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African American history, race and textbooks: An examination of the works of Harold O. Rugg and Carter G. Woodson

The Journal of Social Studies Research
Volume 36, Issue 4
African American History, Race and Textbooks:
An Examination of the Works of Harold O. Rugg and Carter G. Woodson
LaGarrett J. King
Clemson University
Christopher Davis
University of Texas, Austin
Anthony L. Brown
University of Texas, Austin
This paper proposes that as a way to broaden the theoretical and historical
context of social studies foundational literature and curriculum history,
attention must be given to issues of race and racism related the experiences of
African Americans. First, race and racism should be used as an analytical tool
to examine longstanding foundations topics. Second, historically marginalized
social studies scholars need to be recognized and theoretically situated within
the existing literature of social studies foundations. Last, there must be
comparative work that examines African American and White progressives’
similar and divergent conceptions of K-12 social studies curriculum. As a way
to address these limitations in the social studies foundations literature, this
paper provides a comparative examination of the different ways in which
Harold O. Rugg and Carter G. Woodson rendered race and racism in the
textbooks they authored during the early twentieth century. This article
concludes with a discussion about the implications of this study to social studies
foundations scholarship.
In the fall 2009 special edition of Theory and Research in Social Education
(TRSE), social studies scholar Christine Woyshner challenged the field of social
studies foundations to expand on its historiography on the important aspects that
led to the theoretical and practical components of social studies education. In her
view, the social studies foundation research agenda has been dominated by three
interpretive frameworks: the progressive era analysis, history vs. social studies
debates, and biographies of “old masters” of the field (p. 428). In agreement
African American History, Race and Textbooks: An Examination of the Works of Harold O. Rugg
and Carter G. Woodson, pages 359-386.
Copyright ©2012 The Journal of Social Studies Research
All rights of reproduction in any form reserved.
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Volume 36, Issue 4
with Professor Woyshner, we propose that it is time for the field to explore new
research questions that challenge these traditional approaches to social studies
historiography. Much work is needed, however, to revisit these traditional
topics and examine their limitations, especially with regards to the racial
structures so prevalent in segregated educational communities in the early 20th
The purpose of this manuscript is to broaden the intellectual and historical
context of social studies foundational literature and curriculum history on three
highly important but overlooked areas of social studies foundations. First, there
is a need to attend to race and racism as an analytical tool to examine
longstanding social studies foundations topics. Second, the literature needs to
theoretically situate individuals neglected in social studies foundations
scholarship. Last, the field of social studies foundations needs to explore
comparisons that highlight the similar and different ways in which African
American and White progressives addressed curricular issues during the same
historical period (Watkins, 2006). As a way to address these limitations in the
social studies foundations literature, this paper provides a comparative
examination of the different ways in which Harold O. Rugg and Carter G.
Woodson rendered race and racism in the textbooks they authored during the
early twentieth century.
Drawing from the theoretical frameworks of critical race theory (Delgado
& Stefancic, 2001; Ladson-Billings, 2003) and revisionist ontology (Mills,
1995), we examine Rugg and Woodson’s social studies textbooks, specifically
noting the ways the narrative of African Americans are depicted in each text.
We understand that investigations of the limitations of narratives of African
American history in social studies and history textbooks is not a new
phenomenon (Alridge, 2006; Banks, 1969; Brown & Brown 2010; Loewen,
2007; Nash, Crabtree & Dunn, 1997), however, attention paid to the way in
which Rugg and Woodson characterized African Americans in history has not
been thoroughly explored in social studies literature.
It is important to examine the works of Harold O. Rugg and Carter G.
Woodson because they both represent a segment of the academic community
during the early years of the 20th century that attempted to define and/or
reconstruct social studies curriculum. Rugg’s curriculum was intended to help
expand and transform democratic principles by highlighting the “American
Problem” within classroom spaces (Evans, 2007). Woodson, although not
traditionally considered a social studies theorist or reformist, is instrumental for
social studies scholars to study because of his interdisciplinary focus on the
study of African Americans in U.S history and African Diaspora topics through
World history (King, Crowley, & Brown, 2010).
We note for instance, that Rugg’s textbooks portrayed African Americans
as insignificant to global histories as well as portrayed African Americans as the
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stereotypical “happy slave” and as helpless and naive historical actors during
Reconstruction. Despite Rugg’s “progressive” label, the historical narratives in
his textbooks regarding African Americans mirrored many of the stereotypical
depictions of African Americans found in mainstream textbooks of the early
twentieth century (Phillips, 1916; Reddick, 1934).
By way of comparison, Carter G. Woodson sought to dispel popular
ideologies and characterizations of African Americans. Carter G. Woodson is
considered one of the forefathers of the Black history movement (Banks, 1992;
Dagbovie, 2010; Meier & Rudwick, 1986). We examine Woodson’s textbook
narratives not as a process of recognition of historical African American
characters, but as an effort to repudiate the racist syllogisms created by early
White educators. In other words, we posit that Woodson’s work was not only
responding to the revision of historical narratives, but his project was also
committed to the revision of larger racial ontological meanings of African
Americans within the public imagination (Brown, 2010).
We begin our manuscript by highlighting the research on Rugg and
Woodson, giving specific attention to how both scholars are characterized in the
academic community. Second, we provide a literature review about how race
and social studies foundations are situated within the field. Third, we then lay
out the theoretical frameworks that guided our analysis, which are critical race
theory (Delgado & Stefancic, 2001; Ladson-Billings, 2003) and revisionist
ontology (Mills, 1998). Fourth, we provide an historical context of the
“American problem” that was prevalent throughout the early twentieth century.
Next, we draw from our ideas regarding Rugg’s and Woodson’s conceptions
about African Americans in textbooks. This article concludes with a discussion
about the implications of this study to social studies foundations scholarship.
Harold O. Rugg
Scholarship on Rugg has received significant attention through the various
disciplines of social studies (Evans 2007; Riley and Brown 2004; Whelan 1991),
curriculum studies (Pinar, et al. 2000; Rosario, 1979; 1988; Schwatz, 1979;
Watkins, 2006) and educational history (Nash, 1995; Goodenow, 1975). A
renowned educator and one time leading textbook writer, research on Rugg has
explained in detail his social studies contributions (Carobone, 1971, 1977; Evan,
2007, Mraz, 2004; Stern & Riley, 2001), pedagogical beliefs and theories
(Boyle-Baise & Goodwin, 2009b; Nelson, 1977, 1978), curriculum and
textbooks (Bisland, 2010; Boyle-Baise and Goodwin, 2009a) and controversial
status (Evans, 2004, 2006). Simply put, Rugg is considered a “giant” of social
studies and curriculum scholars, particularly his ideas regarding the advent of
social studies and how the subject is implemented in classrooms.
