Historical events are often used both as descriptors and ‘projections’ of the tenor of a nation. The election of Barak Obama as the 44th president of the United States was seen as a turning point in U.S. history. How should this historical event inform the framing and teaching of higher education courses which focus on race and cultural issues in the U.S.? This question was asked of adult learners enrolled in a course examining the African American experience in the U.S. Since the higher education classroom provides a unique opportunity to present, explore and understand many controversial issues citizens grapple with in the U.S. and the world this paper presents and discusses the ways in which the higher education classroom can respond to this question. This paper shares the tenor of the nation related in the literature—the historical, preelection and post-election period—and students’ identification of themes and issues such as tolerance, respect for each others’ perspectives, culture and open-mindedness, that are essential to the curriculum in order to increase knowledge, provide a forum for mutual exchange which can improve racial understanding.



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