Fugitive Pedagogy: Carter G. Woodson and the Art of Black Teaching

On December 6, we hosted Jarvis Givens, author of Fugitive Pedagogy: Carter G. Woodson and the Art of Black Teaching, in conversation with Jesse Hagopian and Cierra Kaler-Jones. Givens’ work details the long assault on Black education that occurred from the period of enslavement through the life of one of the founders of the Black studies tradition, Carter G. Woodson.

Here are a few reactions from the participants:

Tonight was a pleasure. The depth and breadth of knowledge that Dr. Givens as well as Jesse Hagopian and Cierra Kaler-Jones had was impressive and inspiring. Thank you!

I learned so much. I think that Tessie McGee’s story really influenced me to look more into it. And the fact that people were being fired for teaching the truth. We must teach the truth.

The ideas were so powerful! That everyone had a teacher, everyone who we associate with movements had a teacher somewhere. And the love for teachers! So powerful!

I love this. I feel like this will help me to solidify my understanding of the loss of historical truth by our society because they have shut out BIPOC communities. Thank you.



Here are some main points of the session from the tweet thread by Ursula Wolfe-Rocca, high school teacher and Zinn Education Project team member.



Video of the full event, except the breakout sessions.


Listen to the recording of the session on these additional platforms.

Overcast Logo Google Podcasts Logo Pocket Casts Logo


Here are many of the lessons, books, articles, videos, and more recommended by the presenters and also by participants.

Lessons and Curricula


Teaching for Black Lives (Book) Zinn Education Project

“A School Year Like No Other”: Eyes on the Prize: “Fighting Back: 1957-1962” Teaching Activity by Bill Bigelow, Rethinking Schools

Perspectives on School Segregation

Reading, Writing, and Rising Up: Teaching About Social Justice and the Power of the Written Word Teaching Guide by Linda Christensen, Rethinking Schools

Stepping into Selma: Voting Rights History and Legacy Today Teaching Activity by Teaching for Change

Teaching for Black Lives Teaching Guide, edited by Dyan Watson, Jesse Hagopian, Wayne Au. Discussion Guide created by Cierra Kaler-Jones and Jesse Hagopian

The Fight for Educational Equity

What Is Fugitive Pedagogy? by Elizabeth Moore and Dan Krutka


Related Books and Articles

Carter Reads the Newspaper book cover | The Zinn Education Project

In addition to Fugitive Pedagogy: Carter G. Woodson and the Art of Black Teaching, the following books were referenced.

An African American and Latinx History of the United States by Paul Ortiz (Beacon Press)

Betty Before X by Ilyasah Shabazz and Renée Watson (Square Fish)

Black Intellectual Thought in Education: The Missing Traditions of Anna Julia Cooper, Carter G. Woodson, and Alain LeRoy Locke by Anthony L. Brown, Keffrelyn D. Brown, Carl A. Grant (Routledge)

Carter Reads the Newspaper by Deborah Hopkinson. Illustrated by Don Tate (Peachtree)

“Ending Curriculum Violence” by Stephanie P. Jones. Learning for Justice.

How the Word is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America by Clint Smith (Little Brown and Company)

“Keeping Up With. . . The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning” by Lauren Hays and Melissa Mallon. Association of College & Research Libraries.

“Reverend James Pennington: A Voice for Freedom” by Stacey Close. CT Humanities.

Someday Is Now: Clara Luper and the 1958 Oklahoma City Sit-Ins by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich. Illustrated by Jade Johnson (Quarto Publishing Group)

Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom by bell hooks (Routledge)

The Lost Education of Horace Tate: Uncovering the Hidden Heroes Who Fought for Justice in Schools by Vanessa Siddle Walker (The New Press)

The Teachers March! How Selma’s Teachers Changed History by Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace. Illustrated by Charly Palmer (Astra Publishing House)

“What White Publishers Won’t Print” by Zora Neale Hurston. Negro Digest.

“What’s Missing From the Discourse About Anti-racist Teaching” by Jarvis R. Givens. The Atlantic.


National Education Association and American Teachers Association

2 Sets of Notes by M. K. Asante Jr.

This Day In History

Sept. 20, 1830: The First Meeting of the Colored Conventions Movement

Aug. 21, 1831: Nat Turner Launches Rebellion

March 24, 1853: Mary Ann Shadd Cary Published “The Provincial Freeman”

Feb. 3, 1868: First Freedmen’s Bureau Teacher Appointed in Lafayette Parish

Jan. 7, 1891: Zora Neale Hurston Born

Feb. 7, 1926: Carter G. Woodson Launched Negro History Week

May 17, 1954: Brown v. Board Ruling

March 2, 1955: Claudette Colvin Refuses to Give Up Her Bus Seat

March 25, 1965: Last Selma March


Participant Reflections

What was the most important thing (story, idea) you learned today? 

