Black Women's Words: Using Oral History to Understand the Foundations of Black Women's Educational Advocacy
This essay explores class-based and race-based resources Black women incorporate into their educational advocacy strategies by using Black feminist methods of oral history and archival analysis. Adding to Jennifer Nash’s (2019) characterization of Black feminisms as defensive, I explore Black women’s motherwork strategies during the process of racial desegregation of schools in southeast Michigan from the mid-1960s onward. I argue that beyond highlighting the legacy of Black women’s involvement in education and racial socialization, the emphasis on class in Black feminist analysis can reveal differences among Black women’s accumulation of resources that shape their motherwork strategies. I add that Black feminism is a form of analysis that understands Black women through their multiple, marginalized identities, which can also inform investigative techniques that undermine narratives of “pathology” and “oppositional culture” that plague Black mothers. This work responds to the parental involvement and educational inequality literature that has sought to choose whether race or class was more salient in explaining racial differences in educational attainment. Instead I rely on a more intersectional approach that acknowledges the structural barriers to education while also using historical methods to examine the diverse strategies Black women implement to combat multiple forms of discrimination.
Keywords: segregation, education, parental involvement, Black feminisms
The children had done pretty well in school and everything but we had to spend a lot of time in school. Not so much advocating for our children, but being a presence, so that, for example, in those early years, I was a noon supervisor. I was on the PTO. I volunteered for almost everything. I felt like I got to be there because I didn’t want a teacher to say, “Oh, well, I would have let you know that so-and-so wasn’t doing this, but I was waiting until our marking period.” No, they would see me just about every day, either me or Ronald. We were almost always there. —Wendy Woods (2019)
Since studies of parent involvement have sought to replace oppositional culture explanations for the educational achievement gap with theories of capital deficiency (Massey et al. 2003:7), Black women’s educational advocacy is often omitted from these perspectives. The advancements in social science have not improved the controlling images of Black women’s sexuality, violence, and morality (Roberts 19 97:8) used to explain their purported harm to communities and families. More specifically, studies that focus on Black children’s oppositional cultures to schooling (Fordham and Ogbu 1986) or Black women’s inability to activate cultural capital in educational institutions (Lareau and Horvat 1999) ignore the evidence of structural racism, which limits the flow of resources to the most marginalized in school systems (Lewis-McCoy 2014) and completely elides the history of Black mothers’ development of alternative racial and class-socialization strategies in educational advocacy (Cooper 2009). Black feminisms have historically combatted these representations with direct action, critical analysis, and narrative-based research methods (Collins 2009; Etter-Lewis 1991a). The Black feminist concept of motherwork (Bailey-Farkhoury 2014; Collins 2000; Cooper 2009) is useful for describing Black women’s combination of care and activism in their response to discrimination in their children’s schools. The more popular concept of intersectionality is one of many Black feminist theoretical frameworks that emphasize the role of race, class, and gender in defining Black women’s experiences of oppression (Crenshaw 1991:1245). This essay uses the broader framework of Black feminisms for its multidimensional contributions to academia, and the way it resists tendencies among mainstream applications of intersectionality that, due to homogenization of race and gender oppression, downplay Black women’s diversity (Nash 2019). This homogenization of Black women on the axes of their gender and racial identities ignores the scholarship that demonstrates the divergent experiences of middle-class and poor Black Americans, as well as examples of strategic assimilation which reproduces these intraracial differences (Lacy 2007).
Appreciating diversity among Black women helps scholars understand how class contributes to variations in motherwork strategies. Black feminisms offer historical evidence of Black women’s commitment to their children’s education through “traditional” and alternative forms of parental involvement despite their exclusion from educational opportunity due to interlocking structures of racism, classism, and sexism (Cooper 2009). My class-conscious application of motherwork extends literature that describes the way Black mothers equip their children with knowledge on how to navigate the White mainstream, and cultural experiences to maintain connections to their Black identity/community. Ashley Farmer characterizes the salience of race, class, and gender to Black women in the radical influences they drew from their participation in communist, feminist, and antiracist movements for their own articulation of their identity as Black women (Farmer 2017). Black Panther women’s combination of racial pride and educational empowerment is evident in the numerous examples of Black women’s incorporation of cultural awareness into their community education programs (Collins 2000; Farmer 2017). Furthermore, more contemporary applications of Black feminist analysis demonstrate the simultaneity of race, class, and gender in Black women’s awareness of educational inequality, and their adoption of motherwork strategies of presence, imaging, and code-switching (Bailey-Farkhoury 2014). Though these studies offer a lot of evidence of discrimination and resilience on racial and gendered lines, there is less analysis of the ways class differences contribute to the cultivation and activation of different applications of motherwork strategies, and how they reproduce different educational outcomes. As this essay demonstrates, the nuance that emerges from narrative methods reveals the heterogeneity of Black women’s educational experiences that shape the expectations they have for their children’s educations, and the resources they employ to socialize their children.
Interviewee Wendy Woods’s experiences in an educational tracking system contributed to expectations for her children’s schooling that did not fit within the limited opportunities local school districts offered their Black students. Her defensiveness is evident in her awareness of the discrimination in Ann Arbor schools and her enactment of motherwork strategies of presence in the PTO and in her children’s classrooms where she observed unfair treatment. Her college education shaped her cultivation of important Black activist networks, which she drew upon for her children’s racial socialization, and that provided the guidance to help send her children to a private school. Literature on motherwork mainly emphasizes Black women navigating public educational institutions with little regard to the privileged (Khan 2011) or privileged poor (Jack 2014) who make the decision to send their children to private or alternative schools.
This data is combined with archival evidence of Black women’s advocacy within local government during the closure of a segregated school, as well as excerpts from oral history interviews of Black women who recount experiences of segregation in Ann Arbor. A review of oral history interviews creates the context for understanding educational discrimination in Ann Arbor, children’s extracurricular involvement, and Black cultural capital experiences, as well as various enactments of motherwork strategies. A more thorough analysis of Woods’s description of the influence of her educational and activist experiences reveals the impact these experiences had on the decisions she made regarding her children’s upbringing. I argue that Black feminist sociology critically responds to the lineage of theories of parent involvement that suggest Black children and their families develop “oppositional cultures” to schooling. Instead, it considers the legacy of Black women who have historically understood and responded to the structural and interpersonal forces that restricted their access to equal education by developing a methodology and direct action to resist discrimination.
