Take Free Courses on African-American History from Yale and Stanford: From Emancipation, to the Civil Rights Movement, and Beyond

As every American knows, February is Black History Month. And as every American also knows — if the events of 2020 haven't warped their sense of time too badly — is isn't February right now. But thanks to online learning technology, we all have the freedom to study any subject we want, as much as we want, whenever we want, irrespective of the time of year. Sources of internet-based education have proliferated in the 21st century, but long-respected institutions of higher learning have also got in on the action. Yale University, for example, has produced the online course African American History: Emancipation to the Present, whose 25 lectures by history professor Jonathan Holloway you can watch on YouTube, or at Yale's web site. The first lecture appears above.

Originally recorded in the spring of 2010, Holloway's course examines "the African American experience in the United States from 1863 to the present," involving such chapters of history as "the end of the Civil War and the beginning of Reconstruction" and "African Americans’ urbanization experiences."




It also includes lectures on the "thought and leadership of Booker T. Washington, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, W.E.B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X" — all writers and thinkers Open Culture readers will have encountered before, but a course like African American History: Emancipation to the Present offers the opportunity to consider their lives and work in clearer context and greater detail.

Black history has deeper roots in some parts of the United States than others. But that doesn't mean the universities of the west have nothing to offer in this department: take, for example, Stanford University's African-American History: Modern Freedom Struggle, taught by the historian (and editor of MLK's papers) Clayborne Carson. Available to watch on YouTube and iTunes (or right above), its 18 lectures deliver an introduction to "African-American history, with particular emphasis on the political thought and protest movements of the period after 1930, focusing on selected individuals who have shaped and been shaped by modern African-American struggles for freedom and justice." Taken together, these online courses offer you more than enough material to hold your own Black History Month right now.

Note: Clay Carson's course can also be taken as a MOOC on edX. Enroll now in American Prophet: The Inner Life and Global Vision of Martin Luther King, Jr. And find the courses listed above in our collection, 1,500 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

140 Courses Starting at Stanford Continuing Studies Next Week: Explore the Catalogue of Campus and Online Courses

Quick fyi: I spend my days at Stanford Continuing Studies, where we've developed a rich lineup of online courses for lifelong learners, many of which will get started next week. The courses aren't free. But they're first rate, giving adult students--no matter where they live--the chance to work with dedicated teachers and students.

The catalogue includes a large number of online Creative Writing courses, covering the Novel, the Memoir, Creative Nonfiction, Travel Writing, Poetry and more. For the professional, the program offers online business courses in subjects like Entrepreneurship: From Ideas to FundingAn Introduction to Project Management: The Basics for Success and Finding Product/Market Fit: Using Design Research for New Product Success.

And there's a growing number of online Liberal Arts courses too. Take for example Constitutional Law, An Introduction to Jane Austen and Diet and Gene Expression: You Are What You Eat.

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, check out the larger catalogue. Stanford Continuing Studies has 140 courses getting started this Spring quarter (next week), most taking place in Stanford's classrooms. The two flagship courses of the quarter include: The Genius of Leonardo da Vinci: A 500th Anniversary Celebration and 20th-Century American Literature: An Intellectual Bus Tour with Michael Krasny, the host of KQED’s Forum.

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Journalism Under Siege: A Free Course from Stanford Explores the Imperiled Freedom of the Press

This past fall, Stanford Continuing Studies and the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships teamed up to offer an important course on the challenges facing journalism and the freedom of the press. Called Journalism Under Siege? Truth and Trust in a Time of Turmoil, the five-week course featured 28 journalists and media experts, all offering insights on the emerging challenges facing the media across the United States and the wider world. The lectures/presentations are now all online. Find them below, along with the list of guest speakers, which includes Alex Stamos who blew the whistle on Russia's manipulation of the Facebook platform during the 2016 election. Journalism Under Siege will be added to our collection, 1,500 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

Weekly Sessions:

  • Week 1 –  First Draft of History: How a Free Press Protects Freedom; Part OnePart Two
  • Week 2 –  Power to the People: Holding the Powerful Accountable; Part OnePart Two
  • Week 3 – Picking Sides? How Journalists Cover Bias, Intolerance and Injustice; Part OnePart Two
  • Week 4 – The Last Stand of Local News; Part OnePart Two
  • Week 5 – The Misinformation Society; Part OnePart Two

