Black Educational History: New Perspectives on the Past to Confront the Present

Endorsed by the OAH Graduate Student Committee and OAH Committee on the Status of ALANA Historians and ALANA Histories

Thursday, March 30, 2023, 12:45 PM - 2:15 PM

Type: Roundtable Discussion

Tags: African American; Archives and Bibliography; Education


This roundtable discussion features the next generation of educational historians who will discuss the state of Black educational history and offer new perspectives for study in that area. These scholars build upon and intervene in the historiography on Black education by expanding and revisiting the study of Black teachers and administrators, community organizers and activists, and federal and state legislation to reimagine the Black past and learning. They will also contextualize and provide fresh insight into today’s educational crises, including the restructuring school history curricula as an anti-critical race theory effort, the dismantling of anti-affirmative action in higher education, and Black intellectuals’ evolving role over the time.

Session Participants

Panelist: Eddie R. Cole, University of California, Los Angeles
Eddie R. Cole is Associate Professor of Higher Education and History at UCLA and the author of The Campus Color Line: College Presidents and the Struggle for Black Freedom (2020). His research focuses on college presidents’ historic role in shaping racial policies and practices both inside and outside of the educational sphere. His scholarship and public writing have been featured in The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and Chronicle of Higher Education, and he earned his Ph.D. at Indiana University, Bloomington.

Panelist: Dionne Danns, University of Illinois at Chicago
Dionne Danns is Professor of Education at Indiana University and the author of three books: Something Better for Our Children: Black Organizing in Chicago Public Schools, 1963-1971 (2003); Desegregating Chicago’s Public Schools: Policy Implementation, Politics, and Protest, 1965-1985 (2014); and Crossing Segregated Boundaries: Remembering Chicago School Desegregation (2021). Danns, an award-winning educational historian, is also the co-editor of Using Past as Prologue: Contemporary Perspectives on African American Educational History (2015) and co-edited a special issue of the centennial volume of the Journal of African American History, titled “African American Education, Civil Rights, and Black Power” (2015). She earned her Ph.D. at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and will serve as chair for this roundtable session.

Panelist: Ashley Dominique Dennis, University of Washington in St. Louis
Ashley Dennis is a Ph.D. candidate the Department of African American Studies at Northwestern University. She studies how and why Black women educators promoted Black history and culture to children during the mid-twentieth century. Dennis’ dissertation examines teachers, librarians, and authors who challenged stereotypes in texts for children and supplemented or replaced them with antiracist writings of their own. Her dissertation research is being supported by a 2021-22 Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship and received the History of Education Society’s Henry Barnard Prize for the best essay by a graduate student.

Panelist: Jarvis R. Givens, Harvard University
Jarvis R. Givens is Assistant Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a faculty affiliate in the department of African & African American Studies at Harvard University. He studies the history of American education, African American history, and the relationship between race and power in schools. His first book, Fugitive Pedagogy: Carter G. Woodson and the Art of Black Teaching (2021), traces African Americans’ traditions of challenging racial domination in schools and society by highlighting the various intellectual and political strategies they employed from the slavery era through Jim Crow. He is also co-lead for digital humanities project called “The Black Teacher Archive” – an online portal that houses the digitized records of national and state “Colored Teachers Associations. His public scholarship has appeared in The Atlantic, and he earned his Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley.

Panelist: Crystal R. Sanders, Emory University
Crystal R. Sanders is Associate Professor History at Pennsylvania State University and the author of A Chance for Change: Head Start and Mississippi’s Black Freedom Struggle (2016), a study of how the Child Development Group of Mississippi (CDGM), a federal Head Start program for low-income preschoolers, produced a political battle between poor black mothers and grandmothers and white southern congressmen. Her current book project America’s Forgotten Migration: Black Southerners’ Efforts to Secure Graduate Education During the Era of Legal Segregation, explores the barriers Black southerners faced in securing graduate education in the age of Jim Crow. Her public writing has appeared in The Washington Post, and she earned her Ph.D. from Northwestern University.