Faculty in the Department of History

Tobin Miller Shearer

Tobin Miller Shearer

Associate Professor of History; Director of African-American Studies

Office: LA 262
Email: tobin.shearer@umontana.edu
Office Hours:

Spring Semester 2015
Wednesdays, 2-4 pm

Curriculum Vitae

Personal Summary

I am interested in studying the history of race and religion in the United States. To that end I have studied how interactions between white and African-American Mennonites in homes and sanctuaries brought about changes as significant as those initiated in the streets by the formal civil rights movement. My current research focuses on Fresh Air rural hosting programs in which white rural families hosted African-American and Latino children from urban environments and on the role of prayer during the civil rights movement. In the first project, I trace how the host families' perceptions of the children changed during the course of the twentieth century as a means to explain the persistence of racism in the U.S. In the second, I examine prayer as a potent resource activists used to initiate crisis. I have also written extensively on issues of white privilege, religious identity, and nonviolence.

I advise graduate students studying twentieth century U.S. history in the broad arenas of race and religion. I have advised and do research in African-American studies, religious history, childhood history, whiteness studies, the civil rights movement, interracial congregations, and Mennonite/Anabaptist history. I am accepting both MA and PhD students in the next admissions cycle. Please feel free to contact me by email if you are interested in working with me as a graduate student.

Field of Study

African-American History; Race; Religious History


I hold a dual PhD in History and Religious Studies from Northwestern University (2008).

Selected Publications


An Innocent Exchange: The Fresh Air Movement and the Boundaries of Racial Negotiation, 1939-1979 (forthcoming, Cornell University Press).

Daily Demonstrators: The Civil Rights Movement in Mennonite Homes and Sanctuaries. (Johns Hopkins Press, 2010).

Set Free: A Journey Toward Solidarity Against Racism. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 2001 (co-authored with Iris de León-Hartshorn and Regina Shands Stoltzfus).

Enter the River: Healing Steps from White Privilege to Racial Reconciliation. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1994.


“Striking at the Sacred: The Violence of Prayer, 1960-1969,” Open Theology 1 (2015): 126–133: Open Theology article website.

“A Prophet Pushed Out: Vincent Harding and the Mennonites,” Mennonite Life 69 (2015): Mennonite Life article website .

“Invoking Crisis: Performative Christian Prayer and the Civil Rights Movement,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 83, no. 2 (2015): 490-512.

“Conflicting Identities: White Racial Formation Among Mennonites, 1960-1985,” Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power, 19 no. 3 (2012): 268-284.

“A Pleasing Observation,” Chronicle of Higher Education (March 6, 2012), Chronicle article website.

“More Than Fresh Air: African-American Children’s Influence on Mennonite Religious Practice, 1950-1979,” The Journal of Race, Ethnicity and Religion 2, no. 7 (May 2011): JAAR article website.

“Daily Demonstrators: The Civil Rights Movement in Mennonite Homes and Sanctuaries, Mennonite Life 65 (Summer 2011): Mennonite Life article website.


Video scripts

The Myth of Race, Mennonite Central Committee, 2000 (with Regina Shands Stoltzfus).
Free Indeed:  Of White Privileges and How We Play the Game. Screenplay co-author.  Akron, PA:  MCC, 1995.  (Finalist in New York International Film Festival.)

Leap, Twist, Spy, Listen:  Doing Nonviolence. Elkhart, IN: Mennonite Church USA, 2001. 
Racism and Wisdom Literature, Link High School Bible Study.  Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1998.
Living Without Violence. Newton, KS:  Faith and Life, 1994.
Challenging Racism. Newton, KS:  Faith and Life, 1993.


“Gifts Worth Remembering at Graduation, The Missoulian, May 19, 2015.

“Why Ferguson Matters to Missoula,” The Missoulian, December 3, 2014

“White Spiritual and Racial Formation: Three Conversions,” The Mennonite, December 2013.                               

“A Scrawny Kind of Love,” Conspire, Vol. 5, No. 4, Fall 2013

“Lament Sung to My Sons,” Conspire, Vol. 5, No. 1, Winter 2013.

