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Randolph professor, students collaborate on podcast project

This fall, American Culture professor Justina Lincata tasked her students with creating podcast episodes about a book they'd read about the African American experience.

During the fall semester, Randolph professor Justina Licata tasked her students with creating a podcast focusing on a book they’d read about the African American experience. The result, “The Perils of a Racist America,” features 17 episodes and can be found on Apple podcasts. 

As she was planning for the fall semester, Randolph professor Justina Licata wanted to find ways for her students’ work to reach beyond the classroom.

“When they work on assignments, I’m usually the only person who reads them or sees them,” said Licata, the Ainsworth Visiting Assistant Professor of American Culture. “I’m trying to think about assignments and projects that they could potentially put on a CV, something that could be a resume builder.”

Students who took her African Americans and the Creation of America course last semester now have just that, thanks to a podcast recording project assigned by Licata.

The result, The Perils of a Racist America: A Podcast by Randolph College, features 17 episodes, recorded by students, focusing on books about the Black experience. They range in length from 8 to 10 minutes and can be found here.

“This summer, as a result of all the social justice movements, there were so many great discussions about important books about the African American experience, which is amazing and exciting,” Licata said. “But you can only really pick a couple of books for students to read during the semester. I picked three, and my way of incorporating more was having every student read an additional book and record a podcast about it.”

Licata provided a list of more than 30 books and met with students to discuss their choices.

While she was finishing her Ph.D., Licata recorded her own podcast and wanted to bring that experience to students. “I took a public history course and started thinking about ways that history is disseminated, and how historians get their research out there. I like the idea that it’s not just books. I think this makes it more accessible.”

“I wanted it to be a celebration of these books,” she said. “It was really great to see all these books about the Black experience on the New York Times bestseller list this summer. And some of them were written three or four years ago. I was really inspired by that. I was hoping to kind of commemorate that moment, but also keep people inspired to keep reading and buying these books.”

Students’ choices included The Autobiography of Malcolm X; James Baldwin’s Notes of a Native Son and Go Tell It on the Mountain; James McBride’s The Good Lord Bird; Timothy Tyson’s The Blood of Emmett Till; W.E.B. DuBois’s The Souls of Black Folk; and Ibram X. Kendi’s How to be an Antiracist.

Iyanla Doggett ’24 chose Dorothy Roberts’s Killing the Black Body, which highlights the need for reproductive justice for Black women.

“The title of the book really encapsulates the harsh treatment, hardships, bondage, and systematic racism and discrimination African American women faced while they were pregnant,” said Doggett, who eventually wants to study obstetrics and gynecology.

Through the course and project, she’s developed a passion to learn more about the history of African American struggles, especially for women.

“Doing a podcast as a final project assignment was very creative, and I enjoyed that,” Doggett said, noting how she and classmates discussed a range of issues from their book selections throughout the semester.

Isabel Stephens ’23, who chose Baldwin’s Go Tell It On the Mountain, enjoyed the challenge of exploring a different type of media while working with Licata to refine the finished product.

“I think, more than creating the recordings, this assignment allowed students to dive deeper into topics that were only briefly discussed in class,” Licata said. “I was so impressed by their abilities to synthesize very nuanced books and arguments and write about them for a larger audience. Assigning an untraditional class project asks students to write in a different tone and approach the project with an open mind, which this group of students did with enthusiasm.”

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