Rugg is credited in some scholarly circles as one of the founders of what we
know as the social studies field (Evans, 2007). He proposed that one general
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course of social studies rather than separate courses such as history, geography
and civics was needed to understand life and how it came to be. His social
studies curriculum is lauded as revolutionary for its time and relevant to
contemporary social studies practice. Instead of approaching the subject as
decontextualized rote memorizations of facts, Rugg proposed a curriculum
centered on the troubles of society. His focus on issue-centered curriculum,
which approached the study of social studies, sought to prepare students to
participate in life activities and equip them to be constructively critical of
contemporary society” (Evans, 2007 p. 40).
Rugg boasted an impressive body of scholarship. Among the most noted
consisted of his textbook series titled Man and His Changing Society which
included An Introduction to America Civilization (1929), Changing Civilization
in the Modern World (1930a), A History of American Civilization: Economic
and Social (1930b), A History of American Government and Culture (1931), An
Introduction to the Problems of American Culture (1931) and Changing
Governments and Changing Cultures (1932). The goal of these textbooks was to
present students with evidence of salient issues and problems that underlie an
American democracy. Evans (2007) states that the curriculum would help
students review the “evidence which is necessary for the consideration of all
aspects of a given problem and would entail “an unpartisan, open minded review
of the evidence on both sides” of the question (p. 41).
There however, were some glaring omissions to Rugg’s issue–centered
approach in the social studies, despite his attention to immigration and other
societal concerns, his texts tended to give only surface attention or completely
overlook the racial atrocities against Black Americans such as lynching, race
riots, eugenics and Jim Crow laws (Gilje, 1996; Goldsby, 2006; Gould, 1999). If
Rugg’s curriculum and textbooks were designed to approach critical issues
within American democracy, the exclusion of race is a direct oversight of the
atrocious and salient racial events that troubled social equality. It is our view
that social studies and curriculum foundations scholars have neglected to
investigate racial issues and how curriculum writers explored ways to alleviate it
through curriculum. Moreover, social studies and curriculum studies scholars
attention to White progressives/social reconstructionist scholars has not
provided guidance on the issues of race and racism addressed during this period.
Carter G. Woodson
Carter G. Woodson is widely known mostly as a historian who set out to
legitimatize the historical traditions of people of African descent. The writings
about Woodson has centered on his critique about limited history curriculum
that has disregarded African Americans as viable historical characters. His most
famous and widely cited work, The Miseducation of the Negro, is lauded as a
literary classic (Banks, 1992). Throughout the book, Woodson focused his
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writings on the problems facing African American education, with one being the
lack of knowledge about Black history. Woodson believed that with increased
knowledge about Black history one could eliminate racist thoughts and
perceptions that many persons (both White and Black) internalized against
African Americans.
Woodson’s plight as an educator and textbook writer is a much
underdeveloped and consequently underappreciated topic within education and
history literature. It could be argued that he was the most prominent Black
textbook writer of this period. Before his death in 1950, he would have written
over 20 books, which included the following six resources in this manuscript:
The Negro in Our History (1922), Negro Makers of History (1928b), The Story
of the Negro Retold (1935), The African Background Outlined (1936), African
Heroes and Heroines (1939) and African Myths, Together with Proverbs
Central to Woodson’s project was to invalidate the existing axiom of
historical thought found in the school curriculum about African Americans.
Woodson emphasized that everything in the curriculum from the textual writing
to the aesthetics of the Black citizen could be internalized and create a
dangerous racial schema (Fanon, 1967) that would also develop amongst White
citizens about African Americans. He further maintained that the mayhem that
occurred from racial bigotry was a direct outcome from traditional education
(Woodson, 1933, p.3). To correct the racial problem was to provide students,
both Black and White, a counter curriculum that spoke directly to the popular
discourses about the inferior nature of African Americans.
Race and Social Studies Foundations
A relatively young field, social studies foundational literature has
encompassed a diverse set of issues and topics concerning its beginnings. Every
major social studies research journal has had special editions that have
contributed to the field’s foundational knowledge. The majority of the
foundational literature, however, has catered to familiar narratives which center
on the origins of the field of social studies (Bohan, 2003; Keels, 1988; Saxe,
1991), theoretical and practical definitions of social studies (Brady, 1993; Davis,
1993; Watras, 2004; Wilson,1982) and on the Old Masters and Founders of the
field (Evans, 2007; Fallance, 2009; Keels, 1994; Lybarger, 1983; Whelan,
1994). Traditional social studies foundations research has not thoroughly
explored the racial dimensions in social studies thought, although, the writings
imply that race and racism of Black Americans in social studies foundations
existed and was problematic to its creation. Social studies scholars agree that the
conceptual development of social studies had negative racial undertones
especially expressed through Thomas Jesse Jones’ social studies curriculum
(Dilworth, 2004; Kliebard, 1994; Saxe, 1991; Watkins, 1990, 1991). Lybarger
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(1983), for example, suggested that Jones wrote about the importance of manual
training for Black children but believed that democratic forms of education was
out of the intellectual scope for African American school children. Saxe (1991)
notes the contradictions of Jones’s social studies program as repressive to
minorities through the Hampton curriculum by abiding to the status quo of
political disenfranchisement, social degradation, and economic servitude.
Although these negative racial beginnings are accepted axioms in the
scholarly community, little foundational research has moved the field to explore
the implications of these racist beginnings. While the U.S was inundated within
the confines of Jim Crow and other institutional barriers that prevented an
inclusive educational curriculum, the literature is incomplete on how social
studies was theorized within ethnically and culturally diverse communities.
Understanding the racial dynamics during the early twentieth century has not led
many in the social studies foundations community to explore specifically issues
related to race and racism directed toward African Americans. Simply put,
social studies historiography has been slow to recognize the racial foundations
of social studies within African American communities during the late
nineteenth and early twentieth century (Howard, 2004; Watkins, 1993, 2006).
There has been research literature throughout the general social studies
community that has attempted to broaden our understanding about the topic of
race by explicitly uncovering the limitations of social studies curriculum and
practice. These bodies of work are direct responses to the glaring absence of
race and racism in the field of social studies research, curriculum, and teaching
(Ladson-Billings, 2003). Investigations regarding the issues of race in the
curriculum (Brown & Brown, 2010; Cornbleth & Waugh, 1995; Nelson & Pang,
2006; Rains, 2006), students’ and teachers’ perspectives on race (Cornbleth,
2002; Epstein, 2000, 2009; Urietta, 2004), and teaching about race in the social
studies classroom (Chandler, 2009; Howard, 2003, 2004; Tyson, 2003) have
been the focal points of many social studies scholars.
Chandler (2010) and Lintner (2004), have extended the conversations on
critical race theory as a useful theoretical framework to challenge social studies
educators, researchers, theorists, and practitioners to structure race-specific
teaching in U.S. history classes. The fall 2004 issue of Theory and Research in
Social Education, titled Race and the Social Studiesand Critical race theory
perspectives on social studies an edited book by Ladson-Billings (2003) both
provide an important insights about uses of race in the social studies.
