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Givens Named Professor of Education

Jarvis Givens, a leading expert in African American educational history, has been promoted to the rank of professor
Jarvis Givens
Photo: Ethiopiah Al-Mahdi

Harvard Graduate School of Education Dean Bridget Long has announced the promotion of Jarvis Givens, an historian and scholar on race and power in education. Givens has been promoted to the rank of full professor with tenure, effective July 1, 2023. 

Givens first joined HGSE as a dean’s postdoctoral fellow and became a member of the faculty in 2018. He conducts research at the intersection of 19th- and 20th-century African American history, the history of education, and theories of race and power in education. His work seeks to illuminate the unique struggles of oppressed populations in America, particularly Black Americans, and how they use education and culture as a means by which to resist and transcend their suffering. 

“Being awarded tenure feels like a huge affirmation and long-term investment in the work I’ve done since arriving at HGSE,” says Givens, who is also faculty affiliate in the Department of African and African American Studies at Harvard. “My promotion to full professor also affirms the intellectual tradition from which my scholarship emerges — a tradition of study that rigorously accounts for Black people’s distinctive insights about how education has and continues to be used toward nefarious ends, while also accounting for the ways Black people have been dreaming and manifesting liberatory models of teaching and learning all the while. I think it’s a brave acknowledgement on the part of HGSE that this very tradition, which is under attack in so many parts of our country, is essential to imagining and building a more beautiful and more just future in education for all learners, but especially those most vulnerable among us.” 

Givens’ book, Fugitive Pedagogy: Carter G. Woodson and the Art of Black Teaching, which traces the history and unique challenges and conditions of Black teaching and learning in America, received six prizes, including the 2022 Outstanding Book Award from the American Educational Research Association and the 2022 ASALH Book Prize for the best new book in African American history and culture. His latest book, School Clothes: A Collective Memoir of Black Student Witness, explores the experiences of Black students from the 19th century on. He also penned the introduction for a major new edition of Carter G. Woodson’s seminal The Mis-education of the Negro.

“Jarvis’ critically important research aims to create a more accurate and comprehensive history of race and education in the United States to support the transformation of schooling and the pursuit of racial justice,” says Long. “In addition to being one of the leading experts on African American educational history, Jarvis has founded the Black Teacher Archive (BTA), an initiative to preserve the political and intellectual contributions of Black educators, which will be available to researchers, teachers for classroom assignments, and the public. Jarvis has also served as the co-chair of the Culture, Institutions, and Society Ph.D. concentration and is a highly engaged collaborator here at HGSE. I look forward to the impact he will continue to have both in the field and here at the school.”

Launched in partnership with Princeton’s Imani Perry, the BTA locates, catalogues, and digitizes the records of national and state “Colored Teachers Associations” organized by Black educators from the antebellum era through Jim Crow. Access to these materials, largely the products of teachers in segregated Southern schools, is key to advancing research on the history of education, African American studies, and critical pedagogy. To coincide with BTA’s public launch in fall 2023, Givens is developing tools for professional education seminars with K–12 teachers and resources for effectively including the BTA in teacher education curricula. Recently, he was awarded a grant from the Spencer Foundation to continue his work with the BTA, including, among other things, the collection of oral histories from former leaders and members of Colored Teachers Associations. 

As co-chair of HGSE’s Culture, Institutions, and Society Ph.D. concentration, Givens established new doctoral professional development workshops and co-led the redesign of the comprehensive exam reading list and elective requirements. He has also taught in the Equity & Opportunity Foundation for master’s students and served on the Dean’s Advisory Committee on Equity and Diversity. He plans to build on his previous research, and his leadership experience at HGSE, to develop Black Education Studies as a critical and distinctive field of inquiry; and along with Associate Professor Bianca Baldridge and Northwestern’s Assistant Professor kihana ross, Givens will host a convening on Black Education Studies just ahead of the American Education Research Association’s upcoming annual conference in April.

“Through intentional collaborations with an intergenerational community of scholars, I hope to make more room for this kind of scholarship at HGSE, but also the fields of African American Studies and Education Studies more broadly,” says Givens, noting that, in alignment with this work, he is laying the groundwork for a Black Education Studies Research Fellowship for emerging scholars.

Currently, Givens is working on his third solo-authored book, American Grammar: Race, School, and the Building of a Nation, a history of American education analyzing how racial chattel slavery and Indigenous land dispossession influenced the schooling experiences of Native, White, and Black people through the 19th century, as well as the political-economic development of the national educational landscape.


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