The Education of a Black Radical

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Black Protest Thought and Education

Department Head education-language-and-literature african-american-and-african-diaspora-history-and-culture critical-race-theory popular-culture-sports-and-the-arts politics-and-the-black-radical-tradition digital-humanities-media-studies. Cynthia A. More about Cynthia A. Faculty politics-and-the-black-radical-tradition. Ray Block.

More about Ray Block Amira Davis. More about Amira Davis Keith Gilyard. More about Keith Gilyard Madison [her husband] were turning their backs on a rich educational legacy.

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Is black homeschooling gaining or losing traction? How are these kids faring?

All of this is difficult to ascertain. A journal article on black-homeschooling practices estimated that the number of black youngsters being schooled at home tripled from to , while federal survey data found no statistical difference in the percentage of black homeschooled students over the four-year period starting in The discrepancies are due to differences in methodology and the difficulty of measuring this phenomenon.

Other data, from less partial sources, is scant. But even without quantitative evidence, the appeal of black homeschooling for many parents is plain—and there are a lot of resources emerging to support them. News stories have largely focused on the phenomenon as a response to entrenched stigmas against and low expectations for African American children in traditional schools.

Close to three in four respondents said the education black students receive is worse than the education delivered to white students.

And among parents whose children were taught by mostly white teachers, only 42 percent believed that schools were trying their best to educate black kids—16 percent fewer than the black parents whose children had mostly black instructors. Yet Fields-Smith made a point of noting the respect black families had for the people running and teaching in neighborhood schools.

What these families objected to is the institutional racism that underpins those schools—the tendency to discipline children of color at higher rates than their black peers, for example, and the residential segregation that determines the educational quality and demographic composition of a given campus. To liberate their children from this trap, they were performing an act of extreme self-reliance—taking it upon themselves to provide them an education that was more personal, more engaging, and more anchored in black self-discovery.

Tracing that history yields a better understanding of how black homeschooling emerged—and of how it could continue to evolve.


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During the antebellum period, legislatures across the South—viewing literacy as a direct threat to the institution of slavery—passed laws criminalizing reading or writing for enslaved and free blacks. The movement to oppose black education also extended to northern free states such as Connecticut, where a boarding school founded by abolitionists in for black girls was promptly banned by the legislature and then set ablaze by local residents.


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In the face of the backlash, black people educated themselves.