WRITTEN BY MARISSA PLAIA
History Professor Dr. Sara Haviland has a love for History inside and outside the classroom.
The seasoned professor who teaches African American, United States and Women’s History courses is the author of James and Esther Cooper Jackson: Love and Courage in the Black Freedom Movement and is currently in the early stages of researching for her next book.
Haviland wasn’t sure what she wanted to do when she started her undergraduate studies at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts. During her sophomore year, she declared herself as a History major after realizing History courses were the ones she enjoyed the most.
She was particularly interested in “the kinds of questions history forces you to ask,” and she “loved having the opportunity to do research in archives, use oral history, and seek out sources that were previously unavailable.”
Her senior thesis in college was the inspiration for her first book.
When it was time to write her undergraduate thesis, Haviland knew she wanted to write about black internationalism during World War II. At the suggestion of a professor, she reached out to scholars who might know individuals who had been active during the period she wanted to explore.
She was put in touch with Esther Jackson and met her and her husband James in September of 2002. Her thesis focused on an organization that the Jacksons had been active in.
When working towards her Master’s degree at Rutgers University she interviewed the Jacksons again and spent more than a year helping them archive their large collection of documents from the time period. This inspired her book, which she refers to as “a dual biography of the couple.” In the book, Haviland explores their marriage in connection with their activism in the Black Freedom Movement and the Communist Party.
She is also working with the Brooklyn Historical Society Students and Faculty and the American Association Tuning Project. Working with the American Association Tuning Project, she helps to promote the relevance and importance of being a history major.
Haviland has a unique teaching style in which she integrates outside historical resources into her classes. She designed a section of her introductory history course around visiting the BHS Students and Faculty archive.
She was recognized on the list of “40 Under 40 Professors Who Inspire” in 2015.
Haviland thinks History is important because it helps us understand how and why things happen in both the past and present.
“Not only does history force you to consider what brought about current events,” Haviland told SFC Today. “The discipline and the methods give you the skills to ask appropriate questions about the past, its lessons, and its ability to shed light on the present, but it also ensures that you consider broader context when attempting to answer a question about the past.”
Haviland enjoys teaching at SFC because no two days are the same.
“Every day is different and unpredictable,” she said.
Even though she is a seasoned professor, she still tries to respond to the way her students react to her lessons.
“It always feels great when something really clicks,” Haviland told SFC Today. “When it doesn’t, it’s a good reminder to keep trying to be innovative and working hard.”
Haviland also enjoys getting to know students outside the classroom and she stays in touch with many of her former students.