Mark Higbee

A photo of Mark Higbee


History and Philosophy

702J Pray Harrold


[email protected]


  • PhD, Columbia University
  • MA, Columbia University
  • BA, Antioch College

Interests and Expertise

Professor Higbee joined EMU's history faculty in 1994 and is an active member of the EMU and Ypsilanti communities. He is passionate about learning and teaching history, and seeks to engage all his students – both those who profess a hatred of history and those who love it – in exploring the meanings of the past.

Higbee regularly teaches both halves of the American history survey course (HIST 123 and 124), as well as courses in African American history: HIST 315 (History of Black Americans), HIST 319 (History of the Civil Rights Movement) and HIST 531 (Studies in Black History), as well as on American Constitutional History (HIST 465 and 565).

Since 2005, Higbee has been using a nationally recognized innovative teaching method, Reacting to the Past, in selected courses. The method involves elaborately designed role-playing games in which students assume historical roles from a famous moment in history, and then pursue the goals of their assigned character – in collaboration with some classmates and in opposition to others. The Reacting method teaches skills in research, writing, public speaking, and teamwork; it has a proven record of engaging undergraduate students in ways that are not common for American university students.

In 2009, Higbee accepted the request of EMU Provost Jack Kay to create a Reacting to the Past game on Frederick Douglass and slavery in American history. This task took a decade, but in June 2019, it was published by W.W. Norton in its RTTP series, as Frederick Douglass, Slavery, and the Constitution, 1845, with coauthor James Stewart. Even before publication, however, the game was used in countless classrooms across the country. Mark’s only disappointment with the Douglass game is that Jack Kay did not live long enough to see its success.


  • HIST 115 What is an American?
  • HIST 123 The United States to 1877
  • HIST 179 Reacting to the World
  • HIST 313 Michigan History
  • HIST 315 History of Black Americans
  • HIST 319 The Civil Rights Movement in the United States
  • HIST 465 United States Constitutional History
  • HIST 531 Studies in Black History

Publications and Presentations

  • With Paul Horvath. "A House Divided: The Causes and Costs of Civil War," chapter in Star Wars and History, edited by Nancy R. Reagin and Janice Liedl. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2013.
  • "Remember Laura Dickinson,", October 19, 2007.
  • "A Nation at Canaan's Edge," review essay on Taylor Branch's At Canaan's Edge: America in the King Years," in Against the Current #129 (July/August, 2007), 30–34.
  • "Malcolm X Slain in Pray Harrold Tonight,", April 17, 2007.
  • "The Hairdresser and the Scholar," essay in Tenderheaded: A Comb-Bending Collection of Hair Stories, edited by Juliette Harris and Pamela Johnson (Pocket Books, 2001).
  • "Frederick Douglass and the College Classroom," Thought and Action: The NEA Higher Education Journal, vol. XVI #1, Summer 2000, 41–54.
  • Review essay on Taylor Branch's Parting the Waters and Pillar of Fire, the first two volumes of his trilogy on Martin Luther King and America in the King Years, in Against the Current #114 (January–February, 2000).
  • "W.E.B. Du Bois" entry, A Global Encyclopedia of Historical Writing (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), vol. 1.
  • "Du Bois: The First Half Century," Review Essay on David Levering Lewis, W.E.B. Du Bois: Biography of a Race, 1868–1919 (1993), Science and Society 59(1), Spring, 1995, 82–87.
  • "A Letter from W.E.B. Du Bois to His Daughter Yolande, dated 'Moscow, December 10, 1958,'" introduction and annotations to, Journal of Negro History 78 (Summer, 1993), 188–195.
  • "W.E.B. Du Bois, F.B. Ransom, the Madam Walker Company, and Black Business Leadership in the 1930s," Indiana Magazine of History 89 (June, 1993), 101–124.