“I am a white man who lives in Montana and teaches black history,” Reflections West, Montana Public Radio Commentary, Year 3, Episode 61, air date December 12, 2012, http://www.reflectionswest.org/episodes/ep61_shearer.php.

 “Twelve Signs of the Kingdom at a Clumsy Congregation,” The Mennonite, November 2012.

“Protest and the Power of Images: From Birmingham in 1963 to Davis in 2011, Those Who Repress Dissent Are Put on Public Display.” The Missoulian, Tuesday, November 29, 2011, 4.

 “Supper Club, Keith Wilson, and the Twigs of Grace,” The Mennonite, February 2010

“Trentin’s Gift,” Together, Fall 2002
“God is Faithful,” Evangel, November 3, 2002
“Bag the Baggage,” With, July/August 2002
“When Doing Good Does Bad,” With, July/August 2002
"White Spaces," The Other Side, March & April 2002.
"Angels and a Dork," With, March/April 2002
"Racism Kicks Back, God Heals The Wounds," Purpose, November 4, 2001.
"An Open Letter to Alex Chadwick of National Public Radio," The Mennonite, September 25, 2001."
"Spitwads:  A Re-Telling of Mark 8:22-26," With, November/December 2001.
"Quieted by the Land," The Mennonite, June 19, 2001.
"Following Fake Latinos," The Mennonite, May 1, 2001.
"Fake Latinos," The Mennonite, January 9, 2001.
“Pearls, Swine and Beloved,” The Mennonite, December 29, 1998.
"Wall of History as Ritual and Remembering," Conciliation Quarterly, Summer 1998.
"Where on the Damascus Road?  Reflections for Urban Peacemaking," Urban Connections, Fall 1997.
"Public Schools:  Learning with the Neighbors," Christian Living, September 1997.
"Mennonites and Racism:  Much Work to Do," The Mennonite, January 14, 1997.
"Has Change Come?" a Common Place, May 1996.
"Categorical Denial:  Racism, Identity and the Possibility of Change,"  Christian Leader, January 1996.
"A Quiz on Racism," The Mennonite, January 9, 1996.
"Everyday Peacemaking," With, December 1995.
"Butter sandwiches, train rides, and affirmative action," Gospel Herald, October 31, 1995.
"Beyond Easy:  Building Racial Reconciliation,"  The Christian Ministry, May-June, 1995.
"Why is it so hard to talk about racism?" Gospel Herald, November 22, 1994.
"Stopping the Hate," With, July-August 1994.
"Waiting for a dream," Christian Living, April-May 1994.
"Racism and a Running White Boy," Builder, January 1993.


AAS/HSTA 141 Black: From Africa to Hip-hop and Beyond
AAS/HSTA 343 African-American History Since 1865
AAS/HSTA 345 The Black Radical Tradition
AAS/HSTA 374 Voodoo, Muslim, Church: Black Religion
AAS/HSTA 417 Prayer and Civil Rights
AAS/HSTA 562 Problems in African-American History

HSTA 595 U.S. Religious History

DC 120 Introduction to Honors: Imagining the Future


I hold membership with the American Academy of Religion.

I hold membership with the American Historical Association.

Research Interests

I am concluding a research project on Fresh Air rural hosting programs in which white rural families hosted African-American children from the inner city. I trace how the host families' perceptions of the children changed during the course of the twentieth century as a means to explain the persistence of racism in the U.S. My new work explores the role of prayer and crisis during the civil rights movement.


To see my thoughts on the future of African-American Studies at the University of Montana, to a clip from a talk at the Black Studies reunion.


I am featured in a series on banned books. To see why I love and criticize To Kill A Mocking Bird, watch my comments on this Mansfield Libary banned books video.



2013, Helen and Winston Cox Educational Excellence Award, College of Arts and Sciences, University of Montana, awarded annually to UM faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences who are not yet tenured based on superior contributions to the education of UM students; in particular, awardees show superior teaching, advising and mentoring of students.


2012, Paul Lauren Undergraduate Research Faculty Mentor Award, Davidson Honors College, University of Montana