This insight, however, has not been thoroughly explicated within the
foundation’s subset of social studies. There is a growing research base that has
detailed African American involvement within foundational circles (Banks,
1992; Brown, 2010; Crocco, 2003; Dilworth, 2004; Howard, 2004; Grimes,
2007; King, Crowley, & Brown, 2010). These scholars’ research has been
informative about the various African American individuals and communities
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that have aided in the development of social studies thought. For example,
Margret Crocco (2003) noted how African American scholars fought for social
education “to uphold its commitment to democracy, citizenship and equal
rights” (p. 112). Patrice Preston-Grimes (2007) examined the history of civic
education through the perspectives of African American teachers and students.
Bohan & Randolph (2009) and Bair (2009), highlighted research attending to
distinctive and diverse histories of social studies education, which included
articles on social studies and desegregation in Atlanta public schools (Bohan &
Randolph 2009) and African American women school founders who have
developed character education programs (Blair, 2009). In addition, Dilworth
(2004), King, Crowley, and Brown (2010) and Brown, Crowley, and King
(2011) have examined the nuanced ways in which Carter G. Woodson has
contributed to social studies through citizenship education, African history, and
community engagement.
Critical Race Theory and Revisionist Ontology
Critical Race Theory
The prophetic words of professor, scholar, and activist W.E.B. Dubois has
rang true throughout the twentieth century when he proclaimed that the color
line between Black and White citizens would be the most salient issue in society
(Dubois, 1903). This sentiment can be extended to think about the historical
legacy of the egregious ways in which social studies and history scholars,
through textbooks and curriculum guides, have mistreated and misinformed
school children about the accomplishments of African Americans. These
problematic narratives still influence textbook authors’, teachers’ and students’
conceptions about African Americans (Alridge, 2006; Brown & Brown, 2010;
Epstein, 2009).
As a way to underscore the salient issues about race that are ever-present in
social studies thought (Ladson-Billings, 2003), some social studies scholars
have used critical race theory (CRT) as a medium to explore and critique the
marginalized nature the topic of race and racism has had within the field of
social studies (Chandler, 2010; Howard, 2003; Ladson-Billings, 2003; Lintner,
2004; Tyson, 2003). Critical race scholars sought a theoretical framework to
expose the racial inequities within the U.S legal system. CRT, currently, has
expanded within the fields of education and has been used as an analytical tool
for social studies scholars (Chandler, 2010; Howard, 2004; Ladson-Billings,
2003; Lintner, 2004).
Ladson-Billings (2003) states that CRT can serve as the analytical tool to
explain the systemic omissions, distortions, and lies that plague the field.
Howard (2004) suggested that a proper utilization of CRT would require
examining the curriculum, research, theory, and practice that silence the issues
of race (p. 488). These sentiments stated by Ladson-Billings and Howard align
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with one of the hallmarks of CRT, historical revisionism. Delgado and
Stefancic (2001) proposed that revisionist history “reexamines America’s
historical record, replacing comfortable majoritarian interpretation of events
with ones that square more accurately with minorities’ experiences” (p.20).
Therefore, we posit that CRT’s purpose in this study is to broaden the
intellectual scope of social studies foundations and to examine longstanding
issues within the field. While the literature on Rugg is expansive and he is
lauded for his curriculum work and pedagogical suggestions about social studies
practice, little scholarship has carefully examined his work through a racial lens.
It is our purpose therefore, to reexamine Rugg’s work through an analysis of
how race is rendered.
CRT also advocates for the recognition of individuals that are marginalized
in discussions concerning the creation of social studies (Delgado & Stefancic,
2001). New narratives are needed not just to recognize individuals such as
Woodson as important, but to situate their work within the existing literature
that highlights the diverse ways in which social studies thought and practice was
conceptualized by communities of color. This directly implies that historically
underserved communities played a major part in the theoretical and practical
components of social studies theory.
Revisionist Ontology
Revisionist ontology is the process of reclaiming and reinventing a racial
group’s identity, which has been for centuries overtly normalized by popular
historical narratives (Mills, 1998). “Revision” as proposed by Mills is
theoretically different from what CRT scholars would classify as “revisionist
history.” The approached offered by Mills does not solely focuses on new
historical narratives but also on systematically challenging categories of
race normalized by racist historians. In other words, historically, the racial
discourses that permeated society had a profound impact on how
African Americans and other minority groups were viewed in school
These curricula and textbooks created an image of African Americans as a
race that has been naturally selected as inferior to the White race or what Mills
(1998) referred to as a “sub-person”. In her exhaustive study of twentieth
century textbooks, Ruth Miller Elson (1964) proclaimed that a direct correlation
existed between the “darkness of color and weakness of intellect” (p. 88). The
African Negro, she stated, was clearly regarded as the most degraded of the
races and evidence in school textbooks solidified assumptions of African
Americans incapability of improvement (p. 87). Therefore, racist beliefs that
have been perpetrated in society had school curriculum and textbooks reinforce
those beliefs, thus created an ontological truth about African Americans.
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Black historians and educators have a long history in repudiating the racist
syllogisms created by early White educators (Dagbovie, 2010; Meier &
Rudwick, 1986). Since the antebellum period, many African American writers
sought to reinvent the racial images of Black Americans. We employ this theory
to situate the work of Carter G. Woodson as revisionist ontological work (see
Brown, 2010). In other words, Woodson’s work was not only responding to the
revision of historical narratives but his project was also committed to the
revision of larger ontological meanings of African Americans within the public
imagination. We decided to highlight Woodson because of his systemic
approach to Afro-diasporic topics. He approached the study of African
Americans through three initiatives: the community, colleges and universities
and K-12 education through Negro History Week and school textbooks (King,
Crowley, & Brown, 2010). Before we explicate on the works of Rugg and
Woodson, it is important to provide the historical context on how race informed
the construction of African American history in school textbooks.
Race and Society: The American Problem
The issues of race and racism within the context of African Americans’
lives was not by any stretch of the imagination an obscure American problem, if
anything it was “The American Problem”—or as Gunner Myrdal (1996 [1944])
called the “American Dilemma”. Throughout this historical period, racial fear,
hatred and ignorance of Black Americans spread throughout the country as
evident of the rise and acceptance of White supremacy groups such as the Klu
Klux Klan and the Sons of Confederacy. Movies such as the widely acclaimed
Birth of a Nation helped validate fears and White supremacist beliefs. Children
books such as Little Black Sambo, perpetrated the “pickaninny” racial
stereotypes of African Americans. Advertisers exploited stereotypes of the
Black body to sell its products, a process termed commodity racism
(McClintock 1994). These racist depictions and organizations, along with
federal and state government policies (or lack thereof) would be the catalyst for
racial violence, Jim Crow segregation and Black persons’ exploitation in the
justice system, which continued throughout the first half of the twentieth
The accusations of rape of White females by Black males and the ideology
of the Black male as an overhyped sexual deviant provided the excuses for the
heinous act of violence by White mobs through lynching (Goldsby, 2006). As a
result, there occurred a mass exodus of African Americans from southern states
to northern and western states to escape the mentality of White racist
southerners. Consequently, because of racist beliefs and the fight over economic
and other resources, bloody and deadly confrontations between Black and White
citizens occurred in northern and western cities. The Red Summer of 1919
produced twenty-six racial riots in cities and towns, resulting in major
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causalities, mostly Black citizens defending themselves from White agitators.
