenge fantasies were corrupting. His audience eventually grew to about a million readers a month.

By the time Dreher learned about Curry earlier this year, he was writing regularly about campus politics, which he thought had grown more toxic since he was in college. The racial terrorism of the 1960s was in the past, as far as he was concerned, but the social-justice warriors remained on the warpath. Worse, college administrators indulged those students petty outrages.

In spring, a reader sent Dreher an email, telling him that a black professor at Texas A&M was saying racist things about white people, and the university was letting it happen. (The tipster used a pseudonym, according to Dreher, but he guessed it was a student.) He Googled Curry and soon found the killing white people YouTube clip that Redding had posted. He also found the professors 2007 paper on violence against whiteness. To his ears, Curry sounded like a bully. That rat-a-tat-tat way of talking reminded me of people Ive encountered in the past who are so busy talking at you that they dont actually listen, said Dreher. He reminded me of political and religious extremists Ive run across in my life in that way. That stuff sets me on edge.

So he decided to expose Curry on his blog. Dreher embedded the YouTube clip and quoted from other radio appearances in which the professor had talked about how white people would never voluntarily surrender their advantages. What does any of this racist bilge mean? wrote Dreher. To prove his own human worth to Tommy Curry, a white person has to despise himself? Good luck with that, Tommy Curry.

He published it on Monday 8 May at 8.30am.

Drehers post sent the professors words racing across a network primed for racial outrage. The internets rightwing news belt had expanded during the Obama presidency. Websites such as Infowars and Breitbart, once on the fringe, had found a champion in Donald Trump, who seemed passionate about defending white Americas borders and voting rolls from usurpers such as Muslim refugees, undocumented Latinos and poor blacks.

One of the first online hubs to notice Drehers article about Curry was a Reddit forum devoted to the lionisation of President Trump. When Is It OK To Kill Whites? somebody wrote there, posting a link to Drehers article on The American Conservative. THE HELL?!?! This guy teaches at Texas A&M!! Liberalism at Universities as [sic] gotten completely out of hand!! Cristina Laila, a writer for The Gateway Pundit, a blog devoted to exposing the wickedness of the left, also saw Drehers post about Curry. This is more proof that rasicsm [sic] is ok, she wrote, as long as the attacks are against whites.

Infowars was next. Then, on 10 May, somebody posted a link on the neo-Nazi website Stormfront. Some of the people who responded seemed to welcome the thought of a race war. They liked their chances. My West Point and 82nd Airborne cousins are more than happy to accommodate those of us who may need a little help in just such an emergency, wrote one person. So please, oh pretty please, do TRY to initiate hostilities sooner rather than later.

Curry had succeeded in getting people across the country to talk about racial violence in the name of self-defence. Now they were talking about how Texas A&M University needed to defend itself from Curry. To hundreds of people on the forums of TexAgs, an A&M community site, the answer was clear. Can we not fire him? wrote one person. What an embarrassment to Texas A&M, wrote another. Waiting on a response from President Young, knowing it will never come.

Michael Young, a lawyer, was hired to run Texas A&M in 2015 after a four-year stint as president of the University of Washington. At his new university, Young had swiftly earned a reputation as an able navigator of public-relations crises relating to racism. In 2016, white students had taunted a group of black and Latino high-school students who were visiting the campus from a Dallas preparatory school. One A&M student reportedly asked the prospective students what they thought of her Confederate flag earrings; other students told the high-school visitors to go back where they came from.

Michael K Young, president of Texas A&M University. Photograph: Youtube/Texas A&M

Young responded by announcing an investigation and then travelling to Dallas to personally apologise to the students who had been harassed. He was later praised widely for making a heartfelt response without rushing to judgment.

Kneejerk responses have to be avoided at all costs, Young said a few weeks after the incident. The key to beating the outrage machine, he said, is to know exactly what your university stands for. If you do that, even if it doesnt play out the way the Twitter world initially thinks it should, you never have to back away or apologise.

Texas A&M officials quickly realised that Drehers article might become a problem. Amy Smith, senior vice president for marketing and communications, advised the head of the philosophy department, Theodore George, on how to respond to inquiries about Curry. Barring direct threats by him to others, Dr Curry has a first-amendment right to offer his personal views on this subject, she advised him to say, no matter how incendiary and inappropriate others may consider them to be.

It soon became clear that would not be enough.

Even before Currys comments were covered in the mainstream press, Porter Garner III, head of the Texas A&M Association of Former Students, an influential fundraising body, began receiving angry calls from donors. They thought Curry was encouraging violence against white people. Many of the callers might not have been fully informed of the context of Currys words, said Garner, but some of them were longtime donors, volunteers, and friends of the university, and their concerns were pretty rational and very respectful.