Mainstream perceptions of Black women’s educational advocacy build upon misrepresentations surrounding their commitment to their families. This review considers race-based and class-based assumptions surrounding Black women’s investment in child-rearing and demonstrates the benefits of Black feminism as a response to those misconceptions. Black feminisms as both an analytical strategy and methodology are essential to understanding Black women’s role in their communities and in their families. This review seeks to make a case for the study of the class-based resources and opportunities that Black women may draw upon in advocating for their children.
Race-based explanations for student achievement suggest that the unique experience of enslavement fosters cultural beliefs and moral behaviors among Black people that demonstrate their devaluation of education. Signithia Fordham and John U. Ogbu’s (1986) “acting White” concept described the formation of a racial identity among descendants of slavery that influenced Black children to malign their coethnics for doing anything associated with White identity—including doing well in school. The oppositional culture explained by Fordham and Ogbu is connected to a legacy of literature that used cultural pathology to blame Black families for the conditions observed in Black neighborhoods (Roberts 1997). Cultural arguments implicated parents, specifically Black mothers, for leaving “each succeeding generation to a life of poverty, delinquency, and despair” (Roberts 1997:7). As a result of these cultural arguments, both Black mothers and Black children were targeted by mechanisms—including but not limited to coerced sterilization (Roberts 1997); the war on drugs (Alexander 2011), the school-to-prison pipeline (Ferguson 2000); school push-out (Morris 2016); and carceral continuum (Shedd 2015)— that contributed to the reproduction of racial inequality. Prior to studies by Karolyn Tyson, William Darity, and Domini R. Castellino (2005) and Angel L. Harris (2011), Fordham and Ogbu’s 1986 study allowed scholars to draw simplistic contrasts between racial identity and educational achievement among Black children, and as a result, their families.
Subsequent literature emphasized Black children’s commitment to their education, but still decentered women in these perspectives. Harris (2011) described how Black children received messages about the importance of schooling from their families, despite prevailing evidence of a racial achievement gap. Studies also found contrasting evidence from earlier studies regarding the influence of messages from peers. For example, Tyson, Darity, and Castellino (2005) found that Black students took pride in educational achievement despite negative attitudes peers expressed about education. These findings raised important considerations regarding the role of families in the educational motivations of their children. More importantly, these studies replaced cultural arguments with structural analysis of the discipline and other systems such as tracking systems embedded within schools that contribute to racial achievement gaps. Despite the importance of these findings on Black children’s and families’ values on education, more work needs to be conducted to address Fordham and Ogbu’s (1986) negative association between Black racial pride and educational aspirations. A structural intersectional analysis considers how class, race, gender, and other identities shape mothers’ ability to help their children navigate educational institutions. My essay adds to findings about the role of familial messages in Black students’ educational attitudes, the importance of motherwork to influencing Black children’s commitment to their education.
Certain theorists sought to amend the oppositional culture arguments by focusing on the ways the reproduction of class intergenerationally relates to differences in educational attainment. These scholars followed class-based theories that educational institutions and homes are sites where children learn how to reproduce their class identity (Bourdieu 1984; Lareau 1989; Lareau 2000; Lareau 2011). Using the capital framework outlined in Pierre Bourdieu’s (1984) study of the elite, Annette Lareau’s (2011) work compared the concerted cultivation strategies middle-class families enact in order to reproduce their class position in their offspring with the natural growth strategies of the working class. Middle-class parents’ efforts to reproduce financial, cultural, and social capital among their children influenced the extracurricular activities that they signed their children up for, and ways they taught their children to interact with authority figures (Lareau 2011). This emphasis on class was also echoed in her earlier work and other work that focuses on the ways parents leverage resources to curate their children’s educational trajectories (Horvat, Weininger, and Lareau 2003; Lareau 1989; Lareau 2011). The studies explore forms of parent involvement related to education, like participation in parent-teacher organizations (PTOs), or volunteering in children’s classrooms (Lareau 1989; Lareau 2011; Lareau and Horvat 1999). More importantly, studies of parent involvement demonstrate ways that middle-class and elite parents leverage their nonfinancial resources to pressure teachers and administrators into ceding to their demands for their children’s educational preference (Horvat and Lareau 1999; Horvat, Weininger, and Lareau 2003; Weininger, Lareau, and Conley 2015). This strategy is of course compounded by wealthy parents’ ability to improve their children’s instruction through money by creating a system where educational disparities are consistent with income inequality. Ultimately this research relies on evidence that class contributes to differences and that racial differences work distinctly. While the class-based approach is helpful for combatting more cultural arguments, it does not account for the interlocking institutions of class, race, and gender that further constrain Black women’s activation of capital for their family’s interests.
Intersectional analysis acknowledges that solely class-based arguments are insufficient for understanding the persistence of antiblack discrimination that occurs in school settings. Studies of Black mothers in schools explore the obstacles they experience in their advocacy (Bailey-Farkhoury and Mitchell 2018; Horvat and Lareau 1999). While Horvat and Lareau (1999) mainly apply the framework of class capital, they accounted for race in contributing to the challenges of working-class Black mothers in school settings. Their observations revealed that having cultural capital is not enough; it has to be valued in the context, and the one who possesses it needs to know how to activate it (Lareau and Horvat 1999). Horvat and Lareau concluded that working-class Black mothers’ distrust of the school system made it difficult for them to build the same relationships that were essential to their White peers’ successful negotiations with teachers for their children’s interests. They argued that working-class Black women’s differences in class capital, and their inability to activate that capital, contributed to conflict with teachers. Lareau and Horvat’s (1999) study is useful for its acknowledgment of Black women’s awareness of discrimination in the schools, but the emphasis on class ignores the racial-gendered socialization that is significant among children and their mothers in educational settings (Bailey-Farkhoury 2014). In relying on class-based assumptions to explain Black mothers’ difficulty in helping their children, Horvat and Lareau (1999) missed the significance of racism—or even gendered racism as Cooper (2009) describes—that constrains Black women’s thought and expression within educational institutions. A Black feminist approach would consider the salience of class, while also engaging race and gender to understand the ways the activation of capital requires privilege.
Cultural Capital versus Black Cultural Capital
While the class-based perspective is helpful, allegiance to it suggests that race and class are not simultaneously important, especially among parents who may socialize their children not only to participate in the middle class, but also to maintain allegiance to their race (Lacy 2007). The Black cultural capital perspective calls into question the tendency of earlier educational researchers to choose a side in the race-versus-class debate created over seemingly competing explanations for the racial achievement gap.
