Video: Re-envisioning Race and Education in the New South

By Laura Hoxworth

Inaugural symposium brings prominent scholars to Grounds

This week, the Curry School of Education and Human Development's new Center for Race and Public Education in the South hosted its inaugural symposium, “Re-envisioning Race and Education in the New South.”

Among a busy schedule of meetings with students, panel discussions and lectures, both of the symposium's keynote speakers sat down to talk with Curry School faculty about how research on race, culture and education is changing the landscape for current and future educators.

Gloria Ladson-Billings

On Tuesday, October 9th, Valerie Adams-Bass talked about media and culture with special guest Gloria Ladson-Billings ahead of Ladson-Billings’ keynote lecture, titled “Hot Sauce in My Bag Swag: Hybridity, Complexity, and Fluidity in 21st Century Racial Identity."

Ladson-Billings is the Kellner Family Distinguished Professor of Urban Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Education and a faculty affiliate of the Department of Educational Policy Studies. Her research examines the pedagogical practices of teachers who are successful with African-American students, and she is widely known for her work in the fields of culturally relevant pedagogy and critical race theory.

Drawing on her experience as a classroom teacher in a bi-lingual school, as well as her extensive research background, Ladson-Billings spoke to the importance of culturally relevant teaching in an increasingly diverse society. “I think as we look at increasing diversity in schools, we have to be more aware of the cultural, racial, ethnic and linguistic differences that [students] bring with them, if what we want to do is make sure that they are successful,” she said.

Culture determines how people see, experience and judge the world around them in countless ways, Ladson-Billings said. To help move beyond a superficial level of understanding multiculturalism, she advised teachers to focus on “cultural excavation.” Instead of trying to learn everything there is to know about the growing cultural influences in the United States, cultural excavation is the process of learning to see and understand how our cultural differences shape our own lives as well as the lives of those around us.

 “The marvelous thing about culture is that it’s always changing and shifting,” she said.

James D. Anderson

On Wednesday, October 10th, James D. Anderson spoke with Derrick Alridge about the history of African American education in America before delivering the symposium’s final keynote lecture on "Citizenship, Immigration, and National Identity: Civic Education on the Sesquicentennial Anniversary of the 14th Amendment."

Anderson is dean of the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, as well as the Edward William and Jane Marr Gutgsell Professor of Education and an affiliate professor of history. His scholarship focuses broadly on the history of U.S. education, with specializations in the history of African American education in the South, the history of higher education desegregation, the history of public school desegregation and the history of African American school achievement in the 20th century.

As to why he chose to focus on history and citizenship for his lecture, Anderson said: “We are grappling with issues that we have been grappling with over 150 years now. I think an understanding of what has been tried, and why it failed, and the way in which we have actually viewed citizenship, should provide a context for us finally coming together to solve them.”

Anderson also shared anecdotes from his positive experiences growing up in the segregated school system in Eutah, Alabama, and later attending Stillman College in Tuscaloosa. In one story, he shared the moment he learned he would be able to attend college – on the day of his high school graduation, when one of his teachers pulled him aside just before Anderson was set to deliver his valedictorian address.

“[The teacher] had gone to Stillman – he graduated from Stillman – had talked to the dean, told the dean about me, and got a scholarship for me to go there,” Anderson said. “These were the kind of teachers that we had.”

Drawing on his personal experience in graduate school, Anderson offered some advice. “I often tell young people, you don’t know what you’re going to be in life. When you get an opportunity to develop a skill, develop each and every one of them – because you never know which one you’re going to count on as you go forward.”

The symposium was supported by Virginia Humanities for African American Programs, UVA's Office of the Vice President for Diversity and Equity, the UVA Department of History, Youth-Nex, the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies, the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center, and the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture.