Where are the Black Teachers?
Post-segregation, modern day, and yet their representation is minimal. How did we get here?
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Amid the country’s recent uprisings around Black Lives Matter, a recent tweet has surfaced on social media about Black teachers in the education system that has many wondering: Did you have a Black teacher growing up?
NOT ONE!— shakira law (@miskeen_sama) August 19, 2020
Fun fact: after segregation was found to be unconstitutional, every black teacher in the nation essentially lost their job. Black kids went to white schools, but white kids didn’t go to black schools. Black student test scores only started to drop AFTER desegregation. https://t.co/jpRi3XCjfR
In 1954, there were 82,000 Black teachers in the U.S. when the Supreme Court issued the landmark decision in the case of Brown v. Board. The Court ruled that the racial segregation of children in public schools was unconstitutional.
It was a cornerstone for the Civil Rights Movement, but resulted in a loss of almost 40,000 Black teachers in the following decade.
In 17 southern states, Black teachers and administrators lost their jobs after all-Black schools closed, and the newly segregated schools refused to hire Black educators.
During this time of desegregation, professionals passionate about teaching Black children found themselves at a crossroads. After dedicating themselves to teaching their students the necessary knowledge and principles and holding them to the highest standards, they themselves were being left behind.
But even after 70 years since desegregation, Black educators seem to continue getting the short end of the stick. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, only 7% of the nation's teachers are Black.
In an article for neaToday Vanessa Siddle Walker, Professor of African American Educational Studies at Emory University and president-elect of the American Educational Research Association explained why the lack of Black teachers is hidden knowledge.
“This is the hidden piece of history,” Walker begins. “What we’ve seen written about inequality and oppressive school conditions is all true, but it’s incomplete. It’s only part of the story.”
The reason for why the history of integration was hidden? Walker explains that the records of Black-only schools were systematically destroyed.
The few traces kept were from Horace Tate, a former Georgia school teacher, principal, and state senator that stored records in the attic above his office.
In Philadelphia, history teacher Nate Bowling emphasized the importance of learning the history of Black Teachers in America.
In an interview with Philly’s 7th Ward, Bowling pointed out the significance of needing more Black teachers in the field.
“I don’t think we’d have the political dynamics we have in America if people in these isolated areas were able to see experts of color and had more exposure to Black intellectualism,” said Bowling. “I think educators of color have the ability — or the potential — to transform some of the racial issues we have about communities of color as well.”
So why do fewer teachers enter the field? Bowling credits it to middle-class White people who designed schools for middle-class white people, so they could produce the same breed: middle class white people.
“And so, if you have a system that’s not built for you, it’s not going to meet your needs,” he added.