SUMMARY: It’s pivotal that Black teachers receive mentorship from master Black teachers; whether formal or informal. In chapter 5, Dr. Woodson serves as both a formal and informal master mentor to Black teachers across the country through his scholarship as well as his correspondence. Dr. Woodson shows all teacher how to serve as a mentor to teachers both near and far.
In addition to having a passion for teaching, a multifaceted set of skills to instruct children and knowledge of your content, teachers need both professional (and personal) support to be high performing in the classroom. This support comes in the form of mentoring and comradery. Throughout his career, Dr. Carter G. Woodson provided Black teachers with opportunities to receive both.
Due to the nature of public schools being white institutional spaces, there is a level of fugitive planning and preparation that goes into the education of Black students, specifically by Black educators. Currently, organizations such as the Center for Black Educator Development serves as a hub where Black educators can receive academic training and cultural affirmation as practitioners to improve their classroom practice and affirm their role as revolutionaries in classrooms.
Dr. Carter G. Woodson, through the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), did the same for the educators of his day.
In chapter 5 of Fugitive Pedagogy, Dr. Jarvis Givens details how Dr. Woodson used the ASNLH to reach the masses of Black educators, specifically teachers; serving as a de facto mentor to many of them without ever meeting them face to face. Through the Negro History Bulletin and the establishing of Negro History Week (later becoming Black History Month), Woodson was what Givens called an Abroad Mentor.
Givens links the use of this phrase to abroad marriages amongst enslaved persons to establish a parallel; that part of the Black experience is the legacy of establishing lasting and transformative relationships under the strain of physical distance. Givens quoted historian Dr. Vanessa Siddle Walker when noting that elite Black scholars were connected to communities “through their influence on beliefs and practices in local communities rather than their presence.”
This connection between Woodson, and other scholars like him, with the community facilitated a synergy between social and professional networks amongst Black people.
The connection and communication amongst Black scholars, Black professional networks i.e., teacher and educator networks, and Black social networks i.e., the Black church, became the conduit whereby Black educators worked around the white institution that was American education. This arrangement, according to Givens, helped craft an educational agenda for Black schools that was designed to lift a people up into full democratic citizenship.
Of course, a major impetus fueling Woodson’s intention here was the attempt by white people, such as General Samuel Armstrong, to use the education of Black people as a tool of oppression; a tool to perpetuate white supremacy.
Woodson’s influence played a prime role in circumventing the efforts of the “white architects of Black education” via collaborative politics – Black organizational leaders, as well as Black educators, served as conduits to institutionalize his educational program outside traditional teacher preparation programs. Black scholars and Black veteran educators continue to do the same; establish outside the box method to support Black educators, making up for the lack of attention in traditional educational programs. This work is vital.
Dr. Woodson provided a blueprint for providing Black students, by way of Black educators, with the education they needed in an anti-Black society. That is, the use of scholarship serving as a “counterreading of hegemonic knowledge and the social relations structuring Black life.” Sadly, must continue this fight today.
Thankfully, we do have a blueprint on how to do it and do it well.