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Welcome Curtis Austin!

Curtis Austin received his Ph.D. from Mississippi State University in 1998. He comes to the University of Oregon after six years at the Ohio State University, where he directed the Young Scholars Program and taught Civil Rights Movement history in the Department of African American and African Studies. Dr. Austin also served as the department’s Director of Undergraduate Studies. Before moving to Ohio, he taught African American History at the University of Southern Mississippi and served as Director of the Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage from 2001 to 2006. In 2007, Dr. Austin became the founding Director the University of Southern Mississippi’s Center for Black Studies. His first book, Up Against the Wall: Violence in the Making and Unmaking of the Black Panther Party, chronicled the national history of the Black Panther Party and received wide acclaim from students, lay people, activists, and scholars in the fields of American History and African American Studies. In 2007, Up Against the Wall received critical acclaim when the Choice Library Journal honored it with its Outstanding Academic Title award. Professor Austin has also published book chapters, encyclopedia and journal articles, and web-based pieces on the history of Blacks in America.

Austin’s current research projects include a work entitled Dare to Struggle, which explains and analyzes the history of the Black Power movement. This work is currently under contract with Rowman and Littlefield Press. He is also completing work on a project that chronicles the history of the San Francisco 8, a group of former members of the Black Panther Party who in 20111 successfully fought to have the California court system drop charges of homicide stemming from the 1971 death of a San Francisco police officer. A brief synopsis of the work follows:

In the early morning hours of January 23, 2007, large numbers of heavily armed police authorities arrested the men who would become the San Francisco 8. All across the country in cities as widely dispersed as Panama City, Florida, Los Angeles, California, San Francisco, and New York City, SWAT teams, local police officers, sheriff’s deputies, and FBI agents showed up in coordinated action at the front doors of the men and took them off to jail in their pajamas. While some of the men were arrested in Los Angeles (2), San Francisco (2), New York City (1), and Panama City (1), the
other two were arrested in their jail cells in New York State prisons. While the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and New York Times had published front page articles announcing the news of these arrests, the popular television show America’s Most Wanted upped the ante by broadcasting its own version of the events, falsely claiming some of the men had been fugitives for decades. The truth is most were either retired or working for government agencies in their respective cities.

In addition to examining the case from the January 2007 arrests to the September 2011 dropping of the charges, this work will also explore each defendant’s background and describe their political development from their time as youths until they joined the Black Panther Party. The work will also offer an analysis as to the significance of the case’s outcome.