The TRUE impact that Dr. Carter G. Woodson had on education!!!

Fugitive Pedagogy was a new term for me today. It was nice to hear from Dr. Givens about what it means and then apply it to what I’ve learned, or perhaps have not learned, throughout my education. These are topics and ideas that deserve attention in the classroom.

The story of McGee needing to switch between the prescribed curriculum and what needed to be taught.

The specifics about history that allows me to understand today. The role of fugitive slaves in curriculum. Thanks also for the mention of the “communism” references: today’s “socialism”  labels. Reframing the Du Bois and Washington debate.

The concept of exercising fugitive pedagogy — simultaneously infuriating that history has been erased from “mainstream” classrooms AND invigorating that there’s a strong, vibrant history of resistance and subversion.

Fugitive pedagogy and how it impacted Black teachers. I am amazed by Dr. Carter G. Woodson’s story and how he was a trailblazer. The history of Black educators and how they went through to ensure that they are educated are very important. Their history needs to be told, and the truth needs to be shared with people. I learned a new term: intellectual surveillance.

Private capital and intellectual surveillance being a part of the same struggle. As well as the beautiful historical lineage of Black teachers who engaged in a process of ‘imagining’ with their students (ours is not only a history of resistance or countering white supremacy).

I think that something that struck me and made me think about my teaching was when Dr. Givens talked about the narrative around desegregation of schools and centering the white schools, while not recognizing the amazing contributions of teachers at Black schools. I need to center my narrative around that idea and talk more about the success of Black schools in segregated times.

The limitations of the focus on antiracist pedagogy. And the fact that the previously enslaved wrote text books. I did not know. The concept itself of fugitively and as applied to the practices of Black educators.

Black literacy becoming criminalized. Hearing Dr. Givens speak the history and connect Dr. Woodson’s teachers to the project of teaching for liberation today, stemming from the rich history of Black teachers! So much fire this evening.


What will you do with what you learned?

I am going to be able to apply many of the concepts I learned today to my Ethnic Studies teaching, which is focused on histories of schooling. Also I teach History of the Americas and that brief bit on maroon societies across the Americas sparked a way for me to talk about resistance outside of Haiti and the U.S.

It will influence the framing of professional development sessions with my history team and lesson planning.

I will read Dr. Givens‘ book, and make sure to explore it with my students next semester. I needed to reframe my considerations of Woodson outside the BHM narrative. This was so helpful in giving me the inspiration to dig deeper — thank you!

Keep reading, keep learning more. I will also bring this knowledge back to my team tomorrow. I plan to propose “Fugitive Pedagogy” as our next team book study.

I am currently working on a model curriculum for 5th Grade the MA Dept of Education.  Unit 5.5  of the Frameworks focuses on Black History from Reconstruction to the the Present. Dr. Jarvis’ work will be instrumental as I shape these lessons which will be open source for all educators in Massachusetts.

Teach about Freedom Schools and make comparisons to the banning of CRT today.

As a pre-service teacher, I am looking forward to challenging dominant narratives found in the state of Texas’ curriculum. I am still preparing ideas for how this can be done, but I really want to focus in on students identities in my classroom and have them work as co-creators of the classroom curriculum. I have faith that their minds and hearts will fuel the creativity needed to teach the truth, and challenge dominant biased narratives.

I plan to read the Carter G. Woodson picture book tomorrow, and then use that as a catalyst for moving forward with conversations about his work, the pushback that he received, why they think that was, and then move on to whatever our conversations make most logical. I work with first through fifth-grade students, so the conversations and next steps may vary by group. I am awaiting my copy of Fugitive Pedagogy & I know that this will continue to impact my practice. I’m looking forward to sharing about tonight with my T4BL study group members.

University teacher: I got so many resources from the chat and specific examples and framing from Dr. Givens. I already texted a few of my colleague co conspirators about ideas for refusing some of what we are asked to do in teacher education.

I hope to share this information formally and informally with younger teachers, especially Black teachers, to encourage them to remain in the profession.


Additional Comments

This is making me have hope about returning to teaching — about what I might still be able to do.

Thank you so much for these opportunities for on-going professional development.

Great hosts and knowledge as usual….#ScholarsOfThePractice



Jarvis Givens is an assistant professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a faculty affiliate in the university’s department of African & African American Studies. He studies the history of American education, African American history, and the relationship between race and power in schools.

Jesse Hagopian teaches Ethnic Studies and is the co-adviser to the Black Student Union at Garfield High School in Seattle. He is an editor for Rethinking Schoolsthe co-editor of Teaching for Black Lives, and editor of More Than a Score: The New Uprising Against High-Stakes Testing.

Cierra Kaler-Jones is a social justice educator, writer, and researcher based in Washington, D.C. Her research explores how Black girls use arts-based practices as mechanisms for identity construction and resistance. She is the director of storytelling at the Communities for Just Schools Fund.