Although discussions of racial socialization do not always consider the intersections of race-based and class-based childrearing among racial minorities, work on the Black middle class shows how parents enact class-based and race-based socialization for their children. The theory of strategic assimilation is significant for demonstrating how Black people participate in the White mainstream through work and schooling but maintain connections to their coethnics through participation in organizations and maintenance of ties to the Black community (Lacy 2007). Karyn Lacy’s (2007) book applies the important concept of Black cultural capital to describe the different forms of capital Black middle-class parents cultivate and share with their children. Initially theorized by Prudence Carter (2005), this concept reflects the value ascribed to Black identity and history among Black people. The concept also accounts for cultivation strategies that combine racial heritage with general preparation for the future. This application of culture deeply contrasts oppositional culture models, which suggest Black culture promotes contradictory values to the mainstream, when, in fact, Black parents teach their children how to navigate both Black and White spaces. Lacy (2007) provides the basis for this understanding of parents’ race-based and class-based cultivation strategies, though more research needs to be conducted that centers Black women’s efforts in reducing their social status and racial identity among their children.
In this essay, I seek to add to conversations on Black cultural capital by demonstrating the way Black women value it as much as more “elite” forms of capital that will help their children succeed. Interview excerpts that span experiences from the latter half of the twentieth century to present demonstrate how Black women leveraged finances, social networks, and cultural heritage in order to foster positive racial identities among their Black children, while also preparing their children for success in Eurocentric schools.
Race + Class + Parent Involvement
Most recent literature on the racial disparities in educational attainment assert that both race and class contribute to constrained access to educational opportunity among Black children (Lewis-McCoy 2014). R. L’Heureaux Lewis-McCoy (2014) responds to both oppositional culture (Fordham and Ogbu 1986), and concerted cultivation (Lareau 2011) theories to demonstrate the misconceptions inherent in their explanation of the educational achievement gap. Lewis-McCoy (2014) uses interview and historical analysis in order to describe the structures that limit poor and minority parents who try to help their children earn an education. His structural intersectional perspective attributes mechanisms within school systems that unequally distribute opportunities and resources by race. Lewis-McCoy’s analysis demonstrates the benefit of intersectional perspectives to understand the role of the structural arrangements in the persistence of the racial achievement gap, but this broad analysis of power does not center on Black women’s efforts to combat these forces.
Black feminisms are a useful analytical and methodological tool for specifying Black women’s history of disfranchisement and community contributions within a field that has championed cultural pathology arguments. Noting the inadequacy of racesex comparisons to understand Black women, Deborah K. King (1988) emphasizes Black women’s multiple jeopardy to explore the simultaneous, not additive, dimensions of race, gender, and class oppression in their lives. This perspective, like theoretical approaches to Black feminisms, emerges from Black women’s social marginalization from movements that advocated for only one of their identities, and other forms of institutional exploitation that due to their inherent racism and classism were different from the experiences of White women. Black feminism in this essay captures what Patricia Hill Collins (2000:6) describes as the tension between the suppression of African American women’s ideas and the intellectual activism in the face of that suppression, and a recognition that this production occurs within a political context that seeks to thwart it. Other essential work in this review demonstrates the possible ways a Black feminist perspective can contribute to the development of a more critical understanding of parent involvement.
As an analytical strategy it requires the understanding of role of race, class, and gender in Black women’s lives. This emphasis on class is helpful for understanding differences in back women’s activism. In the context of community commitment, the middle-class and working-class perspectives offered rich, but in some ways divergent perspectives of Black women’s community engagement. Lacy’s (2007) text demonstrated Black middle-class women’s investment in their communities through participation in social organizations that allowed their children to socialize with children of their same race and class. Her emphasis on the middle class allowed Lacy (2007) to highlight the organizations in which Black women participate in order to reproduce their status among their children. Though mainstream conceptions suggested that poor Black women don’t care about their children and families, the movement was in fact a site where Black women created their own educational systems. Farmer (2017) explores how working-class Black women created Saturday schools and important cultural programming to promote race pride among Black children plagued by racial discrimination and handicapped by segregated schooling. Citing community organizations that emerged in segregated cities across the country, Farmer was able to offer a variety of examples of educational programs that Black women created for cultural education like Amina Baraka’s African Free School (2017:107); empowerment like the “us women” movement (98–99), and even job programs like the Oakland County Community School (90). Farmer’s text is essential for associating Black women’s harsh physical labor with the form of reproductive labor via educational advocacy in which they chose to participate in order to improve their families’ conditions.
Farmer’s radical history is complemented by Camille Wilson Cooper’s exploration of Black women’s racial consciousness, cultural traditions, and empowerment efforts relating to their children’s schooling. She importantly characterizes Black feminist work as a combination of care with the dismantling of power structures (Cooper 2009). Cooper uses Black feminist concepts to combat a field of social science that promoted deficit perspectives of Black mothers. According to Cooper, these representations of Black women not only extend to racist research, but also associate whiteness with the perception of caring. Like Lareau (1989), Cooper (2009) acknowledges Black mothers’ awareness of discrimination’s impact on their children, and the stereotypes surrounding their involvement. Cooper’s (2009) intervention is significant not only for contradicting the legacy of literature that emphasizes Black motherhood as deviant, but also for the ways she regards race, class, and gender in her discussion of it. Overall theories of parent involvement that choose race or class leave holes in the analysis that are not only symbolically violent, but also underestimate the influence of structural discrimination in schooling and the way Black mothers combat it. Cooper (2009) explores how, historically, Black women participated in their children’s education by reading to and encouraging them, as well as through direct action in protests and through membership on school boards (Cooper 2009:381). Ultimately these characteristics and interview data prove that Black women have high expectations for their children’s schooling and that they hold their administrators accountable for fulfilling those expectations. Chasity Bailey-Farkhoury’s (2014) discussion of motherwork adds to this historical overview, more specifically motherwork strategies that Black women employ.
Black feminist scholars in describing Black women’s community contributions associate it with an ethic of care (Cooper 2009) or motherwork (Bailey-Farkhoury 2014; Collins 2000).
