School Clothes: A Collective Memoir of Black Student Witness
A chorus of Black student voices that renders a new story of US education—one where racial barriers and violence are confronted by freedom dreaming and resistance
Black students were forced to live and learn on the Black side of the color line for centuries, through the time of slavery, Emancipation, and the Jim Crow era. And for just as long—even through to today—Black students have been seen as a problem and a seemingly troubled population in America’s public imagination.
Through over one hundred firsthand accounts from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Professor Jarvis Givens offers a powerful counter-narrative in School Clothes to challenge such dated and prejudiced storylines. He details the educational lives of writers such as Zora Neale Hurston and Ralph Ellison; political leaders like Mary McLeod Bethune, Malcolm X, and Angela Davis; and Black students whose names are largely unknown but who left their marks nonetheless. Givens blends this multitude of individual voices into a single narrative, a collective memoir, to reveal a through line shared across time and circumstance: a story of African American youth learning to battle the violent condemnation of Black life and imposed miseducation meant to quell their resistance.
School Clothes elevates a legacy in which Black students are more than the sum of their suffering. By peeling back the layers of history, Givens unveils in high relief a distinct student body: Black learners shaped not only by their shared vulnerability but also their triumphs, fortitude, and collective strivings.
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