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Fenwick Delivers 20th Annual Brown Lecture in D.C.

AACTE’s Dean in Residence Leslie T. Fenwick, Ph.D., recently delivered the 20th Annual Brown Lecture in Education Research in Washington D.C.

According to the American Educational Research Association, which hosted the event, the Annual Brown Lecture in Education Research illuminates the important role of research in advancing the understanding of equality and equity in education.

Fenwick’s lecture, “Otherwise Qualified: The Untold Story of Brown and Black Educators,” offered a newly excavated history of implementing the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education. It also advances her theory of “cultural elision” to explain how Brown is still misdefined.

As chronicled in her award-winning book Jim Crow’s Pink Slip (Harvard Education Press, 2022), massive White resistance to Brown from 1952 through the late 1970s resulted in one hundred thousand exceptionally well-credentialed Black principals and teachers in public schools being illegally fired, dismissed, or demoted and replaced on a near one-to-one basis by White educators who were less academically credentialed and less professionally experienced.

“Prior to Brown and the 17 dual-system states, 35% to 50% of principals and teachers were African American,” Fenwick said. “Today there is no state that approaches these percentages.”

According to Fenwick, 7% of teachers, 11% of principals, and less than 3% of superintendents are African American (Black) today and the underrepresentation of African Americans in the workforce was not tied to Brown directly but to the massive resistance it was met with.

Fenwick identified four traumas that continue to hinder the nation’s progress toward racial justice and educational equity and recommendations to overcome them.

AACTE Board Chair Monika Williams Shealey and AACTE President and CEO Lynn M. Gangone were in attendance for the lecture, and many AACTE members hosted “watch parties” during the live streaming.

“Leslie’s lecture was both inspiring and deeply troubling. Deeply troubling in recounting the ways in which this nation summarily eradicated the Black teacher and principal workforce post-Brown, an unfortunate legacy that still impacts us today as we seek to diversify the teaching and educational leadership ranks” Gangone said. “Inspiring in that Leslie’s call to action resonates with all of us who wish to achieve a truly diverse educator workforce to meet the educational needs of all students. It was a superb lecture.”

A full live-streamed recording of the lecture is available to watch on YouTube.  

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