Described by Bailey-Farkhoury (2014), motherwork strategies included efforts that Black women enacted in response to awareness of racial discrimination in educational settings. Motherwork associates this cultivation work with all of the other reproductive labor that Black women contributed in the form of bodies, or as laborers. Despite this history of domination that is interlaced with Black women’s reproductive labor, educational advocacy is a site where Black women exercise their agency to help their children succeed academically. Bailey-Farkhoury (2014) specifies these motherwork strategies by categorizing them into presence, imaging, and code-switching. These strategies are unified by their incorporation of race-based and class-based socialization strategies. Black feminist educational perspectives offer multiple examples of care and action that Black women incorporate in their navigation of educational opportunity.
I draw from intersectionality the definition that it is not just a form of analysis, but also a methodology and an action (Collins 2000; McCall 2005). Collins’s (2000) description of Black feminist thought originated in the activism of Black women from the antebellum period to present. Her text reviews how Black women of different eras leveraged the media to resist discrimination. I rely on this concept for the way it allows me to center Black women in analysis, methodology, and description of action. Black feminist thought reflects the African American women’s experiences, interests, and standpoints in themes relating to work, family, motherhood, and political activism (Collins 2000:269). Due to systems of segregation and suppression, Black feminist thought is considered subjugated, and thus the methods used to uncover it require more creativity. Additionally, Black women intellectuals contend with the academic emphasis on objective generalizations (Collins 2000:279), despite the knowledge that values, experiences, and emotions are important. Dialogue is important for Black women´s creation of an alternative knowledge production connecting their activism to an oral tradition. This connection between activism, oral methods, and research is further supported by Gwendolyn Etter-Lewis (1991a) who argues that oral history is a way for Black women to “speak out” against the forces that silence them. The historical use of oral tradition in African American culture is used specifically to break from intellectual standards that have excluded Black women. Black feminists have described the importance of oral history to the reformative power of Black feminist theory and methodology.
This essay employs oral history or narrative text because of the way it captures the nuance associated with the intersections of Black women’s social identities as they emerge in dialogue. As a method, Etter-Lewis (1991b) argues that oral history is sensitive to culture and thus is a method that allows researchers to understand the tendencies in language that connect to Black women’s double discrimination. For example, Black women’s tendency to minimize their achievements reflects the various ways society convinced Black women their ideas are not important (1991b:48). In her interviews of Black women, Etter-Lewis also acknowledged that a significant theme that emerged unifying the women surrounded the importance of education (1991b:49). I follow the work of Black feminists who employed oral history (Bailey-Farkhour 2014; Cooper 2009; Etter-Lewis 1991a, b) to explore the salience of education to Black women.
This literature review makes a case for analyzing race, class, and gender collectively as opposed to choosing which of these three types of identities are more salient for understanding educational inequality and activism. While early educational literature used race-based (Fordham and Ogbu 1986) and class-based (Lareau 2011; Lareau and Horvat 1999) explanations for the educational achievement gap, more recent literature engaged the intersections of structures of race and class that impact children’s lives (Lewis-McCoy 2014). Structural intersectional research is further enhanced by analysis that features Black women who are traditionally represented in media and social science literature as dysfunctional. A Black feminist perspective of parental involvement instead engages the intersections of class, race, and gender in the educational advocacy of parents. Borrowing from Black feminisms, this essay explores Black women’s motherwork (Bailey-Farkhoury 2014; Cooper 2009) using oral history and archival data—showing the benefits of the Black women–centered analysis and methodology to a field and a larger educational system that has misunderstood the intentions of Black mothers.
METHODS AND FINDINGS
This study combines a case study of a desegregated school with oral history interviews in order to explore Black women’s contributions to their children’s education even as media reports, policies, and even investigations negated these important political roles. I initially entered the field with an interest in a historical case study of integration by conducting qualitative interviews. In trying to understand my early investigations I realized the benefits of oral historical method as a (Black) feminist method. Throughout the process, my questions were guided by insight I received from local Black activists. A community meeting on the history
of the Underground Railroad in Ypsilanti led by a Black women genealogist, for example, revealed that a local high school had formerly been a segregated elementary school in a formerly Black neighborhood. This history was documented by a book about the Black history of the town written by two Black women community historians. Local Black women’s contributions to my project were early evidence of community involvement that made me question my whole theoretical understanding of Black womanhood.
In addition to Black natives’ interest in Ann Arbor, it and other cities in southeast Michigan have been the site of important findings related to education and segregation. Lewis McCoy’s (2014) study provided important context for understanding educational inequality in Ann Arbor. Though there was important research on racial inequality in education in the city, there was not much exploration of the efforts of mothers to combat that inequality. While Cooper (2009) offered the perspective of Detroit Black mothers, his work did not replace the experiences of Black mothers in a college town like Ann Arbor. In addition to the literature on education, I was interested in the regional history with segregation. Studies have explored the impacts of racial residential segregation (Desmond 2017) and desegregation (Perry 2017) in Milwaukee, Chicago (Massey and Denton 1993), and more. The historical context provided in literature about segregation in the Midwest and Ann Arbor made it a great site to explore how the most vulnerable reconcile with the impacts of segregation on the school system.
I watched and reviewed transcripts from public oral history interviews conducted of senior residents in Ann Arbor and the neighboring city of Ypsilanti, Michigan. The Ann Arbor District Library and the Ypsilanti District Library collaborated to produce the Ann Arbor Living Oral History Project. Covering topics of community, education, housing, entrepreneurship, and more, the oral history collection features personal accounts of racial discrimination and social change in the community. Of the thirty-two interviews in the collection, I coded fifteen for themes relating to segregation, racial identity, education, and childrearing. Drawing from Bailey-Farkhoury’s (2014) explanation of presence, imaging, and code-switching as elements of motherwork, I reviewed excerpts on Black women’s parenting that exemplified these concepts. The oral history interviews were employed to provide a variety of examples of Black women’s motherwork activities during the local history of desegregation.
I reviewed a local archive of Ann Arbor newspapers for all evidence relating to the closure of what was formerly called the Jones School and its reopening as what is now known as Community High School. I recorded a chronology of moments and decisions that the newspapers noted as significant changes within the system. This started from the school’s opening in 1867, and its relocation in 1922, and featured the period from 1963 to 1985 when the city sought to desegregate the schools. The city received federal funding, and during this period conducted a series of five studies relating to the racial demographics in schools—one piloted by a local sociologist. In addition to the more explicit decisions that marked progress in this process, I also was intentional about analyzing any piece relating to Black femininity.
