School Clothes: A Collective Memoir of Black Student Witness by Jarvis R. Givens
Beacon Press, February 7, 2023
School Clothes challenges historical stereotypes faced by Black students in the U.S., offering a profound reevaluation of their experiences. Through meticulous scholarship, it amplifies the voices of African American youth and contributes significantly to the narrative of Black education. The book features notable figures like Zora Neale Hurston, Ralph Ellison, Mary McLeod Bethune, and Angela Davis during their primary and secondary school years, using their voices as primary sources to underscore that Black students transcend historical adversity. The text takes readers on a historical journey, showcasing how Black youth, supported by their families, resisted the suppression of Black American education. Alexander Crummell's pursuit of education in the antebellum North, Mary McLeod Bethune's innovative "singing schools," and Yvonne Divans Hutchinson's transformation into an educator all exemplify this resistance. School Clothes presents historical student perspectives on the intentional barriers and aggression against Black youth in education. It highlights the way covert efforts, from the classroom to the boardroom, continue to affect Black students today. These narratives counter the history of anti-assembly laws during enslavement acknowledging that the right to assemble for Black people has always been a challenged privilege persisting in today's educational landscape. Givens is partnering with the Harvard Radcliffe Institute and is currently working with secondary school teachers of English and African American Studies to plan a teaching guide for educators to use the book in their classrooms. More information will be forthcoming about these lessons from https://www.radcliffe.harvard.edu/.