During the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, the belief in White
intellectual superiority dominated academic discourse. For example,
anthropologist Samuel Morton’s craniometry studies, psychologist G. Stanley
Hall’s recapitulation theory and Alfred Binet’s IQ testing were used to propel
racial discourse about the physical, social and intellectual superiority of White
persons (Gould, 1981). Although anthropologists, Franz Boas, Ruth Benedict,
and sociologist Robert Park provided anti-racist work against hegemonic
discourses, the eugenicist racial discourse of this time remained to have a great
influence on many educational ideas including the foundational social studies of
Thomas Jesse Jones. Despite the influences of pioneering literature and
horrendous events concerning race and racism against Black Americans, the
curriculum of the leading social reconstructionists were void or glanced over
race as an important dynamic in American society that needed to be addressed.
Instead, mainstream textbooks continued to construct the Black subject as
inferior, history-less and negligible.
Racialized and Propaganda Textbooks:
The Lazy, Confused and Happy Negro
Noted historian, Leon Litwack (1987), professed that no group of scholars
was more deeply implicated in the mis-education of American youth and did
more to shape the thinking of generations of Americans about race and Blacks
than historians (p. 326). The words of popular historian Arnold Toynbee
illustrated this point by stating that of all the races of human beings, only the
Black race “had made no productive contribution to civilization” (cited in
Winston 1975, 462). Many of the prominent historians such as David Muzzey,
U.B. Phillips, Hilary Herbert and Claude Bowers accepted the inferior status of
African Americans and wrote mainstream textbooks that reflected these ideas
(Dubois, 1935; Nash, Crabtree and Dunn, 1997; Reddick,1934; Zimmerman,
2001). History and geography textbooks, consequently, solidified and affirmed
the inferior state of African Americans.
During the early twentieth century, attention paid to African Americans in
school textbooks received little to no attention. When Black Americans were
presented in textbooks, the topic of slavery was the most common topic.
However, slave life in these textbooks was void of the brutality of slave culture
and the narrative of Black resistance. Nash, Crabtree and Dunn (1997) noted that
scientific racism was prevalent in the writings of historians by explaining to
schoolchildren “slavery was a blessings because it rescued Africans from eternal
darkness in their savage homelands” (p. 60). Popular historian U. B. Phillips
(1918) and his textbook, American Negro Slavery, characterized the conditions
of slavery as necessary because it helped “civilize” the Black race. A textbook
adopted by the American Legion in 1924 took the stance that African
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Americans’ standard of living increased because of slavery (Nash, Crabtree and
Dunn, 1997). Lawrence Reddick (1934) in his review of 16 state history
textbooks recalled that although much of the content was diverse in nature, the
common theme around slavery was one of acceptance and contentment of
Blacks. For example, Thomas Marshall’s textbook, American History (1930),
stated, "Although he was in a state of slavery, the Negro of plantation days was
usually happy. He was fond of the company of others and liked to sing, dance,
crack jokes, and laugh (cited in Reddick, p. 342).
Progressive educator/historian, David Muzzey’s work also adhered to the
racist scientific scholarship of this time. For example, Muzzey’s textbook,
History of the American people (1927), gave school children information that
African Americans were incapable of leadership and even chastised
reconstruction policies for allowing African Americans to serve as political
officers (p. 408; cited in Dubois, 1935). Other textbooks lauded the efforts of the
KKK and other racist organizations as saviors to the South for controlling the
newly freed and savage Black man. Textbooks rarely looked upon African
American historical actors that achieved prominence and helped contribute to
the social, economic and political climate of the United States.
As we noted, race was an important aspect in society in the early parts of
the twentieth century. Racist ideology extended from the greater society to the
schoolhouse. It was evident that race was an “American problem” that needed
attention within social reconstructionist thought. As a “giant” in the field of
social studies and issue-centered curriculum, we ask the following questions
about Rugg’s curriculum: In what ways did Rugg’s issue centered curriculum
take in account the racial atrocities in American society. Did Rugg’s textbooks
attempt to provide clarity to the issue of race as it pertains to African
Americans? In what ways did the narratives about African Americans differ
from the popular textbooks during the early part of the twentieth century? The
next section, explores these questions about Rugg’s ideas concerning race and
its connection with the “American problem.”
Under Rugg’ s Ideas of Race and Racism
As a major theoretician of the social reconstruction and the social studies
movement: How did Rugg’s textbooks respond to the narrative of African
Americans presented by Muzzey, Phillips and Marshall? Rugg’s textbooks are
in need of a closer examination about his ideas concerning the plight of African
Americans during the early 20th century. A few scholars have mentioned that
Rugg’s views on race, for its time, were more liberal than many of his
contemporaries (Boyle- Baise & Goodman, 2009a; Evans, 2007; Goodenow
1975; Sterns & Riley, 2001). For instance, Ronald Evans (2007) examined
Rugg’s earlier writings in a ninth grade pamphlet, America and Her immigrant
(1926), “stating that he [Rugg] devoted significant space to multicultural issues
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and offers a relatively forward looking treatment of those [racial] issues” (p. 70).
Investigating Rugg’s pamphlets of the 1920’s, indicates his awareness of issues
of race and his desire to present a critical history that questioned White
hegemony. In addition, he gives an enslaved African American a voice by
chronicling an interview about his experiences in slavery as well as his
participation in the Underground Railroad. However, the knowledge dispersed
within the framework of his pamphlets did not transfer to his textbook series,
which were more influential because of the depth of readership and what
propelled his popularity. Within the considerable corpus of Rugg’s scholarly
work he made few pronouncements directly concerning African Americans, race
and racism. The few times he attempted to discuss issues regarding African
Americans, they were rather truncated or adhered to status quo historical
narratives of African American history.
Rugg’s Textbooks and African American History
In A History of American Civilization (1930b), Rugg discussed the
institution of slavery in a way that positioned the conditions as normal and
simply an economic strategy for wealthy southern landowners. When slavery
was first introduced in a paragraph in chapter four, the Africans were described
as a “new source of man power” (p. 93) and in chapter seven, Rugg used the
term “triangular voyage” (p.188), which was void of the egregiousness of the
actual event. In addition, in a brief section on "Negro Slavery After the
Revolution “(p. 259-261), Rugg outlined the spread of slavery, restrictions on
slaves, and slave resistance. The section however, concludes with the phrase
"many plantation-owners [who] were kind to their slaves, feeling a deep sense of
responsibility for their comfort and welfare"(Rugg 1930b p. 261; cited in Nash
1995 footnotes).