In addition to the way community members’ Black feminist thought informed my study, I was also moved by a Black girl’s resistance described in a newspaper article. I realized that my traditional ways of reading or understanding this period of integration
among Black people would be inadequate. She writes:
What have they done to the Jones School? I just like it the way it was because it looked better that way. The kitchen was the same, but the rest of the rooms aren’t the same. They used to have lots of desks. Now they have pop machines, offices, and they changed around the chalkboards they used to have. Jones School was a school for a long time. I don’t see any people here now. It was more girls than boys in each class. They used to show lots of movies and plays in the auditorium. They once showed Sleeping Beauty. Now they messed up the whole school to me. I liked it before they put all the offices and stuff like that in. That’s what I think of Jones School.” (Ann Arbor News, April 19, 1966)
This student’s memory first captured a perspective that is often lost in studies of education—that of young people (Boocock and Scott 2005). More generally, though, her resistance to what many thought of as a beneficial form of integration contradicted the large-scale changes that were occurring in her city, and in her country. Her words reflected a less-discussed resistance to integration among Black people who felt that racial dispersal would undermine the power Black institutions formerly had in segregated communities, and also contribute to the marginalization of the minorities in predominantly White spaces. Of most import, her text demonstrated the importance of narration to understand Black women’s lives.
Narrative or oral methods are both associated with feminist and African American traditions and can be valuable for honoring the importance of emotion in research. I learned oral history method from Emily Lawsin, a lecturer at University of Michigan, and a community historian and expert on Filipino women in Detroit (Galura and Lawsin 2002). Oral history to her, and to other oral historians, can be a feminist practice, because of the ways it considers the silences women experience in life and in research. Oral history methods thus encourage listening techniques that capture a story, which connects better to the more traditional systems of knowledge production (and circulation of ideas) that are prevalent in the Black community.
I conducted a separate oral history interview with a mother, former city council member, and program director named Wendy Woods. I was prepared to ask her questions about her educational background and her experiences with race relations in the city. The narrative methods of oral history encouraged me to pay attention to the themes that seemed most important to her. My project was still focused on the general structural process of school desegregation, but her narrative revealed her personal commitment to education during her life course. She described her personal motivations in school, her activism in college, and her application of these lessons to her own efforts to improve her children’s education in Ann Arbor public schools. Though I had initially entered the field inductively equipped with theories of segregation, after the interview I realized that I needed to familiarize myself with educational and even Black feminist literature to provide a basis for understanding the work she was describing. This essay reflects how my faith in the veracity of Black feminisms that emerged from the interview allowed me to challenge the canon, and to challenge as well the research methods that in the past did not feature these examples of Black women´s educational literacy.
There were many takeaways from the interview, but I walked away feeling like my personal and academic understandings of Black womanhood were renewed. From Woods’s early years in Ohio to her leadership years on the Ann Arbor City Council, she testified to the support from Black women in navigating discrimination and participating in community. She articulated her investment in this support through the time she spent in a variety of notable Black women’s organizations—Links, Delta Sigma Theta, and Jack & Jill to name a few. Despite this impressive list of organizations, she expressed her own hesitation about the classed messages that are associated with these groups—messages that exacerbate distinctions among Black people. Still, she was able to rely on these organizations for help navigating the difficult racial and in some ways gendered terrain of White and Black Ann Arbor. Black women helped her in her early years prior to her relocation to the area as well, as women often fought with different strategies in their efforts to assert leadership in their early civil rights demonstrations.
In contrast to controlling images, her oral history revealed a theme prevalent among Black women who despite a largely individualistic national narrative prioritized community, represented in the activism for education. As I sat in the interview, I was literally experiencing the support that Woods described as she raised her own children. She was naturally interested in my topic due to its obvious connections to her life’s work, but she was also interested in me and my navigation of the university. As we sat in the office surrounded by plants—to represent the degree she earned from the university after having left Wittenberg years prior—she asked questions that showed her interest in my successful completion of my program. It was then that the connection between town and gown for Black women was made more meaningful by her care.
I started to imagine the Black women integrating universities as the same ones who, dueto gendered expectations for postgraduate routes, enacted similar strategies when sending their children to newly integrating schools. In some ways Woods continued that same fight on the front lines of her undergraduate institution, in her office on campus—creating a safe space for Black people and their ideas on predominantly White college campuses. Woods’s description of her undergraduate activism along with her advocacy in Ann Arbor schools for her children indicates Black women’s investment in their own and their children’s education, and it significantly shaped my Black feminist analytical strategies.
LOCAL HISTORICAL CONTEXT
In the few years preceding the Black Action Movement in Ann Arbor the declaration that segregation was unconstitutional contributed to an interesting local case within the national process of desegregation. From 1965 to 1985 the Ann Arbor News references five studies that were conducted to understand the “racial imbalance” in Ann Arbor public schools. This was accompanied by a three-year federal grant under the Elementary and Secondary Act of 1965, which designated funding to school districts as an incentive to create desegregation plans. The first school that was closed in Ann Arbor was the Jones School. A review of articles published in the Ann Arbor Daily News offers important historical context for understanding the history of discrimination in Ann Arbor schools and an intertwining timeline of Black women’s efforts to push-back. In the articles about the school closure just before Wendy and Ronald C. Woods moved to Ann Arbor there are some great examples of Black women’s citizenship and negotiation of race and gender identity in this racially tense period. Oral history interviews collected by the Ann Arbor District Library explore themes relating to discrimination in schools; examples of the cultivation and activation of cultural and Black cultural capital; and implementation of motherwork/ othermother strategies. The interviews were primarily focused on Black history in Ann Arbor, and the twenty-five respondents were able to refer to the important events that occurred during their lives. This review highlights interview excerpts from several of the twelve Black women interviewees who attest to their experiences of desegregating the neighborhoods and schools. Their narratives also offer very important examples of educational interventions. Combined with articles from the Ann Arbor Daily News, these sources offer a variety of examples of Black mothers’ parent involvement, from the 1960s to present.
These oral histories help us understand the salience of low expectations for Black children in public schools to Black women’s defensiveness. As students started integrating schools, Black mothers became aware of the interpersonal and structural obstacles to their children’s education. Due to the overrepresentation of White teachers even in Black schools, Black women recount personal and second-hand experiences in schooling that asserted that teachers did not encourage their Black students. Rosemarion Blake, for example, described how, when she attended the integrated Ann Arbor High School, her White teachers often did not encourage her, due to their low expectations of Black students’ postgraduate opportunities. College students who were involved in the Black Action Movement championed the issues of Black teachers and the issue of low expectations for Black children at all educational levels. Joetta Mial testified to the significance of these two related characteristics in the demands she and others raised as part of the Black Action Movement. These interpersonal examples suggest the limited opportunities for social mobility for African Americans, and the role of educational institutions in making Black students settle for an inferior education and Eurocentric curriculum. More overt examples of structural educational inequality—tracking, school push-out—are experiences Black women draw upon as they seek to assist their own children’s navigation of educational opportunity.
Oral history interviews also exemplified concepts central to Bailey-Farkhoury’s (2014) characterization of motherwork. Of the three different characteristics of motherwork, presence was exemplified in some women’s accounts of participation in the PTO. Barbara Meadows recounts her advocacy for her children. Examples include her work on the Human Relations Commission, as she transitioned from focusing on neighborhood segregation to the dearth of Black teachers in the schools. An additional part of motherwork that is salient within these interviews is the concept of “othermothering”—where Black women intervene in the educational trajectories of all Black children. Meadows’s description of her work with the Human Relations Commission is an example of her commitment to the benefit other Black children, and even parents. In her job working for Ann Arbor public schools, she often assisted at an alternative school for young mothers. While her job title dictated that she focus on special ed, she often used her spare time to create programming for the children she was interested in helping. Her narrative describes the significance of presence to Meadows’s and other women’s interventions in the school system.
The interviews, in addition to demonstrating presence, also demonstrated the concept of imaging (Bailey-Farkhoury 2014). While imaging has a variety of characteristics, the centrality of the cultivation of Black cultural capital—through exposure to Black leaders and more—was significant to Black women’s motherwork. This interplay of cultural capital and Black cultural capital was an important combination for the multiple spheres Black children/adults navigate/participate in. Mial’s research on the Black Action Movement was accompanied by her own experiences cultivating Black cultural capital. Key moments included her meeting Martin Luther King Jr. She used a strategy described by Bailey-Farkhoury (2014) as exposing children to influences. Additionally, her celebration of the Afrocentric tradition of Kwanzaa was another form of Black cultural capital that was significant to a Black nationalist movement that emphasized connections to the continent of Africa. Similarly, Meadows participated in early “Negro History Week” started by Black historian Carter G. Woodson. These oral histories represent the significance of Black history to the adult and child lives of these interview respondents.
In addition to Black cultural capital, interviews revealed the cultivation of traditional forms of capital through participation in extracurricular activities. Black children participated in activities that facilitated their acceptance in White and or middle-class social groups. For example, Lydia Belle Morton recounts participation in local fine arts programming. She joined the Glee Club and A Capella Club. In addition to cultural work, Morton’s father’s leadership of the local Boy Scout troops demonstrates the significance of other forms of cultivation. Her male peers were involved in the Boy Scouts, and she had personal experiences in the Girl Reserves before a local Girl Scouts chapter was started. Some interviewees also recounted athletic activities. Shirley Beckley recounts experiences as a member of the synchronized swimming team. Lareau (2011) asserts that middle-class parents put their children in athletic programs in order to encourage socializing among peers of their class, and the positive character growth that comes with participation in team sports. The oral history interviews indicate that even during the period of segregation, Black children actively participated in activities among White peers, which allowed them to foster class-based networks in addition to their connections in their segregated neighborhoods. More specifically, this participation in fine arts, scouting, and athletic extracurriculars not only challenges assumptions of gendered extracurricular involvement, but also offers evidence of the variety of activities in which Black parents enrolled their children. These forms of involvement demonstrate that parents combined Black cultural capital with the forms of cultural capital that are represented in the parent involvement literature.
The advocacy for race-based and class-based resources in their community was exemplified in the testimony of Joan Adams and Walter Blackwell before the City Council (Ann Arbor Daily News, February 16, 1967). This is an example of Black women’s extension of motherwork within school administration. Adams and Blackwell referenced the funding allotted to antipoverty programs under the Elementary and Secondary Act, which was awarded to Ann Arbor so the town could address its issues of segregation. They highlighted how the enrichment funds were from the “antipoverty” initiatives of the federal government, and thus could address the needs apparent in their segregated community. According to the report, the first year had a year’s worth of funding spread over a few months of the fiscal year, and during the second year, funds were cut by 15 percent and administrators were forced to make them stretch. Adams and Blackwell informed the school board that interest had declined for the federally funded programs and proposed better programming, equipment, and space. The Ann Arbor Daily News article says, “The spokesmen called for increased parent involvement in the programs, creation of teenage activities club, improvements in the summer recreation program and the incorporation of Negro history into American history courses.” This advocacy has an interesting connection to Black Panther and civil rights era educational programming, which was facilitated through community organizations, though here the advocates were leaning on federal and local support for their work.
The importance of extracurricular activities was further emphasized by NAACP president Emma Wheeler (Ann Arbor Daily News, June 10, 1965). In a letter signed by 300 parents, she stressed the imperative of having afterschool activities for Black children. She was most concerned with the lack of options following the closure of the local Jones School. Her statements highlighted the persistence of racialized educational inequality due to the lack of resources in the Black community, and the efforts by White parents to exclude Black children. Wheeler cites Angell Elementary school as one site where White parents organized against enrollment of Black children in their schools via through the school busing system. The letter highlighted the need for access to a playground and offered a vision for other educational resources. More specifically, Wheeler advocated for a community library that people could access within the predominantly Black neighborhood. Wheeler was not only concerned with children as she also advocated for the adoption of adult educational programs. Her letter was an example of the care and activism that Black women combine in their motherwork. It also showed the significance of extracurricular activities to Black students’ educational attainment and development.
Ultimately these oral histories offer local examples of Black women’s parent involvement during the contentious period of desegregation. The omission of a thorough class analysis assumes that the women covered in the interview had the same experiences at the intersections of their race and gender identities. There are similarities between the themes that emerged in the Ann Arbor District Library collection of oral histories. The interview conducted with Wendy Woods excerpted below offers similar themes of race-based and class-based socialization strategies and elements of motherwork. The interview diverges from this data because of Woods’s eventual decision to send her children to private school. While ultimately there are a lot of similarities between the testimony of Woods and the other oral histories, the next section will emphasize the socialization experiences that contributed to Woods’s more unusual navigation of the public school system, and eventually her transfer of her children to private school.
