The Center for Race and Public Education in the South (CRPES) seeks to support empirical research on a variety of issues that lie at the intersection of race, education, and schooling in the southern United States. Social scientists have largely ignored the racial and socio-political backdrop of African American education in the South, resulting in a detrimental lack of understanding of Black academic performance in this region. In addition, the South has historically been viewed as backwards and retrograde because of its brutal history of slavery and Jim Crow. Yet, the South was also the epicenter of a civil rights and social justice movement that brought about greater democracy for blacks and hopes for many other oppressed people around the world. Indeed, the South is a place of great complexity and paradox. In studying the nexus of race and education, we must keep in mind that the South is not a monolithic region.

CRPES also recognizes that the complex history of race and public schooling has implications for a range of other student populations in contemporary US schools. Specifically, the educational experiences of students from immigrant and refugee backgrounds are inextricable from the larger history of race and education in the American South. Thus, CRPES will also include in its mission the schooling experiences of other students of color, in particular those from transnational backgrounds.

Our Purpose

  • Examine and contextualize the long history of the education of black Americans in the South
  • Explore racial identity development among youth in the South
  • Study the contemporary reasons for lower academic achievement among African Americans compared to whites
  • Examine the re-segregation of schools
  • Study the role of educators in the academic success of African American students and other students of color
  • Examine normative questions about the role of public, K-16 educational institutions in the South
  • Examine the educational experiences of students from immigrant and refugee backgrounds
  • Study the schooling experiences of students of color, in particular those from transnational backgrounds

Community Impact

CRPES will host a website and repository featuring the research of its affiliated scholars. The website will also feature blog essays by affiliates of CRPES on contemporary issues in race and public education. CRPES will represent the only comprehensive research endeavor of its kind on race and public education in the South. CRPES’s research on and public engagement with educational issues will position the University of Virginia and the School of Education and Human Development as the foremost resource on race and public education in the South.

CRPES will build its capacity by collaborating and co-sponsoring events with other centers and projects at UVa. We anticipate collaborations with Youth Nex: The U.Va. Center to Promote Effective Youth Development; EdPolicyWorks: The Center on Educational Policy and Workforce Competitiveness; The Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning (CASTL); the Teachers in the Movement project, and the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. The Center will also collaborate with The Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies. Prospective collaborators also include The Center for the Study of the American South at the University of North Carolina; the Institute for Southern Studies in Durham, North Carolina; and the Southern Oral History Program at the University of North Carolina, among others.


CRPES is interdisciplinary, engaging faculty and graduate students in the School of Education and Human Development and across disciplines at the University. Based on the research of current School and UVA faculty, the Center will be particularly strong in the following areas: race and ethnicity as social contexts for youth development; the history of African American education; the college and career readiness of underrepresented students and the role of school counselors in enhancing readiness; the mathematics experiences of Black boys and factors that mitigate differences in mathematical experiences and outcomes; the ways in which families and schools promote or inhibit the intellectual and academic development of low-income and immigrant children; the role of teachers’ pedagogy in students’ academic achievement; the disproportionate placement of culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) students in special education programs; the relationships between racial socialization and racial identity and other developmental processes; identifying educational policies and programs that perpetuate inequities; helping students identify barriers to educational and developmental achievement and preparing them to address those barriers to increase success for all students, especially those who have traditionally been oppressed, social and academic outcomes of Black children and youth, issues of diversity, equity, social justice, and sustainability/environmental justice in higher education; and civic learning between communities of color and state officials.