This last statement regarding the practice of slavery was a common
disclaimer found within K-12 and the academic historical discourse on slavery
during the early part of the twentieth century. This construction of slavery
suggested that many slaves lived relatively comfortable lives, as well as the
belief that many slave plantations did not engage in the customary racial
violence such as flogging, lynching, and rape. Rugg situated African Americans
solely as slaves in this textbook excluding Black citizens’ military service in the
American Revolution and Civil War. He did not write about free Black
Americans in the North and after Reconstruction, African Americans were
largely constructed as invisible.
In another text, A History of American Government and Culture (1931)
Rugg answered the question: What part did the Negro play during
Reconstruction in the following way?
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They [black people] were like bewildered children. They had been long
held in slavery and had long been denied education and political rights.
It is little wonder if in their ignorance they became the tools of
unscrupulous carpetbaggers and scalawag. (p. 366)
This characterization of new freedmen suggested that African Americans
did not play an influential role during Reconstruction. In many ways, this
statement posits that during Reconstruction African Americans had no agency
towards their intellectual and social realities and were worthless or victimized
historical characters that propagated the conditions of former Confederates.
Rugg’s section on Reconstruction seemed to straddle the fence between
acknowledging racist acts against Blacks and being apologetic to White
Southerners. For instance, he mentions the KKK’s victimization of Blacks and
voter disenfranchisement, but justifies the actions made by Klansmen:
The force used by the Klan was sometimes brutal and wrong, but so
were the things the carpetbaggers were doing. The latter were often
corrupt, and their Negro tools were, with a few exceptions, illiterate
and incapable of governing. Thus the white planters, deprived of other
means of protection, attempted through a secret organization to “fight
fire with fire.” (Rugg, 1931 pp. 367-368)
In most of Rugg’s writings the continent of Africa was invisible or was told
in relation to the colonization efforts of England, Germany, and France. As a
colony of England, he acknowledged the rich resources of the continent,
introduced the natives as “savage Blacks” and chronicled the White man’s
exploration in the terrifying terrain. In Changing Civilizations in the Modern
World (1930a), Rugg summarized in the introduction about ten countries that
students will study within the pages of the text. No country in Africa was
represented on the list. Moreover, in providing the explanation of why the 10
countries were to be studied, Rugg gives three reasons, which provides insight in
his thoughts about people of the various African countries and their culture: 1.
The countries consist of large proportions of the world population, 2. These
countries include the chief races on the earth, and 3. The countries selected will
play important contributions to the modern world (p. 15-16). It is clear that
Rugg did not believe school children needed to understand African culture
without the influences of European colonizers. To disregard African countries as
significant was a major oversight because of the advancement of certain
civilizations that superseded many European nations (Woodson, 1936). Again,
Rugg positions Europeans as important historical subjects and Africans as
insignificant actors.
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The only textbook in which Rugg wrote about African American
achievement was in the An Introduction to Problems of American Culture
(1932), in the chapter, Assimilation of Different Nationalities and Races.” The
section about African Americans in this 37-page chapter involved six pages at
the end of the chapter. The narrative stated that, “he [African Americans] has
steadily worked his way “up from slavery” and has fitted more and more surely
for a place in the life of the nation (pps. 584-585). Rugg writes about
educational achievements made by Black citizens, especially the contributions
of Booker T. Washington and the “self supporting” (p. 585) curriculum of the
Tuskegee Institute. He gives attention to Black Americans in the art by listing
the works of well-known poets and authors such as Countee Cullen, Langston
Hughes, and Jean Toomer. Rugg is complementary to the successes of African
Americans in his short descriptions.
Rugg also acknowledged that after the Civil War, African Americans
gained notoriety, had talent, and were willing to improve their way of life.
However, the chapter marginalizes the contributions of African Americans by
focusing much attention on the musical and artistic talents of only a few African
Americans. Rugg totally ignored the achievements of African Americans in
business, science, government, and the military. By highlighting educators of
the Tuskegee Institute, he completely disregarded the vastly different
educational philosophies offered by W.E.B. Du Bois and other African
American educators and scholars (Anderson 1988). He mentions Du Bois as
only a novelist without giving credence to his prolific body of scholarship.
Rugg also contradicted himself in the chapter by painting a picture that
during the pre-Civil War era, “ it was almost impossible to think that the Negro
could ever become a creative artist (p. 585). Then four pages later, one
paragraph was devoted to Phillis Wheately and Jupiter Hammon, both slaves,
admitting that more than 30 Black Americans published poetry, essays,
pamphlets and books for 100 years (p. 589). In sum, all of these examples from
Rugg, presented two themes about the histories/status of African Americans,
either as manipulated, malleable towards Whites and/or limited in their
The only direct address to race and racism directed toward African
Americans appears after the peak of Ruggs popularity in his text, Social
Foundations of Education (1955), a work he co-authored with William Withers.
In a chapter “Education and Minorities: Racial and Social Conflict in America
Rugg & Withers (1955) mentioned Black Americans but they were not his main
thesis. Rugg briefly mentioned racial riots and outlined the various racial myths
that inundated the minds of U.S. citizens, but the majority of the chapter
consisted of a chronology of immigration and class conflicts. The chapter ends
with suggesting that Black persons along with Catholics, Jews, and liberal-
progressives were scapegoats or whipping boys of American History. Our
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overall analysis is consistent with William Watkins (2006), who suggests that
most of the arguments about the race and racism in the texts were superficial at
best. Woodson’s Revisionist Ontological Textbooks
Woodson saw his textbooks as a response to the inaccurate and racist
depictions and myths concerning the image of African Americans
(Goggin,1993; Dagbovie, 2007; Meier and Rudwick, 1986; Brown, 2010; King,
Crowley, & Brown 2010). Woodson’s project was more than a text to help build
the self-esteem of African American students; it was critical social commentary
that called into question the existing racial discourses about the African
American (Brown, 2010). Although Woodson’s textbooks would be classified as
history, a close reading reveals Woodson’s interdisciplinary social studies
approach to the study of African Americans. Similar to Rugg’s thoughts about
proper social studies education, Woodson infused history, geography, civics,
and economic concepts into his texts to help students understand and clarify the
complexity of African American history and culture. The next section is an
analysis of Woodson’s textbooks that responded to the dominant racial
discourses of that time.
Woodson and the Black Intellect
Woodson skillfully implemented African American historical narratives,
which responded to a preponderance of racial theories during this period found
in textbooks and academia. For example, rather than present African Americans
as victims without achievements, it was common to have entire chapters in these
texts dedicated to the achievement of African Americans—with titles such as:
Creating Achievement (Woodson and Wesley, 1935), “Genius in Spite of
Handicap” (Woodson and Wesley, 1928), “Evidence of Progress” (Woodson
and Wesley, 1928), and “Achievement in Freedom” (Woodson and Wesley,
1922). These chapters represented the mental capacities of African Americans
that were void within mainstream textbooks. In The Negro and his History
(1922), the student notices the various entrepreneurial and business pursuits
made by African Americans. Business organizations such as the National
Business League, National Bankers’ Association, the National Association of
Funeral Directors, and the National Negro Retail Merchants’ Association were
highlighted throughout the pages (p. 459). George Washington Carver was
honored for his achievements in science (Woodson and Wesley 1935 p. 411).
