Race in America

From settler colonialism to the Civil Rights Movement to current movements for racial and social justice, explore the roots of racial inequality and racism in Minnesota and across the United States. Students will learn from the leaders and organizers from past and contemporary movements for justice including those whose demands and work for change spurred the 2020 Twin Cities summer uprising. 

Accepting applications for Summer 2022

Program Structure

Program Structure TBA for Summer 2022

Topics & Themes

Racial justice, history of the Civil Rights movement, racism and white supremacy in America, community organizing and advocacy, environmental justice


Multi-state program

Terms & Dates

Summer 2022 (June 6 - July 8)


6 credits (4 credits for University of Minnesota students)

Program Overview

HECUA’s Race in America program poses the question: how are ordinary people moved to extraordinary action?  For years, HECUA students have worked to address this question by examining The Black Freedom Movement of the 1950s and 60s, and more recently, Black Lives Matter — all from the perspective of the people and places of the American South. 

In response to the murder of George Floyd, and subsequent summer uprisings in our communities and across the country, HECUA is making the Race in America program a special Twin Cities-based offering for Summer 2021. As this program responds to this critical moment in the history of our community and nation, we will work to honor the thematic priorities of the Race in America program, including remote engagement with HECUA community partners in Mississippi and elsewhere in the South.

The Race in America-Twin Cities program examines the unique and destructive legacy of settler colonialism in Minnesota and its impacts on our Indigenous communities, later Black Minnesotans, and more recently, other communities of color, including new immigrants. Today, Minnesotans enjoy some of the highest quality of life indicators in the country. However, there are also staggering economic and educational disparities – some of the widest gaps in the US– between BIPOC Minnesotans and their White counterparts, particularly across urban communities. The murder of George Floyd and the summer uprisings of 2020 revealed to the world that racial and economic justice in Minnesota and across this nation are far from reality. 

Students in HECUA’s Race in America-Twin Cities program are introduced to a new generation of leaders who are working to meet critical challenges in education, policing and public safety, voting rights, environmental justice, and the establishment of a model for grassroots cooperative economics. Students will leave this program with a profound understanding of past and current movements for justice, new ways to examine issues of power and privilege, and a deeper understanding of their own capacity to make change.   

Staff and Faculty

Lena Jones

Program Director Lena Jones directs Portrait of Lena JonesHECUA’s summer program Race in America: Then and Now. Additionally, she is a full-time political science faculty member at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC), where she has been teaching since 2002. Lena is active in several civic engagement initiatives and is part of a core team that received a 2006 Minnesota Campus Compact/Minnesota Office of Higher Education grant to create a Center for Civic Engagement at MCTC. In addition to her interest in and experience teaching about civil rights and social change in the US context, Lena has also participated in research projects exploring racism, immigration, and social movements in Western Europe and South Africa. Lena received a fellowship from the University of Minnesota’s Human Rights Center to support a residency with the Institute for Democracy in South Africa (IDASA) where she participated in IDASA’s efforts to institute civic engagement projects in the Gauteng province. While in South Africa, she also took part in grassroots democracy-building efforts aimed at gaining access to water and fighting xenophobia and discrimination. During Spring Semester 2009, she led HECUA’s Divided States of Europe: Globalization and Inequalities in the New Europe program in Oslo Norway.   In 2013, Lena was awarded a two-year Bush Leadership Fellowship. She explored concrete ways for colleges and universities to build effective, reciprocal and lasting partnerships with community organizations and governments in order to support the development of students into leaders equipped with the knowledge, skills and experience needed to tackle the challenges faced by low-income communities and communities of color in the Twin Cities.


Race in America: The Twin Cities Rise Up

This class is taught as one six credit course (four credits for University of Minnesota students).

Through field experiences, readings, videos, and class discussions, students journey into Minnesota’s painful history of racial oppression and examine past and current struggles for racial justice in the Twin Cities and across the country.  

Program participants will:

  • Study the historical foundations of racial oppression in the U.S. and Minnesota and the ways that people have resisted this oppression through readings, films, and visits to museums and key historical sites.
  • Participate in field experiences and seminars that explore the unique historical and contemporary interplay between land, power, economics, and race in Minnesota.
  • Explore the history of uprisings in the Twin Cities (particularly those in response to the policing of Black and Indigenous communities) including past and current efforts to re-envision policing and public safety with key movement leaders, organizations, and policymakers.
  • Participate in remote seminars with veterans of The Civil Rights Movement and social justice organizations in Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia working to address issues such as voting rights, environmental justice, mass incarceration, economic justice, and immigrant rights. 
  • Explore key theories of social movements and social change while examining their own positions in systems of power and roles as agents of social change.

Complete Syllabus


This program does not offer internships.

Program Costs

Fees Breakdown: Program fees include tuition, reading materials, and group transportation to field sites.

Member Schools

Member schools are schools that are part of the HECUA consortium. To check your school’s status, click here.

2022 Member program cost: $4,400 (6 credits)

Non-member Schools

Non-member schools are schools that are not part of the HECUA consortium. To check your school’s status, click here.

2022 Non-member program cost: $4,700


Students enrolled in the Race in America program are eligible to apply for $500 Scholarships for Community Engagement. Click here to apply for a Scholarship for Community Engagement.

Good to know

Housing are options are available, though not included in the program cost. Please contact HECUA Student Services Manager Julie Rossate at jrossate@hecua.org for more information.

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