Harvard University Launches the Black Teacher Archives

Harvard University has launched The Black Teacher Archives, a major new research project to explore the history of African American education.

The project will be led by Jarvis Givens, an assistant professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and Imani Perry, a professor in the department of African American studies at Princeton University. The project is being financed by a $610,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The first phase of the project will archive and digitize the state journals of “Colored Teachers Associations,” which operated for more than 100 years, from 1861 through 1970. Providing access to these materials, largely the products of teachers in segregated Southern schools, will revolutionize research in the history of education, African American studies, and the study of critical pedagogy.

“Through these journals, we see black schoolteachers as both thinkers and doers, what we might call ‘scholars of the practice,'” says Dr. Givens. “For more than a century, they were engaging in deep study; combining the best thinking from the mainstream educational domain — which excluded them — with the political and cultural ideas generated in their own black intellectual networks. In light of this, the professional world of these educators must be taken on its own terms. These journals will help us to do that.”

Dr. Givens is the author of the forthcoming book  Schooling in Forbidden Fields: Carter G. Woodson and the Demands of Black Education. He earned a Ph.D. in African diaspora studies from the University of California, Berkeley.

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