The Vindication of History A Review of Fugitive Pedagogy, Carter G. Woodson and the Art of Black Teaching – Chapter 4

SUMMARY: Many students have heard lies concerning the history of Black people. But Black scholarship exists so that Black student may be taught the truth; vindicating Black people whose history is distorted in an anti-Black society. Chapter 4 shows how numerous scholars vindicated Black people through their scholarship that tells of the history of resistance and rebellion of Black people throughout the African diaspora.

Who teaches Black children is a very important factor regarding their success, academically and otherwise. The resources used to teach Black children are equally important, specifically textbooks. It’s because textbooks can liberate or subjugate the mind. Throughout the history of public schooling, textbooks were used as tools to further oppress Black people.

The same is true today as current textbooks whitewash information on enslavement, for example; sanitizing truth either because the authors were ignorance and/or to promote the ignorance among the readers.

This is no phenomena to Black educators, as we have sought to address miseducation found in popular textbooks with the writing of their own.

In Chapter 4 of Fugitive Pedagogy, Dr. Givens presents to some, while introducing to others, the fugitive enslaved individual as the folk hero, displayed in textbooks written by Black people. In fact, as Givens details, the first textbooks written by Black people were authored by fugitive enslaved persons; the first being from James W.C. Pennington in 1841 titled, A Textbook on the Origins and History of the Colored People.

The big three Dr. Givens refers readers to in this chapter are A School History of the Negro Race in America: From 1619-1890 with a Short Introduction as to the Origin of the Race (1890) by Edward A. Johnson, A Narrative of the Negro (1893) by Leila Amos Pendleton and The Negro In Our History (1928) by Dr. Carter G. Woodson. Each of these texts in what Givens called race vindicationism, which is writing and telling history from the perspective of Black people in America that was both descriptive and redemptive in its action.

It was an intra-racial dialogue on Black achievement and Black history.

Givens speaks of the various markers of race vindicationism found in the texts of Johnson, Pendleton, and Woodson, which includes noting the rationality for Black existence, the right of citizenship and self-determination, the acknowledgement of resilience and resistance, and critiquing the white narratives of Black people; our experiences, culture and history.

It’s why the fugitive enslaved individual is the hero in our texts, because while the “master’s narrative” would call (or at least consider) Nat Turner a terrorists and murderer while Black textbooks written by Johnson and Pendleton specifically regard Turner as a “wonderful character… a leader and prophet whose mother taught him to be a Moses for his people.”

Without race vindicationism in Black written textbooks, Black students would know less about the Haitian Revolution, maroon communities in the United States and in the Caribbean, enslaved persons who escaped to freedom as fugitives and those like Nat Turner who plotted and participated in insurrections of the enslaved.

Unfortunately, race vindicationism remains necessary today, but thankfully Black scholars continue the tradition of upholding the truth of history through texts such as They Came Before Columbus by Ivan Van Sertima, Wake by Rebecca Hall, and High on the Hog by Jessica Harris. This chapter serves as a reminder to educators, Black and white alike, to search out texts written by Black scholars because Black minds matter, Black producers, and Black consumers alike.

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