Culture, Curriculum, and Consciousness: Resurrecting the Educational Praxis of Dr. Carter G. Woodson, 1875-1950
- Author(s): Givens, Jarvis Ray
- Advisor(s): Taylor, Ula Y
- et al.
While Black educational history generally centers the infamous debate between Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois, this dissertation re-conceptualizes this framing through an innovative exploration of the work of Dr. Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950). Culture, Curriculum, and Consciousness analyzes Woodson’s argument that the ideological foundations of schools relied on a human history of the world that centered Whiteness and distorted the humanity of Black people. He not only advocated for a transformation that would supplant the ideological stronghold White supremacy had on Black education, but he simultaneously created an alternative model that centered Black humanity and cultural achievements. Coupling archival methods with critical text analysis and coding schemes, I examine how Woodson institutionalized his educational praxis through the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), self-published textbooks, and his close relationship with Black teacher networks. Most importantly, the dissertation exposes the theoretical, pedagogical, and curricular insights Woodson’s model of education offers for contemporary challenges in Black schooling.
I analyze letters between Woodson and key educational figures, sales documents regarding his textbooks and publishing company, annual reports published in Woodson’s Journal of Negro History, reflections by his past students and mentees, and pamphlets he disseminated amongst Black teachers. In building on these materials and more, the project utterly unmasks Woodson’s educational praxis and the findings present him as a pioneering scholar in Black educational reform.
Woodson’s absence in the historical narrative, despite his prominence amongst Black teachers, is evidence of the failures of the prevailing frameworks. To address this elision, Culture, Curriculum, and Consciousness writes Woodson and his iconic educational model directly into the historical narrative and, in doing so, reimagines the Black educational trajectory. The pinnacle of this study lies in the "Black Educational Heritage," a new analytical framework for studying schooling and Black life. This more expansive framing of Black educational history is born at the intersection of education, freedom, and affect.
Culture, Curriculum, and Consciousness presents Woodson as an educational theorist. His philosophy offers a counterweight against contemporary discourse on “the Black educational crisis,” which largely fails to engage the role of power, hegemonic culture, and racial ideology in facilitating what has been termed African American underachievement. This rigorous historical and theoretical engagement with Woodson’s educational model urges us to deal with the most pressing moral and intellectual challenges as it pertains to American schooling. The first step in any purposeful education is the recognition of a people’s humanity—the failure to do so only sustains schools as a site of Black suffering.