A major new research project to explore the history of African American education will launch today at Harvard University, funded by a two-year, $610,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The project, called The Black Teacher Archives, will be led by co-principal investigators Jarvis Givens, an assistant professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and Imani Perry, a professor in Princeton University’s Department of African American Studies.
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 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. They will help us tell more dynamic stories of black educators, especially given all that becomes possible once historical sources are digitized.
"This is a world of teachers who cultivated dreams in generations of black people, while living under persecution. Their stories have so much to teach us," he says.
Givens and Perry will partner with scholars and archivists at historically black colleges and universities, and the project's advisory board includes leading scholars of black education from across the nation.