Beyond Silenced Voices: Class, Race, and Gender in United States Schools

By Lois Weis; Michelle Fine | Go to book overview

MICHELE FOSTER


Chapter Thirteen
Resisting Racism: Personal Testimonies of
African-American Teachers

INTRODUCTION: MISSING VOICES

For the first six decades of this century, teaching was one of the few occupations open to Black college graduates, a condition that was captured in the oft-quoted phrase, "the only thing a college-educated Negro can do is teach or preach." Despite this fact, there is surprisingly little that chronicles the experiences of Black teachers. There are some biographies of famous Black educators who have made significant contributions to education, but these accounts do not encompass the experiences of thousands of Black teachers who, though not historically significant, nonetheless played an important role in education of Black children. 1 The voices of Black teachers are not adequately represented among first-person narrative accounts. Of sixtyfive first-person teachers' narratives written in English in this century reviewed by this author, for instance, three were written by Black American teachers. Finally, though the anthropological and sociological literature is somewhat more inclusive, Black teachers appearing more frequently in this genre, except for a few balanced portrayals, 2 the typical representation of Black teachers is decidely negative. 3

One characteristic of the educational literature written about Black teachers between 1966 and the present is its almost singular focus on describing their relationship to maintaining the larger social order. Rarely do any of the accounts decribe how Black teachers have actively resisted the status quo.

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