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Learning from the Legacy of Josie

A Conversation with Dr. Catherine Squires

March 12, 2024

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Catherine R. Squires

Throughout her life, Dr. Josie Johnson has been a fierce advocate for creating a more just world for learners.

Alongside the production of the documentary, Hope in the Struggle: The Josie Johnson Story, TPT Learn worked with Dr. Catherine Squires to create education resources that dive deeper into the topics discussed. In addition, Catherine worked closely with co-author and fellow educator, Theresa Collins, to create the collection. All of these resources and the documentary can be viewed and downloaded for free on PBS LearningMedia.

Dr. Catherine R. Squires recently retired as Associate Dean of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. Professor Squires is the author of multiple books and articles on media, race, gender, and politics, including Dispatches from the Color Line (2007) and The Post-Racial Mystique (2014), and the edited collection Dangerous Discourses: Feminism, Gun Violence & Civic Life (2016). She has engaged in multiple community partnerships in the Twin Cities to uplift and share local Black histories, support BIPOC writers, curate panels, host conferences and facilitate intergenerational story sharing.

We had the opportunity to ask Dr. Catherine Squires about the curriculum she helped co-create and how she believes teachers can use it in their classrooms.

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Can you tell us about your relationship with Dr. Josie Johnson and your relationship with the work described in the documentary? 

I had the privilege of working with students at the University to design an exhibit for the Josie R. Johnson Community Room at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Like the classroom resources for the film, the exhibit features reflective questions and illustrates the many connections between Dr. Johnson and a host of local and national leaders she worked with on civil rights issues.

I also had the privilege of meeting with Dr. Johnson and members of the community, including Dr. John Wright, who is featured in the film, to preview the content of the exhibit and to celebrate its opening last year. These interactions reinforced for me how important it is to publicly share the stories of people like Dr. Johnson while they are living so that the records we create are accurate reflections of their own understanding of their legacy and to have contributions from their colleagues, friends, and family to round out the whole picture.  

Can you tell us more about the education curriculum for the documentary that you helped co-create?

The lesson plans for Hope in the Struggle are designed to provide educators with additional context for students to interact with the film’s intimate portrait of Josie R. Johnson’s life and legacy. Through discussion questions, supplemental readings, and review of original historical documents, students will explore the ways Dr. Johnson, her contemporaries, and her predecessors found ways to advance justice and equality, both in Minnesota and across the USA.   

What do you hope educators and learners will take from the resources you are sharing? 

Dr. Johnson is a true ‘living legend’ whose career brought her into contact with numerous famous individuals, organizations, and events that teachers and students will likely have heard of before they watch the film. The mix of personal stories and testimonies from Dr. Johnson and her granddaughters bring these momentous historical figures and events into a more human-scaled framework, which I believe will help students see their own potential to make contributions to society, to work in community to make positive changes for the future.   

Are there ways for folks who loved the documentary and lesson plans to learn more about the topics discussed? 

The lesson plans have lots of links to resources, such as the Smithsonian Museum, library archives, and lesson plans developed by non-profit organizations dedicated to civic engagement and civil rights. Students and teachers can use these links to continue their exploration beyond the lesson plans and get an even broader sense of how Dr. Johnson’s life and legacy link to larger historical and contemporary events and trends. 

Watch the full documentary and download the education resources for free on PBS LearningMedia

© Twin Cities Public Television - 2024. All rights reserved.


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