Recovering and Recentering Educational Histories

Endorsed by the OAH Committee on Academic Freedom and HES

Saturday, April 1, 2023, 1:30 PM - 3:00 PM

Type: Paper Session

Tags: Education; Public History and Memory; Race


This panel refocuses and recenters historical attention on schooling and education and the way in which educators, students, and their families understood their present moment and responded. Bringing together forgotten histories of youth activism and histories of education, this session explores how histories of education have been contoured to emphasize some perspectives while pushing others to the peripheries, to the margins, and at its extreme, to deletion. In connection with the 2023 OAH Conference theme, "Confronting Crises: History for Uncertain Times,' the four papers comprising the panel each share a theme of how those within and outside school walls navigated through uncertain times, and bring to light their efforts to move beyond moments of crises. Highlighting narratives of marginalized groups whose stories are often untold or silenced, the papers in the panel recreate counternarratives that reshape how narratives are remembered and to use this acknowledgment as redress for experiences that have been overshadowed or redacted. Blurring traditional separations between US history that takes place in the US mainland, Paper 1 and Paper 3 consider space both to question where US history occurs and which spaces serve for healing traumas linked with erasure. Through the lens of schooling, Paper 1 and Paper 4 complicate “mainstream” and widely accepted narratives around the 1992 L.A. riots and the Black Power movement in 1968, respectively, by spotlighting the experiences of educators, students and their families. This in-person session prioritizes audience participation and seeks to actively engage with members using various real-time, accessible tools on digital platforms. In lieu of a commentator, a chair will moderate and manage a concurrent background visual presentation consisting of a live-stream of audience feedback. Comments and questions will be received through interactive, synchronous tools, which may include: a customized Twitter feed, Mentimeter, Padlet, Pollme; the chair will moderate a forum-style Q&A in which panelists and audience members can respond to one another. By engaging with members and receiving feedback that can be viewed, shared online during and after the panel presentation, we envision conversation that will continue to spark further discussion on how broadened historical understanding of hitherto peripheral, marginalized narratives in moments of crises only helps us navigate through and beyond ones in our present.

Papers Presented

The Forgotten Collapse of the Dominican Public School System

In 1916, the US military took control of the Dominican education system. Although scholars have written about the role of schools in US efforts to expand their reach in the Caribbean, the impact of the policies to restructure and finance the Dominican school system has not yet been studied. The existing literature focuses almost exclusively on the early years of the occupation and fails to consider how the US’ efforts led to massive school closures and the collapse of the system in 1921. Instead, this fact is mentioned in passing, without much acknowledgement of what led to the crisis or recognition of the devastating impact on the lives of children in the Dominican Republic. Thus, the purpose of the paper is twofold, first, it draws on documents from the US Military Government and congressional hearing records to elucidate the reasons behind the 1921 collapse. Second, it explores the silence in literature that exists not just in present day but also during the historical moment, as US officials at the time were active participants in the erasure by failing to address their role and reframing the collapse in congressional testimony and public records as a result of Dominican action in the midst of the crisis.

Presented By
Alexa Rodriguez, University of Virginia

From Crisis to Coalition: L.A. Youth on the 1992 Los Angeles Uprising

Over the course of three decades, what was called the Los Angeles Riots changed in name and is now often referred to as the Los Angeles Uprising. For Korean-Americans, however, this moment of crisis for their national identity has a different name and meaning entirely. On April 29, 1992, riots and violence erupted in Los Angeles’ Koreatown in the wake of the acquittal of LAPD officers for brutally beating African-American Rodney King. Korean-Americans’ perspectives and experiences, then ignored, have since been shared and published, with many providing pained accounts of their racial awakening, as both victim and victimizer. The voices of students, however, have yet to be heard and echoed. This paper seeks to address the contemporaneous discourse on the events as they unfolded and initiatives undertaken by the city’s youth, with particular emphasis on the publications of L.A. Youth. These voices, often lost in the fray of media sensationalism and/or political expediency, can provide clarity and insight into how American students made sense of their world in crisis, and the possibilities they imagined to move their world beyond it.

Presented By
Jean Park, Macaulay Honors College, City University of New York

“We Are the Ones We’ve Been Waiting For:” Black Feminist Radicalisms and the International Anti-apartheid Movement

In 1978, two years after Winnie Madikizela-Mandela assisted Black South African students in the Soweto Uprising, June Jordan presented a poem “For South African Women” to the United Nations. Jordan affirmed the goals of the South African liberation struggle and affectionately emboldened South African women with a prophetic conviction that indeed, “We are the ones we have been waiting for.” This paper examines how Black African and Black North American woman asserted anti-imperial platforms through their public writings, which in turn, became a transnational terrain of Black feminist radicalism. From the 1950s through the 1970s, South African women activists like Madikizela-Mandela, Motlalepula Chabaku, and Oshadi Mangena broadcasted their intimate experiences with gendered apartheid oppression (the proverbial sister of US Jane Crow). During the same period, African-descended women in the US, from Eslanda Robeson to June Jordan, established a tradition of anti-imperialist solidarity with the South African woman. Through newspaper interviews, press releases, public speeches, and published work, African and American Black women used their shared plights as a way to reveal the universality of interlocking oppressions and realize the possibilities of Third World women’s organizing. International audiences, however, received the words of Black women activists within a global matrix of competing messages about the goals of African liberation struggle that threw its trajectory and meaning into question.

