Today, our featured Black Educator is Dr. Ambrose Caliver.
Dr. Ambrose Caliver dedicated his entire career to the pursuit of educational justice for the Black community. Ambrose Caliver was born in Virginia in 1894. An opportunistic learner, Caliver obtained three degrees within the span of three years; bachelor’s degree (Knoxville College), industrial arts (Tuskegee University), and personnel management (Harvard). Caliver would later earn his master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin and his doctorate from Columbia University’s Teacher College.
Caliver also served as a high school teacher and principal.
Eventually, Caliver left the K-12 world for the world of higher education. He accepted an appointment at Fisk University in 1917 to implement its vocational education program. In 1927, Caliver was made dean of the University.
Caliver’s education and work earn him the post of Senior Specialist in the Education of Negroes in the U.S. Office of Education under President Herbert Hoover. He remained in the position with the arrival of President Franklin Roosevelt, also serving in his “Black Cabinet.” As the first African American to receive a permanent appointment to federal office, Dr. Caliver challenged the status quo throughout his thirty years working in the U.S. Office of Education.
Caliver used his position to raise national awareness about the disparities in education between Blacks and whites, especially in the rural South; sadly we must do the same today, nationwide. His office published numerous articles, bulletins, and pamphlets on a variety of topics relating to African American education, from “The Education of Negro Teachers” to “Secondary Education for Negroes.”
As the director of the Project for Literacy Education, Dr. Caliver addressed adult illiteracy through curriculum and training for adult literacy teachers.
His office also convened conferences, implemented committees and even created “Freedom Peoples,” a nine-part radio series broadcast on NBC that showcased African American history and achievements.
Some of Caliver’s most impactful work on behalf of Black people happened within the context of the federal government. Working on the “inside” as oppose to “outside” could be seen negatively, however Caliver used his power and position to advocate for the education of Black people and how to make that education better.
As educators, we must also remember that when we leave the classroom for higher or more “grand” positions within the field of education, we must be grounded towards the needs of children and teachers. Ambrose Caliver never took his eyes or heart away from the ground simply because his career reached the highest of heights.
Dr. Ambrose Caliver; a member of the Black Educator Hall of Fame.
For more information on Ambrose Caliver, visit the following site.