The interview with Wendy Woods revealed the significance of class in the educational opportunities she received through tracking and even in her ability to attend college. During her upbringing, her class privilege was in so many ways mitigated by her racial and later, her gender identity. As a parent, she initially based her expectations for her children’s education on her experience of tracking. Despite her efforts, her continued issues with discrimination in the school encouraged her to rely on classbased and race-based resources to send her children to private school. This discussion draws upon theories of parental involvement, Black feminisms, and Black cultural capital to demonstrate the interplay between race, class, and gender in Woods’s efforts to navigate her own, and later her children’s education in segregated schools. Across the excerpts one sees her defensiveness in her awareness of discrimination and her motivation to use her resources to provide her children with the education she believed they deserved.
Like the children in the Ann Arbor district, Woods at a young age learned about race through her experience in the educational setting. Her early experience in a tracking program also gave her a framework to understand the way the segregated school system contributed to stratification in education systems that directly shaped life chances. In her Cleveland district, for example, Woods experienced a tracking system that allowed her to participate in extracurricular activities that improved her cultural capital through participation in fine arts:
Cleveland was an interesting school system at the time. It was like a lot of other big city schools, it was segregated, but it also, I think, had made a major effort to put in place many programs which helped students to be prepared to go to college. it had something called an enrichment class or a program called Major Work, which was good in that it gave some enriched materials to children, but then it also had alongside that was what I call a tracking system in that a child might be placed into what was not as challenging a track, and pretty much stayed in that track through junior high and high school years. I was fortunate enough to be in the enrichment class, I guess, or section, so to speak. From about the fourth grade on, we had a foreign language and we had instrumental music. And so, was learning French at a very young age, which was good. Again, I do know that there were other children probably just as smart as all the rest of us, but who might be on more of a track that was turning them more toward the trades or stenography and stuff like that, which are certainly honorable, but it was just the way things were then.
This quotation details the cultural capital that she earned through her participation in enrichment programs—she got language and music courses. It also offers insight into the experiences that shaped an early awareness of the educational trajectories that Black children could be placed in that contribute to participation in lower-prestige work.
Black Cultural Capital
A significant aspect of nonfinancial class-based resources are the contacts that people are able to leverage for their own gain. Lareau (2011) offers the social capital framework to understand the contacts that parents rely on in order to assert authority in the system. The race-based Black cultural capital framework offers the significance of Black friends for not only offering race-based, but also class-based resources for parents and their families. Woods described her graduate school friends:
Many of our friends were also in graduate school. We lived up on North campus in what they called student housing, but it’s actually student and faculty and staff housing. That was a really great experience because many of us who are African Americans and some other persons of color bonded together. Here, we have little children, but we’re also growing ourselves, and getting to know each other, and those kinds of things. Those were really some great years. In fact, when our sons were little, I think one of the first rallies we took them to was when Hughe Newton came to campus to Hill Auditorium and spoke. Even things like that. We always grew up in the movement with them.
This quotation emphasizes the significance of a like-minded group to their own maintenance of these cultural community collections. Also important was seeing how children were raised in this community. Attending the antiracist march is a form of cultivation that the parents were able to employ. The strategic assimilation framework here is very helpful for understanding how Wendy Woods maintained connections to Black students even as she pursued an advanced degree.
Another example of strategic assimilation demonstrates other institutions that were significant for inculcating Black culture.
Yeah. In fact, as we were raising our children and they were younger, we lived on the other side of town, over by Huron High School, and the elementary school they were going to was Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School…It’s a predominantly White school. So there’s probably only three or four African American children in each class, if that many. Probably not that many.
One of the things Ronald and I felt was really important was to make sure that we somehow stayed tied to the black community. We joined Second Baptist, so that our children would have that religious experience. He’s a Baptist anyway and I just later converted to being a Baptist.
Overall the commitment to incorporate racial socialization within educational attainment demonstrates a larger pattern among the privileged to remain aware of all forms of culture. Khan (2011) explores how White children at prep school often listen to hip hop. Students attain cultural capital from knowledge of elite taste, but Khan also argues that their cultural capital emerges from knowing about other, less prestigious cultures. While I am not offering a cultural hierarchy, I am paralleling the ways people of influence cultivate elite tastes, while also emphasizing significance of incorporating consumption from more marginalized populations.
Examples of Class in Black Women’s Educational Advocacy
Woods’s initial activism was race-based, but her experiences in early activism demonstrated the significance of the intersections of class. While the emphasis of parent involvement literature explores how parents fulfill their children’s needs, a more Black feminist approach considers the work that Black women do for other families as well. In the life of Wendy Woods, her educational advocacy began in her high school and college protests. These experiences demonstrated the intersection of these two identities, which were cultivated through this activism—and later emphasized in her children. In high school she writes how the visit of Dr. King raised some really important questions of class divisions in the neighborhood—emphasizing the limits of race-based activism with the persistence of class inequality among Black people. She says:
My activism probably started a little bit earlier in high school, mainly because of what was going on with the civil rights movement that we would see on television and things like that. Also, Martin Luther King would come to Cleveland from time to time and there were a couple of marches for jobs and things like that. He came to our high school and spoke. I remember hearing him speak in the auditorium and everything at the time. It was interesting because by and large, most people there were very supportive of Dr. King and everything, but there were some people who were not real happy with him, and that was because of his stance against the Vietnam War. We actually had a number of young men fro our high school, who after [graduation enlisted].
Similarly, as a college student, race was of growing importance in terms of the activism. She recounts how students advocated for better classes, more Black professors, and even created an organization called the Concerned Black Students to facilitate discussion with the administration. Additionally, they worked with other race-based activists on other college campuses as a form of solidarity. She describes her experience rallying for change, and eventually leaving the college:
So at Wittenberg, not only were things happening nationally, you know we were all talking about this. But we also noticed that we didn’t have, I think there were only about maybe two faculty members that were black on Wittenberg faculty. Like I said by then there were about forty-fifty black students. Wittenberg was located about fifteen or twenty miles from Wilberforce University and Central State University. And I think then, for a couple of years that those schools and Wittenberg had sort of had some faculty exchanges which brought some African American faculty to the campus and they taught some courses. I don’t think they taught courses that in fact necessarily focus on African American experience but at least there was putting some persons of color in front of the student body which was, which was good. And so as we began thinking about it and coming together there were a couple of instances on campus that sort of made us feel like we ought to get an organization together and sort of begin to see how to change the community. And so, and I want to say it was 1968. Maybe we did a lot of meeting and things like that. But eventually we presented a list of demands to our university, I think with about ten or fifteen, you know, demanding things like an increase in African American faculty; more students; more funding for Upward Bound courses, really important things. And when we received a response fro the university that was basically no, we decided to actually, that we would leave campus.
