Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

The Education of African American Girls and Women: Past to Present

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

The Education of African American Girls and Women: Past to Present

Article excerpt

This article examines the education of African American girls and women. It begins with a look at scholarship on African American girls and women published in The Journal of Negro Education from its inception in 1932 to the present. Subsequently, a historical overview of the long, hard-fought struggles of educating this population for empowerment and uplift of the race is provided, including a discussion of late 19th and early 20th century schools for African American girls and women and prominent African American women educators of this period. This is followed by an examination of contemporary successes and challenges including a look at the educational outcomes and experiences of African American girls and women in elementary, secondary, and postsecondary institutions. Finally, the article concludes with recommendations for better understanding and enhancing the education of African American girls and women.

INTRODUCTION

The plethora of scholarly ideas, critiques, and debates of importance to understanding African American education over the past 75 years is undoubtedly due, in large part, to the continuous publication of The Journal of Negro Education (JNE) since 1932. In fact, the JNE was one of the few scholarly outlets that provided, albeit limited, critical discussion and empirical synthesis of data related to the education of African American girls and women. An analysis of the education of this population, particularly during the early educational landscape, provides invaluable insights to the rich cultural heritage of African American people in general, and more specifically, the enormous role that African American girls and women played in the long, hard-fought battles for racial uplift and sexual equality in a society that was, and continues to be, inherently racist and sexist.

The JNE's articles related to African American women and education have covered a range of topics. Early in its tenure, The Journal published an article by Lucy Diggs Slowe (1933) on "Higher Education of Negro Women" that discussed issues facing African American women in higher education because of changes in industrial, domestic, political, and social life of [then] modern times and how African American women must "be prepared for making their contributions to the problems of the world" (p. 353). Two other published articles focused specifically on African American girls and women during The JNE's first five years of publication. These included: (a) Hudson's (1932) article on "Reading Achievements, Interest, and Habits of Negro Women," and (b) Oldham's (1935) article on "The Socio-Economie Status and Personality of Negro Adolescent Girls." It should be noted that in the early years, The Journal published numerous articles related to African American teachers. Given that most of the teaching workforce during that time (as is the case today) was female, there were many other early articles about teachers and teaching of relevance to African American women. These articles, however, were not included in the listing in this article because they did not specifically focus on women and had little to no discussion of issues uniquely related to the lives of African American women.

Twenty-five years after JNE's inception, Jeanne L. Noble (1957) published an article in Volume 26 that provided a historic and philosophical review of Black women in higher education. She eloquently noted that a backward look at the education of women and Blacks is

like viewing two streams winding down a mountain path. At some points they seem to merge, and at other times they are miles apart. And yet, they are headed in the same direction-toward the great body of water. The tempestuous journey of all groups, while heading toward the great body of knowledge-college education-has echoed in the education of Negro women. (Noble, 1957, p. 16)

Some years later, The Journal saluted its appointment of Faustine C. Jones as its first female editor and devoted the 1982 Summer Yearbook issue to "The Impact of Black Women in Education. …

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