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Mark Higbee


 702-J Pray-Harrold



Ph.D., Columbia University 
M.A., Columbia University 
B.A., Antioch College

Professional Associations/Memberships

Representative Courses Taught

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


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.

He contributes frequently to the blog on matters of concern to the EMU community. He was Interim Director of the Honors Program in 2002-03, and served as moderator for the 2006 Ypsilanti Mayoral candidates’ debate.

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).

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. Reacting is now used at approximately 100 American colleges and universities. The games last from two to five weeks and transform students’ classroom experience in ways most of them find exciting and worthwhile, albeit very demanding. 

Selected Publications

With Paul Horvath. “A House Divided: The Causes and Costs of Civil War,” chapter in Star Wars and History, edited by Nancy R. Reagin & 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.