Young said he disagreed with the idea that Curry was inciting violence. But as president of the university, he felt an obligation to take the concerns seriously. Public outrage can be perilous for a public university, especially when race is involved. After black students and their allies caused a national stir by protesting racism at the University of Missouri in 2015, the universitys fundraising efforts took a big hit, and it became a punching bag for the conservative state legislature. Two years later, freshman enrolment has dropped by 35%, and the university has temporarily shuttered seven dormitories.

Young said that finances were not on his mind as he weighed what to do about Curry, but also that he acknowledged the importance of staying in the good graces of constituencies beyond the campus. People send their children to A&M, and students come to A&M, because its a very special place, he said in an interview. I didnt want anybody to doubt what they believe it stands for is what it stands for.

On the morning of 10 May, Curry was asked to meet with university administrators. The professor agreed, but told them he wanted another person of colour in the meeting. He didnt want to feel surrounded by people who didnt get it. At the meeting, Curry said, he got the impression that university officials wanted to draw a distinction between his radio commentary and his work for Texas A&M. But Curry told the university officials there was no difference. Earlier in the year, a panel of judges from the Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy had honored Currys radio work by giving him an award for public philosophy. His radio commentary wasnt some offbeat rant, the professor told his bosses. This is part of what you hired me to do.

They backed down a little bit, Curry said. He said they told him to put his defence in writing, so they could use it to respond to people who were contacting the university to complain. Curry wrote in the third person, assuming that his bosses would adopt his voice as their own.

The inflammatory phrase When is it OK to kill white people, he wrote, referring to Drehers headline, deliberately misconstrues Dr Currys distinction between revolutionary violence and self-defense. He continued: Dr Curry, drawing from the Second Amendment tradition, suggests that the laws failure to protect the lives of Black, Latino, and Muslim Americans requires new conversations which may require self-defense and more radical options than protest. In no way does his work promote or incite violence toward whites or any other racial group. The professor sent the text to his department chair that evening. Two hours later, Curry was sitting in his apartment, at his computer, when a message arrived from President Young. It was addressed not to Curry, but to all faculty, staff and students.

As you may know, a podcast interview by one of our professors that took place approximately four-and-a-half years ago resurfaced this week on social media, seen for the first time by many of us, wrote Young. The interview features disturbing comments about race and violence that stand in stark contrast to Aggie [Texas A&M] core values most notably those of respect, excellence, leadership and integrity values that we hold true toward all of humanity.

Curry read the email, the text of which was later posted on the universitys website, with dawning anger. Hes throwing me under the bus, the professor thought. Young continued: As we know, the First Amendment of the US Constitution protects the rights of others to offer their personal views, no matter how reprehensible those views may be. It also protects our right to freedom of speech, which I am exercising now. We stand for equality. We stand against the advocacy of violence, hate and killing. We firmly commit to the success, not the destruction, of each other.

Have no fear, the president assured them: Texas A&Ms core values remained intact.

Smith, the communications vice president, immediately sent Youngs statement to the presidents of all the non-profit organisations that help fund Texas A&M. She felt good about the statement. Fair was fair: in December 2016, when the white nationalist Richard Spencer visited Texas A&M, Young made it clear that the university did not share his values, either. After trying and failing to bar Spencer from speaking on campus, university leaders organised a unity-themed rally in the football stadium. If youre a purveyor of hate and divisiveness, said John C Sharp, the chancellor, and you want to spew that kind of racism, this is the last campus on earth that you want to come to to do that.

In light of the situation with Curry, Smith found herself moved by the chancellors words. It is even more meaningful now, she wrote to the president the next morning, as we articulated our core values again yesterday in a new-but-related situation that shows we mean this equitably.

But the statement did little to slow the momentum of the story. The outrage machine was just warming up. Conservative writers struggled to square their love of free speech with their horror at Currys words. Certainly, no one should be stopped for sharing and debating ideas; the country has seen too many prohibitions of speech in past years, wrote Ron Meyer, editor of Red Alert Politics, a Washington-based blog. However, paying a professor to share radical ideas on behalf of a university has nothing to do with free speech.

Garner, of the Association of Former Students, was still getting calls from alumni who thought Young had not gone far enough. Some said the president should have condemned Curry more forcefully. Others were upset that the professor hadnt been fired. A petition was started encouraging alumni to withhold all donations to Texas A&M and its affiliated fundraisers until the board took action against Curry and Young. The alumni were not the only ones who were upset. Youngs attempt to get ahead of a national story created another outrage closer to home.

To some of Currys colleagues, the statement the president sent out to mollify the professors critics was not an affirmation of the universitys core values. It was a betrayal of the sacred privilege of academic freedom. Joe Feagin, a long-serving sociology professor, wrote to Young the next morning. Michael, he wrote, I wish you had contacted me about the Curry matter. In a separate email to a student newspaper reporter, Feagin argued that Currys 2012 radio piece was, in fact, based on good research.