As she got older, this same vigor was translated in her activism in Ann Arbor among graduate students, and even in the classroom. Black feminisms give us an important framework because these ideas acknowledge how Black women are aware of the discrimination in schools and seek to combat it with their efforts. Woods’s comments suggest an awareness that is evident in the scholarship on Black women’s parent involvement regardless of race.
While generally there are a lot of similarities in Black women’s awareness of educational inequality, their class still plays an important role in the options they are able to offer their own children—independent of the school system. This quotation, where Woods acknowledges that her educational experiences were significant in the demands she made of the schools, offers insight into the role of class privilege in influencing parents’ advocacy.
When they were in the Ann Arbor Public Schools, Ronald had grown up in Cincinnati, Ohio, and had attended public schools the whole way, but the high school he went to was Walnut Hills High School. It’s a public school, but it’s almost like a private school because you have to take a test to get into it. It’s a lot of AP courses and all like that. He had high expectations and high experiences for education. Then remember I told you what I had, my experience was in Cleveland with the high expectations and everything.
So when our children went to school, that’s what we were expecting, and that’s what we wanted. We were always there saying, “Why not? Why can’t they?” When it was time for them to go to junior high school, we were talking. I was like, “Man, this is really going to be something because now each one of them is going to have about five teachers.” We’re going to have to be doing it.
Outside of the influencing their demands for their children’s educations, class helped facilitate their children’s transition to private schools. This decision to attend private school is a form of strategic assimilation that Black women enact to avoid further discrimination in the public school setting. Additionally, this quotation demonstrates how the decision was tied to Woods’s Black cultural capital—the same space where she cultivated activist networks were sites where people were starting their own schools, and even able to offer her advice for enrolling her children in
A couple of our friends in other places had actually started some independent Afrocentric schools. In fact, one of our friends, Carmen N’Namdi, Carmen and George N’Namdi had started a school in Detroit. A couple of different people had started schools in Detroit. We were thinking, “Should we try and do that or something?” Then another people that we didn’t know quite as well, who were a little bit older than us, had older children, had put their children in Greenhills School. They said, “Wendy, you really ought to think about that.” But it was expensive. They’re like, “But they have good financial aid, so why don’t you just see?” That’s what we did and Greenhills did give us really good financial aid for Raleigh and Renin to go there. So we went that way.
This excerpt is important because it demonstrates the Black cultural capital that Woods drew upon in order to address the discrimination in the schools. Despite her hesitance over the cost, Woods’s ability to rely on her educated friends’ knowledge of the private school system reflects a level of social capital that reflected class privilege.
Black feminisms add to studies of parent involvement acknowledgment of Black women’s history of involvement and a more intersectional analysis of the identities that contribute to this participation. As a form of analysis, it allows scholars to use the same data that undermines Black women’s commitment to their family’s education to provide different conclusions. It is also a methodological tool and a platform for action. Earlier historical analysis demonstrates examples of Black women’s advocacy in a city council to receive federal funds, offering also insight into the ways their requests were repressed by political leaders. In this essay, oral history methods offered important insight into the class-based influences that shape educational attainment, as well as the way Black mothers incorporate racial and class-socialization in the rearing of their children. Overall the incorporation of Black feminist analysis and oral history methodology encourages us as citizens and as scholars to challenge bias by actively listening to Black women’s words.
In 2017, over half a century following the passage of the Elementary and Secondary Act, Michigan implemented the Every Student Succeeds Act—which drew from the original ESEA in order to encourage parental involvement as a part of a strategic plan to increase the ranking of Michigan public schools. This emphasis on parental involvement contrasts the data that finds no class differences in the high involvement among Black and Latino parents in homework help and other educational activities (Massey et al. 2003). There has been little change in the pressure on parents to address structural conditions that shape educational inequality, and even less progress in redressing the “devaluation of Black motherhood” (Roberts 1997). This work connects an enduring legacy of tension between state interventions in poverty and Black women’s local efforts to empower their communities to the educational system. Further research needs to be conducted to unveil Black women’s experiences navigating state-imposed expectations on parenting, while confronting the realities of raising Black children in a racist society.
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About the Author
Gabrielle Peterson, University of Michigan
 This essay cites the revised second edition of Black Feminist Thought, which was originally published in 1990. Collins’s early characterizations of motherwork are cited in more recent applications of the concept by Cooper (2009), Bailey-Farkhoury (2014), and Bailey-Farkhoury and Mitchell (2018).
 Motherwork refers to the types of work and meaning attached to Black women’s work in both Black and White neighborhoods. It refers to their constellation of mothering activities (Collins 2000:224), which motivated participation in institutional transformation and other activism. It engages all minority women as blood-mothers and othermothers who are involved in children’s lives through professional involvement, volunteer work, and cultivation practices. The specific aspect of the othermother role that Collins (2000:225) focused on was the educational advocacy of anonymous slave mothers, a mother from Detroit (227), and other Black Feminist activists who centered educational achievement as a part of Black community development.
 Collins (2000:21) writes, “Intersectionality refers to particular sets of intersecting oppressions, for example intersections of race and gender, or of sexuality and nation. Intersectional paradigms remind us that oppression cannot be reduced to one fundamental type, and that oppressions work together in producing injustice.” This essay draws from sources that highlight the structural inequality in school systems that shape educational inequality for minorities of multiple marginalized identities. Crenshaw (1991:1245), in her description of the structural intersectionality plaguing victims of intimate partner violence, says, “[T]hey must also confront the multilayered and routinized forms of domination that often converge in these women’s lives…Many women of color for example are burdened by poverty, childcare responsibilities, and the lack of job skills.”
 Another Ann Arbor draws on local archival data from the Bentley Historical Library and personal collections of Black Ann Arbor residents. It provides a pictorial history of covering themes of social life and business enterprise, among other important milestones in Black Ann Arbor history.
 According to Paul (2016) funds were allocated for “professional development, instructional materials, resources to support educational programs and the promotion of parental involvement.”
 Woodson was an important figure who wrote The Mis-Education of the Negro (1933) about the way Black racial identity is targeted in public schools. His advocacy of a Black cultural week (championed in schools) is important inspiration for the intersection of Black cultural capital and mainstream educational education that has been exemplified by the Black educational advocates historically, and reflects characteristics of Black women’s educational advocacy described in this essay.