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Black Educators, Freedom and the Intellectual Imagination in the 19th-20th Centuries

Fri, March 18, 3:00 to 4:15pm, Omni Charlotte Hotel, Floor: Main Floor, Willow Room

Session Submission Type: Panel


Black teachers have historically conceptualized their own ideas of learning, grounded in their socio-historical experiences as an oppressed group. Writing about these professionals during the height of Jim Crow, historian Vanessa Siddle Walker (2009) has shown how Black teachers blended the “best practices from schools of education and the best thinking of the Black intellectual elite on issues related to Black advancement” (p. 7). This panel is concerned with reflecting on Black teachers during the late 19th through 20th centuries to interrogate the intellectual work taken up by critical Black educators. This discussion will center their ideological critiques of education and theoretical perspectives on learning generated from their own experiences, educational work, and intellectual imagination. In centering Black educational thought, we hope to move towards serious discussions about what this intellectual history can offer for contemporary questions regarding the nature of schooling and the lived experiences of Black people. Black educators were theorists in their own right, whose conceptions of learning vastly differed from White philosophers who continue to shape contemporary educational theory and teacher training.

Black teachers were intellectuals. Their professional worlds maintained sophisticated networks where they debated educational ideologies and generated unique learning objectives for their students that were grounded by evolving theoretical ideals. The panel specifically engages the following questions: what does it mean to think of Black classroom teachers as intellectual figures? How does this re-shape our understanding of their work? How were ideas about freedom (as both a specific and a broad idea) disseminated through education? In thinking about how intellectual imagination shaped and circulated ideas about black education during this period, panelists will explore the following: information on black educators and/or schools, what educational spaces looked like, instructional materials, and educational texts that were written in response to what was taking place in society during critical moments in this history.

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