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Faculty & Research

Jarvis R. Givens

Assistant Professor of Education
Faculty Affiliate, African and African-American Studies

Jarvis R. Givens

Degree:  Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, (2016)
Email:  [javascript protected email address]
Phone:  617.496.4827
Office:  Gutman 447
Faculty Assistant:  Annemari Korte


Jarvis R. Givens is an assistant professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) and the Suzanne Young Murray Assistant Professor at the Radcliffe Institute, having earned his Ph.D. in African Diaspora Studies from the University of California, Berkeley. As an interdisciplinary historian, Givens' research falls at the intersection of the history of American education, 19th and 20th century African American history, and critical theories of race and schooling. Before assuming his position as an assistant professor, Givens was a Dean's Postdoctoral Fellow at HGSE (2016-2018), a Ford Dissertation and Pre-doctoral Fellow, and a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow.

Givens' first book, Schooling in Forbidden Fields: Carter G. Woodson and the Demands of Black Education (forthcoming, Harvard University Press), analyzes Carter G. Woodson's (1875-1950) critiques of the American school, the new curricular materials he developed, and how ordinary teachers put his ideas into practice during Jim Crow. The work looks closely at the subversive pedagogy of these educators as well as students’ experiences with Woodson's iconic educational program (Negro History Week, textbooks, classroom decorations, etc.). Givens' historical scholarship has also informed research on contemporary topics of education, specifically looking at the experiences of Black teachers and students in urban schooling. On this front, he is co-editing We Dare Say Love: Supporting Achievement in the Educational Life of Black Boys (forthcoming, Columbia University’s Teachers College Press) with Na'ilah Nasir and Chris Chatmon. This work chronicles the development and implementation of the African American Male Achievement Initiative in Oakland Unified School District, following a small group of Black male educators who changed district policy and practice to create a learning experience for Black boys rooted in love. Givens has published in journals such as: Race Ethnicity and EducationSouls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture and SocietyHarvard Educational Review, and more. He is a life member of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History and a contributor to Black Perspectives (blog of the African American Intellectual History Society).

Givens' emerging research is developing in two distinct directions. The first centers on interrogating silences in the archives of Black educational history and exploring possibilities for expanding this archive by building on new approaches in digital humanities. Secondly, he is exploring lessons to be gleaned from the history of Black teacher associations in support of contemporary efforts to recruit and retain African American educators.  

Click here to see a full list of Jarvis Givens' courses.

Sponsored Projects

THE BLACK TEACHER ARCHIVES (1861-1970) Preserving the legacy of African American educators and their activism (2020-2022)
Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Professor Jarvis R. Givens of Harvard University and Professor Imani Perry of Princeton University seek support to catalogue and digitize the complete collections of journals published by “Colored Teacher Associations” between 1920 and 1970. The project also includes the building of an online portal or data-hub (hereafter referred to as The Black Teacher Archives), which will lay the groundwork for a dynamic digital archive to rejuvenate academic scholarship in the field of African American educational history. This project will result in the digitization of more than ten thousand pages of writings and images featured in these journals that has, by and large, been unknown and inaccessible for research. The Black Teacher Archives will make these materials digitally accessible and searchable. A small subset of the project also includes the urgent work of conducting oral histories with the last living educators who were members of these organizations prior to the dismantling of CTAs during desegregation. Collectively, this proposed work constitutes Phase One of a more expansive digital archive project to preserve the legacy of African American teachers as intellectuals and activists. Colored Teacher Associations were professional and “protest organizations”—to borrow the language of one CTA executive secretary. They supported the intellectual and political work of African American educators who were excluded from white teacher groups, and these institutions served as vehicles for professionalization and community organization. State CTAs began forming prior to the Civil War, and a national body of these organizations formed in 1903. These organizations began to publish journals at the national and state levels in the 1920s.. Inside the pages of these journals, we have found a rich body of primary sources that fill critical gaps in African American history, intellectual history, history of education, and educational philosophy. Thus far, the intellectual and political contributions of black teachers have been under-acknowledged and underappreciated in both public history and scholarly archives. By bringing together the collections, from across states and institutions, scholars will be capable of both synthesizing and distinguishing the history of African American education, nationally and locally. Scholars will be able to see educational trends across states in ways that were never before possible and tell a thicker history of the institutional structure of Jim Crow as well as the resistance against it. These journals and the stories they capture are foundational to the history of desegregation and the Civil Rights Movement. The implications of The Black Teacher Archives for the study of American and African American history is tremendous.

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