Tag Archives: AfAm Studies

African American Doctorates in Education Disciplines


“Even after twenty years of affirmative action, African Americans constitute only 4.5 percent of the professoriate (Hacker, 1992). In 1991 there were 24,721 doctoral degrees awarded to U.S. citizens and noncitizens who intended to remain in the United States, and only 933 or 3.8 percent of these doctorates went to African American men and women. If every one of those newly minted doctorates went into the academy, it would have a negligible effect on the proportion of African Americans in the professoriate. The majority of the African Americans who earn Ph.D.’s earn them in the field of education and of that group, most of the degrees are in educational administration where the recipients continue as school practitioners” (Ladson-Bilings, 1999*).

That last line caught my eye. In the midst of a discussion about social benefits African Americans receive from civil rights legislation, as compared to Whites, seeing as that the primary recipients of affirmative action are White women, I was intrigued by this question of why many African Americans choose to pursue doctorates. Since the book chapter I was reading is from 1999, I decided to see if I could find more up to date data regarding representation in doctoral degree conferral. I wanted to know if the statistics remain the same almost twenty years later.

The National Science Foundation conducts annual surveys to measure the demographics of candidates who earn research doctorates, their fields of study, and their post-degree plans, among other data points.  In 2015, there were 2,281 research doctorate degrees awarded to African Americans, out of 55,006 PhDs earned nationally, of which 1,468 recipients were African American women. This was compared to 1,121 African American men who received research doctorates. According to the 2015 survey, roughly 15% of education doctorates were earned by African Americans, compared to a 6.5% representation in doctorate conferral overall. The other field listed in which African Americans have a relatively high representation was psychology and social sciences (8%).

Of the 761 African Americans (discipline non-specific) who already had firm employment commitments post-graduation, 53.6% of them were headed into academia. 11.2% had government jobs. 12.9% had jobs in industry-related fields. 8% were bound for the non-profit sector.

So then I decided to find out what African American PhD recipients (from 2015) were studying within education. Was there a singular focus on education administration still? There was not. In 2015, there were 635 doctorates conferred to African Americans in the field of education. But while there were 198 degree recipients in fields related to education administration, there were 308 degree recipients in fields related to education research. The three subfields in education research with the greatest representation of African Americans were higher education evaluation and research (80), curriculum and instruction (56), and counseling education/counseling and guidance (54).

African Americans in education doctorate programs were more likely to finance their own degree (58.8%), as opposed to holding fellowships and grants (16.3%), research assistantships (11.2%), teaching assistantships (5.3%), or having employer financed degrees (8.1%). This is compared to African American doctoral graduates, across all fields, who financed their own degrees (41.1%), relied on fellowships and grants (28.8%),  had research assistantships (13.7%), had teaching assistantships (11.6%), or had employer financed degrees (4.6%). It comes as no surprise, then, that African Americans lead in accumulated debt from graduate degrees overall, with an average debt of $43,337. The highest percentage of those who had accrued debt (21%) measured at $90,001+. Y’all, that hurts my soul.

The number of African Americans studying education doesn’t surprise me. Historically, African Americans were prevented from equal access to education under “separate but equal” Jim Crow laws. Post-Civil Rights era, issues relating to education equity for African Americans remain a concern. Within education, sociology, and family studies research, there has been an increasing research focus on how race, gender, socioeconomic status, and family wealth interact with availability of quality learning experiences and how this affects quality of life and life choice. It’s just kind of jarring that the majority of these doctoral graduates were paying for these degrees out of pocket or via loans. That’s some dedication…but it also leads back into talking about accumulated wealth. My theory is that African Americans are drawn to studying education because of a desire to make a difference. We all know education, academia or not, doesn’t pay that well. This means the majority of African Americans are breaking their backs (financially), to try to change systemic issues. Again, that hurts my soul. While doctoral degrees confer some sort of social capital (in which we use the system to beat the system, only to be beat again by the system), is it really worth it in the end?

One other interesting thing to note is that, while there has been discussion about the role HBCUs play in graduating doctorate recipients, the NSF also did a study in 2006 to measure whether there was any relationship between HBCU undergraduate programs and later pursuit of doctoral degrees. Measuring 1997-2006, they found that the top eight, as well as twenty out of the top fifty undergraduate institutions that produced future African American doctorates were HBCUs. I found this particularly interesting, given the ongoing stigma associated with HBCUs graduates as subpar in comparison to predominantly White institutions (PWIs). The top five schools to produce African American undergraduates who would later achieve doctorates were: Howard University, Spelman College, Hampton University, Florida A&M University, and Morehouse College. I’m curious how these numbers might be different or the same ten years later.