Presented By
Amanda Joyce Hall, Northwestern University

A counter-narrative of the Black Power Movement: The Academy for Black and Latin Education in 1960s Harlem

The Black Power Movement is often reduced to the Black Panther Party in Oakland, California, and is often portrayed as being too radical, militant, separatist, violent, and anti-white. However, this portrayal often lacks a discussion of youth programs and education within the Black Power Movement. This paper will challenge this dominant assumption of the Black Power Movement by showing that Harlem has been an important place for Black Power activism. Thus, the culturally, socioeconomically, and politically diverse Black community in Harlem provides the background for this research. This paper will also highlight that Black Power is much more nuanced than how it is often remembered in history and popular culture. In 1968, the Academy for Black and Latin Education (ABLE) emerged in Harlem and pursued Black Power ideas in their education, such as self-determination, self-sufficiency, and Black pride. The academy pursued student-centered education and provided curricula that were heavy on Black Studies. In addition, students at ABLE were not merely set up for their individual success and learned how to navigate their lives. Instead, and more importantly, ABLE used education as a tool for social change and students learned to think critically about society and oppression, how to organize to fight injustice, and to show solidarity with other oppressed people – values that were the core of Black Power ideology. This school and its approach then allow to challenge contorted understandings of Black Power and provide a unique lens through which to view and remember the Black Power Movement.

Presented By
Viola Huang, Middlebury College

Session Participants

Chair: Monica Ugwu Perkins, Claremont Graduate University
Monica Ugwu Perkins is a PhD candidate in the Higher Education concentration within the School of Educational Studies at Claremont Graduate University (CGU). She also completed a certificate in Women’s and Gender Studies in the CGU School of Arts and Humanities. Her research centers the intellectual history of late nineteenth and early twentieth century Black women in medicine and the confluence of race, gender, and systems of oppression in twentieth century US medical education. She has presented her research at the History of Education Society, American Educational Research Association, and American Historical Association. Prior to joining CGU, Monica worked in diversity, outreach, and graduate student affairs in STEM and medicine. She earned a MA in Educational Studies from CGU, MEd in Counseling and Student Affairs from UCLA, and a BA in Psychology and Social Behavior with a minor in African American studies from UC Irvine.

Presenter: Viola Huang, Middlebury College
Viola Huang is Assistant Professor of Black Studies at Middlebury College. She holds a Ph.D. in History and Education from Columbia University’s Teachers College. Before coming to Middlebury, she pursued a postdoc at the University of Passau in Germany. Her specialty area is 20th century African American history, specifically the history of social movements, community activism, and alternative and transformative education. Additional research interests include the Black Diaspora, particularly the Black German Diaspora, and Public History, particularly representations of Black History in U.S. and German contexts.

Presenter: Amanda Joyce Hall, Northwestern University
Amanda Joyce Hall is a historian of twentieth-century social movements with a specialization in Black freedom movements throughout the U.S., Africa, and the world. Her dissertation is a transnational social history that examines the international opposition to South African apartheid within the Black diaspora in the 1970s and 1980s. She earned her doctorate in History and African American Studies from Yale University in 2022 and she is currently a postdoctoral fellow in the African American Studies department at Northwestern University.

Presenter: Jean Park, Macaulay Honors College, City University of New York
Jean Park is a postdoctoral fellow for the Teaching and Learning Collaboratory at Macaulay Honors College, CUNY, and adjunct assistant professor at City College. She earned her Ph.D. in the History and Education program at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her dissertation, “Exiled Envoys: Korean Students in New York City, 1907-1937,” studied the impact of the early Korean-American educational experience in the New York metropolitan area on the broader Korean independence movement. Her work on Asian-American educational histories in New York has been published online with The Gotham Center for New York City History, in addition to her work in web archiving and collaborative work with Ivy Plus Libraries Confederation published in Charleston Hub’s Against the Grain.

Presenter: Alexa Rodriguez, University of Virginia
Alexa Rodríguez is a Mellon Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Virginia. She received her Ph.D. from Teachers College, Columbia University and is a former dissertation fellow for the National Academy of Education and Spencer Foundation. Her research examines schools, migration, and the formation of racial and national identities in both Latin America and in the United States.She is currently working on a book manuscript, Crafting Dominicanidad, a transnational and intellectual history that examines how Dominican stakeholders used public schools to articulate and circulate competing notions of Dominican citizenship during the early twentieth century.