I first read The Mis-Education of the Negro, Carter Woodson’s groundbreaking 1933 book, as an undergraduate at Howard University, and it radically changed my life and my view of myself as a human being.
“There would be no lynching, if it did not start in the schoolroom,” wrote Woodson, the founder of Black History Month in the United States. “The same educational process which inspires and stimulates the oppressor with the thought that he is everything and has accomplished everything worthwhile, depresses and crushes at the same time the spark of genius in the Negro by making him feel that his race does not amount to much and never will measure up to the standards of other peoples. The Negro thus educated is a hopeless liability of the race."
A seed was planted, and I began to contemplate becoming a teacher.
I was re-introduced to Woodson’s work by the historian Jarvis Givens. We were sitting in his office at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, discussing his research on Jim Crow teacher activism, or what he terms "fugitive pedagogy." We also discussed the similarities between fugitive and transformative pedagogy. What was synchronistic about our discussion was that 16 years prior, Givens was my student — sitting in my Honors U.S. History classroom as I taught a transformative pedagogy of my own. At the time, I had no idea that my sharp-witted 16-year-old student from Compton, California, would go on to become a professor at Harvard University — where I am currently a doctoral student in educational leadership.