African American Culture and Heritage in Higher Education Research and Practice

By Kassie Freeman | Go to book overview

Introduction

Kassie Freeman

The inspiration for this book came from two sources: the book The Mis-Education of the Negro, written by Carter G. Woodson ( 1933), and the ideas expressed by Chinua Achebe, African novelist, in an interview with Bill Moyer. In his book, Woodson wrote, "The Negro will never be able to show all of his originality as long as his efforts are directed from without by those who socially proscribe him. Such 'friends' will unconsciously keep him in the ghetto" (p. 28). In his interview with Bill Moyer, Achebe recounted how that when he read the novel The Heart of Darkness, he was cheering on the hunter until he realized that he was one of the savages being described. Both Woodson and Achebe were describing the importance of each culture telling its own story and/or how the storyteller shapes the imagination and beliefs of those who read or listen. As Achebe discusses, the story can even influence those being negatively written about to subconsciously accept the beliefs of the writer, and, as Woodson indicated, the one who tells the story can unconsciously keep African Americans in the "ghetto."

As an African American storyteller of higher education research, I am amazed at how the educational "story" portrays African Americans--labeling us, for example, as "at-risk," "underachievers," and "unintelligent"--and like Achebe, I recognize that I am one of those individuals being described. I can say with absolute confidence that the African American culture is often inadequately depicted in higher education research, or our cultural perspective is often altogether missing. Although Ogbu ( 1978), Banks ( 1988), and other anthropologists and multiculturalists have been writing about culture for some time, not until I began my research study on a group of African American high school students across cities and school types did the research stories that they told about their wants and desires for higher education make me clearly realize the necessity for including culture and heritage in higher education research, for their stories provided an

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