Woodson would also laude the accomplishments of Charles Drew (doctor), Dr.
Elmer S. Imes (Professor of Physics) and Dr. Percy Julian (Professor of
Chemistry) to emphasize the intellectual rigor of African Americans.
African Americans’ Civic Contributions and the Military
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Another key emphasis of Woodson’s work was to reveal African American
civic contributions in U.S. history. The recasting of the story of the African
American soldier in U.S. history through the pages of his textbooks served as
one example because of the nexus between military service and patriotism.
According to Woodson, Black persons, both free and enslaved, were influential
in protesting against the taxation policies implored by the King of England
(Woodson 1922). In fact, one of the reasons the Boston Massacre occurred,
Woodson (1922) wrote, was because a slave, who was present in the crowd,
insulted a British officer out of devotion to his country (p. 120). Woodson would
emphasize that despite mistreatment by fellow White soldiers and officers,
Black soldiers remained loyal. Woodson’s text overall, emphasized that African
Americans respected and abided by the democratic virtues the country upheld.
These narratives were in direct contrast to the racial construction of the Black
citizen as incompetent, unpatriotic, and not contributing to his country.
African American Agency: Slavery and Reconstruction
The happy slave narrative, which Rugg characterized in A History of
American Civilization (1930a), was another common portrayal in the
mainstream characterization of the enslaved African. In speaking against such
characterizations, Woodson (along with Wesley) highlighted several slave
uprisings and transgressions. It is important to note that the intent was to show
that these acts were not impulsive events by angry enslaved Africans but to
underscore that the events were part of an intentional and planned political and
social agency. For example, the following from Negro Makers of History (1928)
symbolizes these efforts:
In those sections where such efforts of friendly whites were few the
Negro fugitives were left to their own initiatives. As they did not know
any geography, they usually followed the North Star. They had learned
that towards the North they would find friends. With such assistance,
sometimes, they had themselves shipped as freight by way of steamers
and railroads in boxes and barrels to points in the North where escape
was easy. (p. 92)
In addition, Woodson and Wesley’s textbooks explicated major resistance on
plantations as well as resistance on slaveships in which many Africans killed
and steered vessels away from their destinations to free ports.
The narratives of Reconstruction were told to highlight the willingness for
African Americans to better their social, political and economic situations.
Woodson’s text highlighted the important Black politicians during that era to
contrast and discredit Muzzey’s characterizations of the Black politician as
ignorant, superstitious, and gullible (Nash 1995) and Rugg’s notion that Black
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politicians were “pawns” for northern carpetbaggers. In Negro in Our History,
Woodson and Wesley (1922) focused on the economic mobility and strength of
Black citizens in the South. As African Americans migrated outside of the
South, they had opportunities to use their leverage as the South’s economic
backbone In his texts include the stories of Henry Adams of Louisiana and
Benjamin “Pop” Singleton of Tennessee, who attempted to mobilize anywhere
from 100,000 to 200,000 African Americans to leave the South as a way to
threaten the South’s economic stability and illustrate the importance of Black
agricultural labor (p. 429). The text highlighted other strategies by African
Americans to leave the South to the North and West for better economic
opportunity. Additionally, the desire for education in the Black community
resulted in the Freedom Bureau and many religious organizations to establish
schools and universities for African Americans. Central to Woodson’s argument
throughout each of the texts was to highlight the efforts of African Americans to
improve their standard of living after the Civil War.
African History
Woodson’s project on Africa was to counter the stereotype that African
Americans were a history-less people. He wrote that, “Most Europeans and
practically all Americans have regarded the Negro merely as an undesirablean
undeveloped person constituting a problem in not being able to keep pace with
others” (Woodson 1936, v). Rugg’s exclusion of countries in Africa in his text
and his total disregard to the rich cultural heritage of the content solidified
Woodson’s statement. The rationale for reconceptionalizing Africa was to
explicitly state that people of African descent were a people of profound literary,
scientific, and intellectual accomplishment. For example, the supplemental
textbook, African Myths, Together with Proverbs, told stories originating from
the continent that pertained to the philosophical and ethical questions of
mankind such as friendship, love, justice, foresight, thrift and knowledge
(Woodson 1928). Woodson also correlated Africa’s accomplishment with
European history to provide evidence of the advancement of African people
(Woodson and Wesley, 1928, pp. 6-7). Woodson and Wesley’s (1922) analysis
also provided the students with the contradictions of the Western world in
relation to Africa:
The supposedly low depths of the native Africans emphasize the so-
called heights attain. As a matter of fact, however, the African
civilization does not suffer in comparison with the civilizations of other
members of the human family. All have intermingled and borrowed the
one from the other. In science, then, there is no such thing as races.
Because of lack of opportunity in an unhealthy environment, some may
have not accomplished as much as others more favorable
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circumstances; but wherever the climate conditions and opportunity for
development have been similar, the cultures of various members of the
human families have tended to be very alike. (p. 4)
We agree with the assessment of Woodson’s work as stated by Dagbovie (2010)
that the purpose for his revisionist ontological work was to focus not only on
how African Americans were victimized, but to demonstrate the global
influences and contributions of Black persons.
Discussion and Implications
The purpose of this manuscript was to utilize an analytics of race to
examine social studies historiography, particularly as it pertains to African
American historical issues. Because social studies historiography has under
theorized African American scholars who contributed to the field, further work
is needed to highlight the diverse ideas and efforts of African American
curriculum revisionists (Woyshner, 2006; Watkins, 2006). The case studies of
Rugg and Woodson highlights three ways in which social studies foundation
scholars can help in achieving a more holistic historiography. It must be noted
that we use African American experiences as an example and these suggestions
can be implemented within the various historically underserved communities
that contributed to social studies thought and practice.
First, more social studies foundations research should attend to the race
question and use race as a tool of analysis. Rugg’s attention to race during his
textbooks’ formidable years seemed to ignore the presence of race and racism as
an important “American problem.” If social studies/ social education goals were
to bring attention to the school children about society issues, then Rugg and
other reconstructivist scholars failed to meet the theoretical and practical needs
of their ideology. Key to the tenets of CRT is the acknowledgement of the
normalcy and permanence of race and racism. Through historically situating
race within the confines of social studies thought, gives the field a more holistic
understanding of the “American problem.
Unlike Rugg, Woodson’s purpose was to attend to the racial silences that
were apparent within most of the mainstream curricular text of this period. This
historical revisionism was explicit because it was clear that much of the
historical narratives of African American accomplishments from early American
history through the 1930s had not been addressed at all in school text.
