AHA Member Spotlight: Barbara L. Tischler
Barbara L. Tischler is a lecturer in the Black Male Initiative program at Empire State College, State University of New York. The program's Fortified Classroom offers a rigorous classroom experience and substantive academic support for adult students of color earning associate and bachelor's degrees. The Re-Entry Program introduces recently incarcerated prospective students to the values and standards of college. Dr. Tischler lives in New York, New York, and has been a member since 1979.
Alma maters: BA (music), Douglass College, Rutgers University, 1971; MMus (performance, oboe), Manhattan School of Music, 1973; MA, Columbia University, 1978; MPhil, Columbia University, 1980; PhD, Columbia University, 1983
Fields of interest: American culture, African American culture, GI anti-Vietnam War movement, women in protest movements, language of enslaved people, American constitutional history
Describe your career path. What led you to where you are today?
My career has led me from music performance to college teaching and administration to independent school teaching and administration, including serving as a head of school. The constant throughout is teaching at various levels, including graduate teaching at Columbia University Teachers College.
What do you like the most about where you live and work?
New York is an exciting place. Even in a pandemic, there is much to love about our parks, our street, and our diverse and interesting population. And most of us wear masks!
What projects are you currently working on?
My most recent project was an inquiry into the discourse of enslaved people as an aspect of community and resistance. It has been exciting to read the insights included in what we used to call “slave narratives.” I developed an interest in constitutional history by teaching a course at Teachers College on the US Constitution.
Have your interests evolved since graduation? If so, how?
My interests have broadened, mainly as a result of teaching opportunities. This is especially true in my interest in learning more abut the Constitution and Supreme Court history after teaching a course on the document to graduate students during several summers. I give pocket copies of the Constitution to all my students and am proud to have an inscription from Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor at the top of Article III.
What’s the most fascinating thing you’ve ever found at the archives or while doing research?
For a biography of Muhammad Ali published in 2015, I found the dismissive comments by sportswriters, many of whom persisted in referring to “Cassius Clay,” to be fascinating. They found it difficult to accept his success in the ring as well as his insistence on speaking his mind.
Is there an article, book, movie, blog etc. that you could recommend to fellow AHA members?
Take time during the pandemic and re-read a book you haven't looked at in a decade or more.
What do you value most about the history discipline?
Studying history provides an ongoing forum for conversation, among ourselves as professional historians, with our students, and with historical actors themselves.
Why is membership in the AHA important to you?
I have enjoyed connections, in person and through reading the work of colleagues. AHA meetings and publications support these connections.
Do you have a favorite AHA annual meeting anecdote you would like to share?
The annual meeting always provided a chance to meet someone new to me and to develop professional relationships. And who does not enjoy wandering through the book exhibits?
AHA members are involved in all fields of history, with wide-ranging specializations, interests, and areas of employment. To recognize our talented and eclectic membership, Perspectives Daily features a regular AHA Member Spotlight series.
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