Guest Speakers:

  • Hannah Allam, national reporter, BuzzFeed News
  • Roman Anin, investigations editor, Novaya Gazeta, Moscow
  • Hugo Balta, president, National Association of Hispanic Journalists
  • Sally Buzbee, executive editor, Associated Press (AP)
  • Neil Chase, executive editor, San Jose Mercury News
  • Audrey Cooper, editor-in-chief, San Francisco Chronicle
  • Jenée Desmond-Harris, staff editor, NYT Opinion, New York Times
  • Jiquanda Johnson, founder and publisher, Flint Beat
  • Joel Konopo, managing partner, INK Centre for Investigative Journalism, Gaborone, Botswana
  • Richard Lui, anchor, MSNBC and NBC News
  • Geraldine Moriba, former vice president for diversity and inclusion, CNN
  • Bryan Pollard, president, Native American Journalists Association
  • Cecile Prieur, deputy editor, Le Monde, Paris
  • Joel Simon, executive director, Committee to Protect Journalists
  • Alex Stamos, former Facebook chief security officer
  • Marina Walker Guevara, winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting for coordinating the Panama Papers investigation

 

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Watch 110 Lectures by Donald Knuth, “the Yoda of Silicon Valley,” on Programming, Mathematical Writing, and More

Many see the realms of literature and computers as not just completely separate, but growing more distant from one another all the time. Donald Knuth, one of the most respected figures of all the most deeply computer-savvy in Silicon Valley, sees it differently. His claims to fame include The Art of Computer Programming, an ongoing multi-volume series of books whose publication began more than fifty years ago, and the digital typesetting system TeX, which, in a recent profile of Knuth, the New York Times' Siobhan Roberts describes as "the gold standard for all forms of scientific communication and publication."

Some, Roberts writes, consider TeX "Dr. Knuth’s greatest contribution to the world, and the greatest contribution to typography since Gutenberg." At the core of his lifelong work is an idea called "literate programming," which emphasizes "the importance of writing code that is readable by humans as well as computers — a notion that nowadays seems almost twee.




Dr. Knuth has gone so far as to argue that some computer programs are, like Elizabeth Bishop’s poems and Philip Roth’s American Pastoral, works of literature worthy of a Pulitzer." Knuth's mind, technical achievements, and style of communication have earned him the informal title of "the Yoda of Silicon Valley."

That appellation also reflects a depth of technical wisdom only attainable by getting to the very bottom of things, which in Knuth's case means fully understanding how computer programming works all the way down to the most basic level. (This in contrast to the average programmer, writes Roberts, who "no longer has time to manipulate the binary muck, and works instead with hierarchies of abstraction, layers upon layers of code — and often with chains of code borrowed from code libraries.) Now everyone can get more than a taste of Knuth's perspective and thoughts on computers, programming, and a host of related subjects on the Youtube channel of Stanford University, where Knuth is now professor emeritus (and where he still gives informal lectures under the banner "Computer Musings").

Stanford's online archive of Donald Knuth Lectures now numbers 110, ranging across the decades and covering such subjects as the usage and mechanics of TeX, the analysis of algorithms, and the nature of mathematical writing. "I am worried that algorithms are getting too prominent in the world,” he tells Roberts in the New York Times profile. “It started out that computer scientists were worried nobody was listening to us. Now I’m worried that too many people are listening." But having become a computer scientist before the field of computer science even had a name, the now-octogenarian Knuth possesses a rare perspective to which anyone in 21st-century technology could certainly benefit from exposure.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

150 Courses Starting at Stanford Continuing Studies Next Week: Explore the Catalogue of Campus and Online Courses

Quick fyi: I spend my days at Stanford Continuing Studies, where we've developed a rich lineup of online courses for lifelong learners, many of which will get started next week. The courses aren't free. But they're first rate, giving adult students--no matter where they live--the chance to work with dedicated teachers and students.

The catalogue includes a large number of online Creative Writing courses, covering the Novel, the Memoir, Creative Nonfiction, Travel Writing, Poetry and more. For the professional, the program offers online business courses in subjects like Fundamentals of Project ManagementValue Investing: An IntroductionHow to Build Successful Startups: Learn Lessons Straight from Silicon Valley Entrepreneurs and Leadership by Design: Using Design Thinking to Transform Companies and CareersAnd there's a growing number of online Liberal Arts courses too. Take for example The Geology and Wines of California and FranceDrawing Inspiration: Developing a Creative Practice, and The Daily Photograph: Developing Your Creative Intuition.