Nandra Perry, an associate professor of English, also wrote to the president. Previously, she had assumed the university would have her back if anybody used a classroom recording to attack her. Now she wasnt so sure. To call this incident a blow to academic freedom, Perry told Young, doesnt begin to do justice to the chill it will have on my teaching, and indeed the teaching of almost everyone I know.

Perhaps the most scathing rebuke to the president came in a letter signed by every faculty member in the Africana Studies department, where Curry also holds a faculty appointment. The history of black thought, they said, includes more than Martin Luther King Jrs crossover hits. By dismissing Currys comments on violent resistance as personal views, they said, Young had delegitimised the professors expertise and dismissed centuries of history.

Blacks in the United States live with the daily fear that a traffic stop, or a trip to the store or the park, could be the end of their lives, wrote the professors. Yet we cannot talk about black resistance? Historically or contemporaneously? They demanded an apology.

When Dreher heard that Curry was getting death threats, he wrote a follow-up blogpost. Anyone threatening violence against Curry, he said, should be ashamed and, if possible, arrested. I hope Dr Curry is armed, he added, so that if anybody shows up at his house threatening him, he defends his home and family by any means necessary. Still, Dreher stuck by his interpretation of Currys 2012 radio commentary. I dont believe Tommy Curry is encouraging black people to go out today and cut throats, he wrote. I think he is entertaining dangerous thoughts here, same as far-right white radicals. (He later would write a third post, which was removed, comparing the professor to Emperor Palpatine, the Star Wars villain who encourages morally complex characters to give in to the dark side.)

An anti-racist rally at the University of Missouri in 2015. Photograph: Michael B Thomas/Getty Images

Curry read the second blogpost somewhat differently from how Dreher had meant it. That evening the professor wrote an email to Young with a headline that was provocative, if a bit misleading: Rod Dreher retracts.

The president decided to make another statement, and his advisers spent several days discussing how to thread the needle. On 17 May, a week after Young had put out his statement about Texas A&Ms values, he put out a new one. He said he was committed to academic freedom. He acknowledged that scholars often find their work oversimplified or misunderstood. He reiterated the universitys position that racial violence is always bad. He did not, however, offer a personal apology to Curry.

Despite the title of Currys email to Young, Dreher has not changed his views on Currys ideas. Dreher believes the only practical solution to racial resentment is the power of forgiveness. In 2015, Dreher marvelled at the Christ-like love of the teenage children of Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, one of the nine black parishioners killed by the white supremacist Dylann Roof at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Roof shot her five times. The next night, at a vigil for their mother, Chris and Camryn Coleman-Singleton told an interviewer that they had already forgiven Roof.

Dreher saw their gesture as both inspiring and necessary. There will always be haters, of all kinds, and sometimes those haters will murder in service of the hate that consumes them, he wrote at the time. But to deny that things have changed for the better, and can change for the better if we work at it, is to deny to ourselves the hope that inspired Martin Luther King and the civil rights heroes.

Curry is no hero, Dreher said. He thinks the professors talk of racial violence is reckless, and that he should cut it out before he inspires somebody to do real harm. Tommy Currys big fat radical mouth gets to me, he wrote in an email, because of the consequences of the things he believes and says. Its not a joke.

Back in America, Curry was more worried about the consequences of what Dreher believed and said about him. For two weeks, Curry rarely left his apartment, as messages arrived by email warning him of what might happen if he did. You and your entire family of low-IQ, affirmative-action herpes-infected african monkeys might need to be put to death. There were dozens like that. The professor forwarded them to the campus police department. Curry said a detective told him some of the messages appeared to have been sent from within the county. Police officers made a point of regularly driving past his apartment building for several weeks. But Curry worried about whether his six-year-old was safe at her elementary school. Driving her home at the end of the day, he would circle the block a few times to make sure they had not been followed.

Nobody came to his door, knocked him down, disarmed him, fired a bullet between his legs or made him beg for his life. The mob that came for Curry was digital and diffuse, everywhere and nowhere. The goal, however, was the same as ever: fear. And it worked. The Currys left town. They had already been planning to move, but Curry and his wife decided to leave early to stay with family. His daughters thought they were going on vacation. He does not plan to bring them when he returns to Texas A&M in the autumn.

In the course of his life, Curry has embodied both the promise of racial progress and its limitations. He was able to study at an integrated school, but his hometown remained divided by the legacy of segregation. He was hired by a university that wanted more black professors, then was mocked by conservative students who assumed his insight was worthless. He earned honours from his colleagues, then anger from strangers and a tepid defence from his bosses.

If thats the American dream, said Curry, then Id hate to see what the actual nightmare is. He plans to return to Texas A&M in the fall as a full professor. He knows there are people there who want him gone. He no longer trusts the university to defend him. He only hopes he can defend himself.

Main photograph by Benjamin Rasmussen. A longer version of this article first appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

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