Foundation scholarship needs to situate this racial discourse within existing
traditional literature already present in foundations research. Social Studies
foundations scholars need to explicitly recognize that race and racism existed in
thought and practice of early scholars of the field. It is important to note, CRT
professes that in order for an authentic research agenda that recognizes the
salience of race in social studies ideas, we have to center our literature on the
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legacy of racism. We continue to have questions about the ways in which Rugg
and other scholars and/or organizations advocated democratic values yet
hypocritically ignored it in practice.
Second, we recognize our work on Woodson adds to the growing literature
of historically marginalized scholars in social studies foundations. We posit that
more revisionist history is needed to expound on marginalized African
American scholars and organizations. However, such work needs to move
beyond biographical sketches that simply introduce them to the academic world.
Although, biographies can be useful in certain settings, the research needs to be
theoretically grounded.
While Woodson’s work clearly reflects the most substantive critique and
revision of curriculum about African Americans through the social studies and
history curriculum, his work is situated within an on-going and enduring
curriculum project that traces back to the early nineteenth century. In the U.S.,
numerous African American scholars critiqued and developed texts for African
Americans with an awareness of how the social studies and history curricula of
this time helped to circulate and perpetuate the most racist and egregious
historical narratives about African Americans (Banks, 1992). From this
understanding, there were two central approaches taken to the revision of
curriculum about African Americans. These approaches were most evident
through the curriculum work of Carter G. Woodson.
Woodson and other African American scholars sought to challenge the
racial discourse of the time by tending to the constructions and silences in social
studies textbooks. The topics of slavery, reconstruction, and Africa detailed in
Rugg’s textbooks were part of a long tradition of curriculum writers that often
constructed African Americans as history-less people. The “Black savage”
reference in Rugg’s, Changing Civilizations in the Modern World (1930a), is
indicative of how mainstream academics characterized African Americans
humanity as subpersons (Mills, 1998).
Vital to the philosophical notion of racial ontology is how individuals and
groups exist and fit within a constructed racial hierarchy. In the context of a
racialized society such as America in the early twentieth century, “whiteness”
was constructed as the apex of intelligence, beauty, loyal and moralitywhile
“blackness” was fashioned as antithetical to this rendering of whiteness and
White peopleoften marked as unintelligent, ugly, disloyal, and immoral.
Given this racial ontological context, Woodson’s work deliberately challenged
and revised the ontological meanings associated with blackness and Black
people by highlighting their achievements in all walks of life.
Future work in social studies foundations should attend to the work of other
African American scholars with social studies ties such as W.E.B. Dubois, Merl
Eppse, Anna Julie Cooper, Alain Locke, Mary McLeod Bethune, Edward
Augustus Johnson, Lelia Amos Pendleton, and Laura Eliza Wikes. Research
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should be expanded in scholarly and practitioner journals outside the
mainstream social studies journals such as the long standing Journal of Negro
Education, Journal of Negro History, Negro Digest, and the Negro History
Bulletin. These respected research journals can provide scholars with alternative
perspectives on social education and pedagogical practices. Moreover,
foundational scholars can investigate historic national, state and local Black
teacher organization’s publications, which can add value in our understanding of
how social studies were used in other communities. Extricating knowledge from
these resources can help social studies scholars reveal other racial theories that
can help the field understand our origins in its complexity.
Last, the work on Rugg and Woodson should provide more research that
attends to comparisons between the traditional social studies foundations topics
with the curriculum experiences of historically underserved groups. For
example, social studies foundation scholars should compare and contrast Black
organizations such as the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History
and the Association of Social Studies of Negro Teachers with the organizations
such as NEA’s Committee of Social Studies and the National Council of Social
Studies. This type of research allows for the field to highlight the similar and
divergent ways social studies thought was developed in various communities
(Watkins, 2006).
As a whole, Rugg’s textbooks appeared to reify existing historical
narratives about African Americans such as “ the savage” and the “happy slave.”
Even the examples when Rugg tried to give credence to African American
culture in An Introduction to Problems of American Culture (1932), his focus
was too narrow to change attitudes about African Americans. An additive
approach highlighting a few African Americans in literature and the arts, did not
balance out his approach of mischaracterizing or ignoring African Americans in
previous writings.
Conversely, Woodson’s work, deliberately and carefully challenged
existing racial theories and ontological beliefs about African Americans. Given
the context of race and racism in the 1930s and 1940s it seems almost peculiar
as to why Rugg’s project so deliberately missed issues of race and racism,
especially since social studies and curriculum studies scholars have heralded his
curriculum work as social reconstructionist (Evans, 2007; Mzar, 2003).
Nevertheless, both scholars’ works attended to the “American Problem” in
vastly different ways and believed that their narratives could elevate instruction
in the various communities they served.
The field of social studies knows little about how social studies developed
in African American communities. Although, our call for more attention to
communities of color is not new (Woyshner, 2006, 2009), we propose that
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scholars situate these new foundational topics within racial discourse of critical
social theory. By situating the knowledge of African American schools and
communities, as a field we are giving credence to what Mills (1998) calls
alternative epistemologies. Since traditional epistemologies are limited because
of its racial overtones, alternative epistemologies are essential to unpack
because traditional paradigms are “inadequate to explain how we know and
understand the world” (cited in Dixon & Rousseau p. 217). Simply put,
knowledge is not monopolized by traditional social studies foundations topics
and we need to understand social studies through alternative epistemologies that
can aid the field as we mature as a multicultural and multilingual nation.
We conclude by stating that exploring such topics will help to further
account for the voluminous and vitally important scholarship African Americans
have offered to the fields of social studies and curriculum history. Despite
Rugg’s or any other “old master’s” intentions, social studies foundational
scholarship is in need of revision of its historiography. Much work is needed in
social studies to examine how social studies founders thought about African
Americans. In addition, the general field of social studies cannot expand its
notions on the continuous issues of race without a cooperative partnership with
its foundations counterparts. Foundations scholars should be the example in
exposing how the permanence of race has influenced the ideologies that exist
within a contemporary context.
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The authors would like to thank Ronald Evans, Terrie Epstein, and the Editor
and reviewers of The Journal of Social Studies Research for their thoughtful
comments on the manuscript.
About the Authors
LaGarrett J. King is an assistant professor of Secondary Social Studies
Education in the department of teacher education at Clemson University. His
research focuses on African American history education, curriculum and social
studies foundations, race and multicultural teacher education.
Christopher Davis is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Texas at Austin in
Social Studies Education and a teacher and social studies department chairman
at a middle school in the Austin Independent School District. His work focuses
on examining the work of Professor Sylvia Wynter as a neglected addition to the
canon of social studies curriculum and instruction.
