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Why a Black Florida scholar is optimistic in his fight against book bans

Marvin Dunn is a professor of psychology at Florida International University and the author of Black Miami in the 20th Century. He’s now one of the most important scholars of local Black history.
Courtesy of Marvin Dunn
Marvin Dunn is a professor of psychology at Florida International University and the author of Black Miami in the 20th Century. He’s now one of the most important scholars of local Black history.

You don’t need a history book to know what it was like to have to ride in the back of the bus. Marvin Dunn can tell you about it. Because he lived it.

Marvin went to a segregated Florida school. He endured discrimination as an officer in the U.S. Navy. In 1966, the University of Florida denied him admission because he was Black.

This only pushed him. Marvin went on to become an authority on race in America — specifically in Florida. He’s a professor emeritus at Florida International University, and his books on Florida’s Black history have been a resource in our state for decades.

Now, a Florida law bans the content of his books in classrooms for discussing how race is integral to many institutions.

Again, that hasn’t stopped him.

He’s leading tours of places in Florida that are important to Black history. And he’s distributing banned books on Black history through parent-teacher groups.

On the June 6 episode of Sundial, Professor Dunn is here to talk to us about his own history. The history Florida won’t allow in classrooms.

On Sundial's previous episode, Natalie Stuartjoined us to talk to us about how she's channeling her childhood love of performance into her teaching career.

Listen to Sundial Monday through Thursday on WLRN, 91.3 FM, live at 1 p.m., rebroadcast at 8 p.m. Missed a show? Find every episode of Sundial on your favorite podcast app, such as Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and Spotify.

Carlos Frías is a bilingual writer, a journalist of more than 25 years and the author of an award-winning memoir published by Simon & Schuster.
Leslie Ovalle Atkinson is the former lead producer behind Sundial. As a multimedia producer, she also worked on visual and digital storytelling.
Elisa Baena is a former associate producer for Sundial.
Helen Acevedo, a freelance producer, is a grad student at Florida International University studying Spanish-language journalism, a bilingual program focused on telling the stories of diverse communities.