Dr. Brian Behnken

CATEGORIES: Featured Faculty
Photo Credit: Mark Looney

I arrived at Iowa State University in 2009 as a new, joint employee in the Department of History and the U.S. Latino/a Studies Program. My primary areas of expertise are the history of Mexican American and African American peoples. I teach a variety of classes, including the USLS introductory course, classes on the history of the Mexican American community and the African American community, and a class on the civil rights era. I would love to see you in my classes!

I also love to write and spend a lot of time researching and writing. I published one of the first books on African American and Mexican American interactions during the civil rights era, Fighting Their Own Battles: Mexican Americans, African Americans, and the Struggle for Civil Rights in Texas. I recently began work on a new book, Brown and Blue: Mexican Americans, Law Enforcement, and Civil Rights. This is a long history of the Mexican American community and its relationship with local law enforcement from the 1830s to the present day. Police interactions with Mexican-origin folks,  like African Americans, have often been stressful and negative, but also fraught with misunderstanding. I hope my book will bring about greater understanding.

For the past year I have been on leave working on my book. I received a very generous Faculty Professional Development Assignment (ISU-speak for a sabbatical), a Humanities Scholarship Enhancement Initiative grant (which allowed me to buy out of teaching a class), as well as a teaching release from the USLS Program. Without the generosity of my department and program, the College of Liberal Arts, and Iowa State University, I don’t know that this book would ever have gotten finished.

In my spare time I love hanging out with my family, rehabbing our midcentury modern home, eating out with my wife, and watching super hero movies. I hope to see you around campus!