The Department of History Condemns Police Brutality

The following statement was composed by Department of History faculty and the officers of the History Graduate Student Association (HGSA).  We recognize that words are necessary but not sufficient.  We look forward to working together to change our department and our campus for the better.  It is our hope that if you forward or post this statement, you will include this message.
                                                    --Dana Rabin, Professor and Interim Chair


The History Department of the University of Illinois grieves and stands with colleagues and students throughout the university, and with all Black people in the United States, to deplore the recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Tony McDade. We are deeply conscious of the long history of legally sanctioned brutality against people of color, especially Black and indigenous communities of this country: the violent removals, enslavements, lynchings, inhumane carceral regimes, and systems of spatial, educational, and economic discrimination.

These histories have engendered sorrow, anger, and trauma within the communities that have endured them over many generations. Equally, these communities have produced brave, militant, and concerted movements to protest and transform the structures of power and racism that perpetuate police brutality, mass incarceration, denial of access to health care, and economic marginalization. We condemn the immorality of these systems and commit ourselves to producing knowledge collaboratively that leads to understanding their sources and transforming them for the common good.

We especially call on white members of our university, local, and national communities to learn about the history of racism and white nationalism in our country. We can observe systems of oppression operating today all around us. The stories and knowledge of Black and indigenous people are available to us: listen, affirm, and learn. Such learning must then move us to action, to end the inequalities and injustices that are so presently apparent in the devastating toll of COVID-19 on people of color and the unconscionable toleration of murderous methods of policing in our communities.

We call on the officials of our immediate communities, Champaign and Urbana, to commit to eliminating racial profiling and violence by police against citizens, most recently in the case of Aleyah Lewis. These cities and their police departments must adopt and observe shared principles for relations between law enforcement and the communities they serve outlined by the Illinois Chapter of the NAACP:

We call on faculty, administrators, students, and staff to recognize the part that institutions of higher education have played in producing and maintaining systemic racism. We all must dedicate ourselves to dismantling these ideologies and practices by marshaling the expertise of faculty, the energy of students, and the leadership of the administration, in order to develop meaningful approaches to mitigating racism and inequality at our university and in our society.


Approved by the Department of History Faculty on Wednesday, June 4, 2020.


American Association of University Professors, Washington, DC
American Historical Association, Washington, DC
Association for the Study of African American Life and History, Washington, DC
Newberry Library, Chicago, IL 
Organization of American Historians, Bloomington, IN
Go here for a list of relevant readings.
Facing History and Ourselves, Brookline, MA
Radical History Review, Atlantic Highlands, NJ