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, check out the larger catalogue. Stanford Continuing Studies has 150 courses getting started this Winter quarter (next week), many taking place in Stanford's classrooms. The two flagship courses of the quarter include: Pivotal Moments That Shaped the Modern World and The Ethics of Technological Disruption: A Conversation with Silicon Valley Leaders and Beyond.

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130 Courses Starting at Stanford Continuing Studies Next Week: Explore the Catalogue of Campus and Online Courses

Quick fyi: I spend my days at Stanford Continuing Studies, where we've developed a rich lineup of online courses, many of which will get started next week. The courses aren't free. But they're first rate, giving adult students--no matter where they live--the chance to work with dedicated teachers and students.

The catalogue includes a large number of online Creative Writing courses, covering the Novel, the Memoir, Creative Nonfiction, Travel Writing, Poetry and more. For the professional, the program offers online business courses in subjects like An Introduction to Project ManagementHow to Build Successful Startups: Learn Lessons Straight from Silicon Valley EntrepreneursValue Investing: An Introduction, and Leadership by Design: Using Design Thinking to Transform Companies and CareersAnd there's a growing number of online Liberal Arts courses too. Take for example Leo Tolstoy's War and PeaceThe History of WineGreek Mythology and Drawing Inspiration: Developing a Creative Practice.

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, check out the larger catalogue. Stanford Continuing Studies has 130+ courses getting started this Summer quarter (next week), many taking place in Stanford's classrooms. For anyone living outside of California, check out the program's list of online courses here.

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Free: A Crash Course in Design Thinking from Stanford’s Design School

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Hidden Ancient Greek Medical Text Read for the First Time in a Thousand Years — with a Particle Accelerator

Image by Farrin Abbott/SLAC, via Flickr Commons

Long before humanity had paper to write on, we had papyrus. Made of the pith of the wetland plant Cyperus papyrus and first used in ancient Egypt, it made for quite a step up in terms of convenience from, say, the stone tablet. And not only could you write on it, you could rewrite on it. In that sense it was less the paper of its day than the first-generation video tape: given the expense of the stuff, it often made sense to erase the content already written on a piece of papyrus in order to record something more timely. But you couldn't completely obliterate the previous layers of text, a fact that has long held out promise to scholars of ancient history looking to expand their field of primary sources.

The decidedly non-ancient solution: particle accelerators. Researchers at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL) recently used one to find the hidden text in what's now called the Syriac Galen Palimpsest. It contains, somewhere deep in its pages, “On the Mixtures and Powers of Simple Drugs,” an "important pharmaceutical text that would help educate fellow Greek-Roman doctors," writes Amanda Solliday at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.




Originally composed by Galen of Pergamon, "an influential physician and a philosopher of early Western medicine," the work made its way into the 6th-century Islamic world through a translation into a language between Greek and Arabic called Syriac.

Image by Farrin Abbott/SLAC, via Flickr Commons

Alas, "despite the physician’s fame, the most complete surviving version of the translated manuscript was erased and written over with hymns in the 11th century – a common practice at the time." Palimpsest, the word coined to describe such texts written, erased, and written over on pre-paper materials like papyrus and parchment, has long since had a place in the lexicon as a metaphor for anything long-historied, multi-layered, and fully understandable only with effort. The Stanford team's effort involved a technique called X-ray fluorescence (XRF), whose rays "knock out electrons close to the nuclei of metal atoms, and these holes are filled with outer electrons resulting in characteristic X-ray fluorescence that can be picked up by a sensitive detector."

Those rays "penetrate through layers of text and calcium, and the hidden Galen text and the newer religious text fluoresce in slightly different ways because their inks contain different combinations of metals such as iron, zinc, mercury and copper." Each of the leather-bound book's 26 pages takes ten hours to scan, and the enormous amounts of new data collected will presumably occupy a variety of experts on the ancient world — on the Greek and Islamic civilizations, on their languages, on their medicine — for much longer thereafter. But you do have to wonder: what kind of unimaginably advanced technology will our descendants a millennium and a half years from now be using to read all of the stuff we thought we'd erased?

via SLAC

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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