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

On December 6, we host Jarvis Givens, author of Fugitive Pedagogy: Carter G. Woodson and the Art of Black Teaching, in conversation with Jesse Hagopian and Cierra Kaler-Jones.

Today’s assault on critical race theory and antiracist pedagogy by the right-wing is unintelligible without the insights offered in Fugitive Pedagogy. Givens tells inspirational stories of Black educators who faced down intellectual abuse and physical violence. They created counter-narrative curriculums — “a literary genre inaugurated by runaway slaves . . . Black curricular imaginations of the post-Emancipation era . . . informed by a fugitive literary culture with antebellum roots.”

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. Givens notes,

Anti-literacy laws targeting Black people were older than the United States itself. The first law of this kind was a slave code enacted in 1740, in reaction to the Stono Slave Rebellion of 1739 in South Carolina.

Givens aptly describes the “intellectual surveillance” of Black people that has always been part of U.S. education and the paranoia that white supremacists have had about Black education. He underscores this point by quoting abolitionist Frederick Douglass’ enslaver who said that a slave who learned to read and write against the will of his master was tantamount to “running away with himself.”

Central to Givens’ telling of the role of education in the Black freedom struggle is his portrait of Woodson who wrote numerous textbooks to counter white supremacist lies about Black history; founded Negro history week, which later became Black History Month; and wrote one of the seminal text in the Black studies tradition, The Mis-Education of the Negro.

Learn more by joining us on December 6.

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Note that these online classes with people’s historians are held at least once a month (generally on Mondays) at 4:00 pm PT / 7:00 pm ET for 90 minutes. In each session, the historian is interviewed by a teacher and breakout rooms allow participants (in small groups) to meet each other, discuss the content, and share teaching ideas. We designed the sessions for teachers and other school staff, however, parents, students, and others are welcome to participate. ASL is provided.