Sometimes, lessons are less about the setting and more about the person teaching them.

CU Denver Ethnic Studies Professor Rachel Harding, PhD is a Brown University-educated, Afro-Atlantic historian who has made it her life’s work to educate students in this area of study.

Harding teaches from personal experience and uses family influences as a basis to her teaching style. She is a tenured professor and is extremely involved in the education of students through a hands-on learning experience.

“I am a poet and essayist, and I was raised in a household of community activists,” Harding said. “So, in my courses, I teach from a perspective that combines history, religious studies, and popular culture with a focus on social justice movements.”

“My two books are the most significant achievements of my career.”

—Rachel Harding

Associate Professor Indigenous Spiritual Traditions | College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

She has taught many classes that are rooted in Afro-Atlantic culture. “I teach several courses in the Ethnic Studies department,” Harding said. “Currently I’m teaching African-American history and a special topics course on Women Of Color in the United States. In other semesters, I teach Indigenous Studies, and Ethnicity and Race in American Popular Culture. I’ve also taught Global Media, Introduction to Ethnic Studies, and Hip-Hop Music and Culture.”

Harding is also extremely involved in the cultural rituals of Afro-Atlantic people. Her focus of study has allowed her several opportunities to travel to exotic places and explore the cultures she teaches about. “I travel regularly to Latin America—especially to Brazil,” Harding said. “I attend conferences and I lead study tours for people interested in learning more about Afro-Brazilian history, religion, and culture. I also spend time in Afro-Brazilian Candomblés (temple communities) where I participate in ceremonies and study the history and philosophy of that religious tradition.”

Not only does Harding teach students, she also teaches people living in Denver. “I take local Denver residents to Brazil for study tours,” Harding said. “I bring scholars, activists, artists, and religious leaders from Brazil to Denver to share their wisdom and experience with students and other community members through lectures, workshops, and other community events.”

Throughout her career, Harding has had several opportunities to expand her knowledge on the topic of ethnic studies but said her greatest career accomplishments have been the books she has written.

“My two books are the most significant achievements of my career,” Harding said. “One is A Refuge In Thunder: Candomblés And Alternative Spaces Of Blackness, which is about the 19th-century development of the Afro-Brazilian religion Candomblés. The other book is Remnants: A Memoir Of Spirit, Activism, And Mothering, which I wrote in collaboration with my mother about the role of compassion and mysticism in African-American social justice activism.”

Harding has educated students and citizens of Denver through, teaching in a classroom, taking trips to Brazil, and writing two books on her area of focus. Her work is intriguing and noteworthy, and is worth becoming familiar with through her books or courses.

—Ashley Bauler

Above: Rachel Harding is dedicated to educating her students and social justice.

photo courtesy Rachel Harding

















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