The Journal of Social Studies Research
Volume 36, Issue 4
Anthony L. Brown is an associate professor in the department of Curriculum &
Instruction and affiliated faculty at the John L. Warfield Center for African and
African American Studies (CAAAS) and Cultural Studies in Education (CSE) at
the University of Texas at Austin. His research interests focus on the
educational experiences of African American males and the historical
representations and depictions of African Americans in the K-12 official and
hidden curriculum. Anthony’s work has been recently published in Teachers
College Record and Race Ethnicity and Education.
... According to Childs (2015), socio-historical descriptions of African Americans in social studies ignore positive contributions. Thus, students experience dominant narratives when learning about slavery, such as glorifying the actions of individuals like Abraham Lincoln or limiting the geographical focus to the United States (King et al., 2012). ...
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I articulate an autoethnographic narrative of using different songs to counter dominant interpretations of gender, class, immigration, slavery, and education in the secondary social studies classroom. Framing it as the Critical Music Framework, the practice of using music addressing social issues and historical representations of women and people of color provided students with reflective learning opportunities. The resulting conversations illustrate the importance of music not just on the personal but also the academic aspects of individuals.
Informed by Critical Race Theory, this quantitative study supports civic educators in understanding the role of classroom climate and racial identity in students' civic engagement during a statewide middle school civics mandate (n = 4707). Findings reveal that students of color experience higher civic engagement and lower civic attitude scores than white-identifying peers, after controlling for school, classroom, and affluence indicators. Students' perception of whiteness (or perhaps majority status) appeared to correlate with positive civic knowledge and civic attitude, but relative civic inaction. These findings suggest differences in civic outcomes as early as middle school between white-identifying students and students of color. Such differences offer implications for civic education interventions that address not only effective instruction, but civic inequities, students’ perceived agency, and curricular content.
This article explores how a local community came to value a Latinx bookstore as a supplementary knowledge space for Latinx history, literature, and culture. Findings detail how the bookstore served as a catalyst for a heterogeneous group of Latinx families and educators to (1) access empowering reflections of Latinx histories that were not found in traditional K–12 school curricula and (2) build alternative libraries in homes and classrooms that centered Latinx communities’ sociopolitical worlds.
This article analyzes Carter G. Woodson’s iconic Negro History Week and its impact on Black schools during Jim Crow. Negro History Week introduced knowledge on Afro-diasporic history and culture to schools around the country. As a result of teachers’ grassroots organizing, it became a cultural norm in Black schools by the end of the 1930s. This program reflected Woodson’s critique that anti-Black ideas in school knowledge were inextricably linked to the violence Black people experienced in the material world. Thus, he worked to construct a new system of knowledge altogether. Negro History Week engaged students in this counterhegemonic knowledge through performances grounded in Black formalism and an invigorated Black aesthetic, facilitating what I have come to call “embodied learning.”
In this interpretative case study, the researcher examined the beliefs and practices of three self-identifying culturally relevant social studies teachers related to their teaching of U.S. history at a racially and ethnically diverse urban high school. The teachers displayed beliefs and practices that were aligned with the core criteria of culturally relevant pedagogy (CRP), while also centering their U.S. history classrooms on race and racism. However, the teachers described and exhibited CRP through three different models: exchanging, discovering, and challenging. Despite these differences, the students reported a positive response to their teacher’s use of CRP.
This case study chronicles the pedagogical decision making of one high school teacher, Mr. Diego de la Vega, a pseudonym, as he teaches about race and racism in his elective social studies class, Race, Gender, and Ethnicity. De la Vega draws upon his own racial biography and experiences with race/ism to engage with high school students around racialized content. A conceptual framework grounded in racial identity development theory is used. This snapshot of racial pedagogical decision making, or RPDM, features a discussion of implications for social studies pedagogy to promote racial identity development in the classroom.
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In this chapter, the authors make a claim that race matters in social studies education. However, large segments of social studies theory, research, and practice have overlooked, dismissed, or ignored race. Therefore, in this chapter the authors will outline critical race theory (CRT) as a theoretical frame, as well as pedagogical model for the infusion of race and race-based content in social studies education. The authors will lay out tenets of CRT, its origins in the field of law, and in education, and why it is pertinent in today's education discourse. Second, the authors discuss CRT related works in the social studies from a research standpoint. Finally, the authors will offer examples of how social studies from a curricular standpoint can be developed in a manner that has implications for social studies practitioners, teacher educators and researchers.
The historiographical climate of the social studies field has been transformed over the past two decades. The volume of writing has increased, but even more noticeably the range of investigative lenses, sources, and topics has broadened. Growing doubts have been expressed about the traditional view that social studies was suddenly born from progressive-era committee proposals; instead, scholars have placed greater weight on evolution from earlier curricula as well as construction and adaptation of actual programs, particularly during the interwar decades. Heightened concern for pluralism problematized longstanding verities of the field such as citizenship. Nonetheless few of any aforementioned historical studies are based on evidence from curriculum enactment. The same holds true for the fate of proposals on pluralism, which gained curricular legitimacy by the 1970s, and for investigations of the effects of the more recent standards and accountability movement. Almost nothing has been written on the history of LGBTQ matters in social studies.
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In this chapter, I differentiate between non-racism and anti-racism in U.S. history textbooks. I define non-racism as the passive rejection, opposition and disassociation from behaviors, discourses, and ideologies that are considered racist (Bery, 2014; King & Chandler, 2016). Non-racist frameworks situate racism as extreme, overt, highly visible behaviors that consist of irrational and independent actions of individuals.
Race-the veritable "R" word. There is great discomfort when the "R" word is used. I have observed the palpable wince when it is said out loud in a room. When it is said in connection to the social studies curriculum, it is so visceral that I can feel it even as I write this. It can make some roll their eyes, while others may squirm in their chairs. Eye contact is lost. And to the acute observer, a subtle glaze of disengagement can be witnessed. A cross of something between, "ooh, this doesn't pertain to me because I'm White and race is about color," or possibly, "I had a workshop on race once, so I already know about race" begins to stealthily advance across the audience. This is not to discount the broader range of perspectives that may exist, but rather to acknowledge that reactions to the word "race" and the social studies curriculum are very tangible.
This article examines the race related pedagogies of two white, male teachers in north Alabama. Drawing on the analysis of two qualitative case studies related to how they taught about race within the context of their American history courses, the author argues that teaching about race within their classes serves to reify and uphold white supremacy in the social studies curricula. The author describes the following themes that emerged throughout the research: a) liberal, incremental process, b) race neutrality and color-blindness, c) fear of teaching about race, and d) naturalization/ essentialization of race. The analysis of how race is conceptualized by the teachers in this study is informed by critical race theory (CRT), social studies research, and Pierre Bourdieu's notion of misrecognition. By utilizing CRT philosophy, he points to the idea that race, as a part of the formal and enacted curriculum is downplayed and overshadowed by more traditional explanations of race in United States history. He argues that the social studies profession needs to make race and racism a more visible part of the social studies curricula. Implications of this research point to a need to reconceptualize citizenship and citizenship education and to resist the cultural right in the area of social education.