Pioneering Black Educators and Librarians

| March 1, 2018

The history of black education in America is fraught with institutionalized racism. Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896 upheld the idea that schools could legally be segregated if they were “separate but equal”, something we know they never were. This ruling was not overturned until 1954 with Brown v. Board of Education but even then it was still an uphill battle to integrate schools. While no longer the rule of law there continues to be inequality in our public school systems. Black History Month is a great time to celebrate pioneering black educators.

35734034976_1bb72b7a9a_bI always liked that Women’s History Month follows Black History Month because it gives us an opportunity to honor the work of African-American women twofold. As librarians, we see ourselves as educators and we love Dr. Carla Hayden (no really, I went to an academic library conference and there was a huge line to get selfies with her, she’s like a librarian rock star). Dr. Hayden is the first African-American and first female Librarian of Congress. She is also the first professional librarian to hold the post in over 60 years. Since TC is a graduate school, I know you’ll all appreciate that most librarians hold master’s degrees and we are happy to see one of our own in office!

During her swearing in, Dr. Hayden reminded her audience, “People of my race were once punished with lashes and worse for learning to read.” (Read the full article on her swearing in.) Billie E. Walker wrote about another African-American librarian who worked at the LC starting in 1871, Daniel Alexander Payne Murray.

forgottenIn A Forgotten Sisterhood: Pioneering Black Women Educators and Activists in the Jim Crow South by Audrey Thomas McCluskey looks at four women who fought discrimination and tried to provide not just a good education but services to better the lives of their often impoverished communities. In the northern states, Val Marie Johnson examines ‘“The Half Has Never Been Told” Maritcha Lyons’ Community, Black Women Educators, the Woman’s Loyal Union, and “the Color Line” in Progressive Era Brooklyn and New York‘. In the modern era, Tambra O. Jackson and Natasha C. Flowers recall in ‘Much to lose: Black mother educators respond to Donald Trump’s comments about schools‘ that while Trump was running for president he said, “You’re living in your poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 percent of your youth is unemployed – what the hell do you have to lose?”, as if regurgitating stereotypes would somehow bring black voters over to him.

diversifyingIt is also widely recognized that there are few men of color who enter the teaching profession. Black Male Teachers: Diversifying the United States’ Teacher Workforce looks at not just recruiting black male teachers but at diversifying teaching in general.

Finally, ‘“I’m None of the Above”: Exploring Themes of Heteropatriarchy in the Life Histories of Black Male Educators‘ explores both the role of male black educator and includes an interview with a trans black male educator who deals with gender issues for not being cis male as he enters the profession.