Besmirching Black History Month with Critical Race Theory


.@NotreDame's Office of Human Resources declares the "founding principles of the nation" to be "slavery, genocide, and settler colonialism." #GoCatholicND Click To Tweet

We defer our planned follow-up to our last bulletin on Notre Dame’s “Day for Life” to tell you how the administration, in the course of purportedly celebrating Black History Month, has instead sullied it by embracing Critical Race Theory.

Before describing the particulars of the administration’s action, we relate briefly the history of Black History Month to show how gravely the administration has done violence to its purpose. 

Black History Month 

Black History Month has a rich history grounded in the pioneering work of legendary African American historian Carter G. Woodson.

Woodson established Black History Month’s predecessor, Negro History Week, in 1926. He chose February of that year to coincide with the birthdays of Frederic Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. His goal was to secure the inclusion of the achievements and contributions of African Americans in the teaching of the greater American experience, a subject notably absent from standard textbooks at that time.

In 1976, expanding on Woodson’s mission, President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month “to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

Since then, every American president has declared February Black History Month “to honor the contributions and legacy of African Americans across U.S. history and society — from activists and civil rights pioneers such as Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Marcus Garvey, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Rosa Parks to leaders in industry, politics, science, culture and more.”

And each year, the President has endorsed a particular theme. This year, it is “Black Health and Wellness” to mark “the legacy of Black scholars and medical practitioners” and, more broadly, the measures “that Black communities have done to be well.” 

Black History Month at Notre Dame

In announcing Black History Month at Notre Dame, the university recognized its purpose is “to honor the achievements, history and experience of black Americans as well as the contributions Black Americans have made to U.S. history” and invited students to participate in a number of events suited to that purpose.

But then came a stunning event announcement in which the Office of Human Resources in the Office of the Executive Vice President embraced Critical Race Theory and declared “the founding principles of the nation” to be “slavery, genocide, and settler colonialism” and the nation to be “in the grip of white supremacy.”

The full statement was this:

The Current Moment is Not New – We’ve Been Here for a Long Time: Critical Race Theory and the Attack on the Historical Record.

Where many were surprised at the events of Jan 6, 2021, many in the United States understand that it is only reflective of the unspoken founding principles of the nation: slavery, genocide, and settler colonialism. Given the current attacks on the inclusion of critical inquiry in K-12 schools, we are uniquely positioned in a moment where we will choose to capitulate to the grip of white supremacy or fight to build new worlds and new understandings.

We hope you join us for our virtual Black History Month Virtual Lunch & Learn with David Stovall, Ph.D.

We are told Dr. Stovall’s talk will probably not be available on the Human Resources website but will be posted on YouTube, but it is not there yet.

No matter. The important question is that Notre Dame evidently expected Dr. Stovall to affirm its declaration, and that was an eminently reasonable assumption. 

Dr. Stovall, a “national expert in Critical Race Theory” is a professor of Black Studies at the University of Illinois Chicago who frequently advances in various venues his conviction that the United States has been fundamentally corrupted from the start by racism and capitalism.

Taking but one speech as an example, consider these assertions by Dr. Stovall:

  • The United States is “a land founded in slavery, genocide, and colonization.”
  • The country suffers from “the three pandemics of white supremacy, capitalism, and Covid-19.”
  • Universities have had a “historical exploitative colonial relationship with communities of color.”

And, in a passage descriptive of most Notre Dame families, 

  • “White supremacy is a totalizing system that is based on the assumed beliefs, views, and values of the white, western European cisgender heterosexual able-bodied Christian males.

If you find it hard to believe that any Notre Dame administrative office, much less the Office of the Executive Vice President, would press upon students this sort of radical historical revisionism and angry woke sociology, so did we. At the same time, it was at least as hard for us to believe that subordinates – presumably the staffs of the “Institutional Equity” or “Staff Diversity and Inclusion” offices with no evident competence in any relevant discipline – would go rogue on such radioactive issues. 

Accordingly, Bill Dempsey wrote the Executive Vice President, Shannon Cullinan, “to make sure before we publish anything that you were informed of the Black History Month declaration by your Human Resources Office that ‘the founding principles of the nation’ are ‘slavery, genocide, and settler colonialism’ and that the nation is ‘in the grip of white supremacy.'”

While, Bill wrote, “[I]t is hard to imagine subordinates unilaterally promoting to students such a radical revision of the historical record,” 

If in fact you were not informed and do not concur, I assume you will repudiate the statement and cancel the program. As always, we will be glad to publish any comment you wish to make

Mr. Cullinan did not reply.

The event went ahead.

The notice stands even now that the event is over. 


This full-throated embrace of Critical Race Theory under the aegis of high Notre Dame administration authority almost surely originated in “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” staff and is testimony to the burgeoning influence of that program and that staff. We have often said that the culture of the university will in the end reflect the dominant culture of the faculty, but that observation is increasingly put in doubt by the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion juggernaut, which is burying historical truth and undermining traditional Christian values respecting sex, gender, marriage and family. We will surely be obliged to return to this phenomenon often. 

A Call for Alumni of Catholic Colleges & Universities

If you are concerned about the Catholic identity of your alma mater and would like to discuss organizing an alumni group like Sycamore or if you are involved with something similar already, please get in touch with us by filling out the form below. Just as efforts to undermine Catholic identity on campuses across the nation have increased in number and coordination, we believe that so, too, should the fight for Catholic identity.


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