The Fugitive Life of Black Teaching: A History of Pedagogy and Power


Wednesday, January 27, 2021, 12:00pm



Jarvis R. Givens, Assistant Professor at Radcliffe wearing a blue suit with white shirt.

Jarvis R. Givens, the Suzanne Young Murray Assistant Professor at Radcliffe and an assistant professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, studies the relationship among race, power, and schooling in the United States. His first book, Fugitive Pedagogy: Carter G. Woodson and the Art of Black Teaching (Harvard University Press, forthcoming)traces the subversive and often covert educational practices black people employed to challenge racial domination during slavery through Jim Crow.

As a Radcliffe fellow, Jarvis Givens completed his first book, Fugitive Pedagogy: Carter G. Woodson and the Art of Black Teaching (Harvard University Press, 2021). This work explores the subversive history of Black education, focusing particularly on the concealed pedagogical practices of African American teachers. Givens uses the life of Carter G. Woodson (1875–1950)—the groundbreaking historian, founder of Black History Month, and legendary educator under Jim Crow—to frame this story. Interested in more than Woodson himself, however, the book recuperates the networked world of teachers to which he belonged, a world in which educators crafted a pedagogical model to challenge the hostile educational curricula, policies, and political economic forces that undermined their work. Black educators intentionally kept critical aspects of their work away from the public eye. In doing so, they developed what Givens calls a tradition of “fugitive pedagogy”—a theory and practice of Black education in America. Woodson’s life and work are presented as one of the greatest exemplars of this tradition: Woodson’s first teachers were his formerly enslaved uncles; he himself taught for nearly 30 years; and he spent his life partnering with educators, artists, and activists to fight against what he termed “the mis-education of the Negro.” Forged in slavery and embodied by Woodson, this tradition of escape remains essential for teachers and students today.

Givens earned his PhD in African American studies from the University of California, Berkeley, and is a two-time Ford Foundation fellow. He recently received a $610,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to codevelop The Black Teacher Archives, a digital repository to preserve the more than 100-year history of Colored Teacher Associations.

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