Things that I would love to know more about:

  • What motivates African American doctoral students to study education?
  • How is salary, socioeconomic status, and accumulation of wealth affected by the number of African Americans who self-finance their education?
  • How many African American graduates remain in education-related jobs post-doctorate?
  • What role do HBCUs play currently in producing African American doctorates?
  • The rates for other race/ethnicity groups who fund their own education doctorates is also very high. Where’s the funding for education students?

I guess I’ll go finish my readings now…




*Ladson-Billings, G. (1999). Just what is critical race theory, and what’s it doing in a nice field like education?. In L. Parker, D. Deyhle & S. Villenas (Eds.), Race is…Race isn’t: Critical race theory & qualitative studies in education (pp. 7-30).  New York, NY: Perseus Books, LLC.


Race, gender, war, and integration


“You have to see this.” I’ve uttered this many times over the last few weeks. It’s interesting the things you find in a university archives.

In my archives rotation, I’m working on creating a K-12 curriculum plan. The idea is to highlight collections that could have possible ties to the Maryland Common Core curriculum, with an eye towards critical thinking, investigative research, and problem-based learning. Additionally, materials that I’ve located may also (or alternatively) be used for materials surveys or “white gloves sessions” hosted by the archives staff, as a part of academic coursework. Themes that I’ve identified as possible foci are desegregation/integration in the state of Maryland; race and gender during WWII; technology, transportation, and industry; and construction and expansion.


Elementary school in Hurlock, MD circa 1935 (image via Library of Congress)

Within the topics of integration and desegregation, I’m selecting materials that highlight attempts to integrate public education institutions and responses to the Brown vs. Board of Education decision in 1954. A 1954 Maryland Board of Education study on integration in response to the Supreme Court decision begins, “Maryland has always been considerate of its colored populations. As a matter of fact, the State was considerate of the Negro race when most of its representatives within the confines of the State were not citizens but slaves…” Sounds promising, right? The report detailed how the state of Maryland had a “long and honorable record” as a part of the Union and they were more than happy to comply with desegregation, as soon as it was required. Further, while the Supreme Court considered the psychological effects of segregation on black children, no one considered that the Supreme Court in determining that segregation was unconstitutional, “abrogated a right of the majority group” and that integration may “cause emotional disturbances in those white children who have lived in a segregated world with […] a clear conscience.” The committee wished that the Supreme Court would take this into account in deciding their final mandate. Gradual desegregation was the committee’s recommendation and hope. Equal rights are, of course, important… *sarcasm*

Some other interesting finds include minutes from the State of Maryland Board of Education meetings, including advice/opinions from the Attorney General of Maryland and the Board of Education members regarding the legal implications behind desegregation; minutes from the Maryland Board of Trustees of State Colleges and Universities; and correspondence and notes within presidential papers.


Case listing in archived index (image via Maryland State Archives)

Additionally, though Towson began integrating in late 1955, there was at least one African American student who attempted to gain admission prior to 1954. In 1950, F. Vernon Roberts applied for admission on the grounds that Coppin State’s educational experience was not on the same level as Towson’s and he wanted to have access to advanced courses that Coppin didn’t offer. Roberts was refused admission. Because he suspected it was on the basis of race, he filed a lawsuit with the Maryland courts. The outcome isn’t known (the actual court records are at the Maryland State Archives), but presumably he was not successful, as he completed his degree at Coppin a few years later. Roberts went on to become a principal in the Baltimore City school system.

The discussion around integration continued within the Maryland States Colleges and Universities for the next fifteen to twenty years, with predominantly white Towson trying to figure out how to attract more students of color and predominantly black Morgan State trying to figure out how to attract more white students, so as to be in compliance with mandates from the Supreme Court and the Board of Education. In 1968, Morgan proposed that students at Towson be required to take 9-12 credits at either Morgan State or Coppin State prior to graduation. Towson proposed that they offer scholarships to attract more students of color.  It’s not yet known what the outcome of these suggestions were. I find it interesting that these are the same discussions that continue to be had in 2016. I guess it’s hard to undue a race-based system that still supports so much of the national economy and infrastructure.


African American WAACs, Lts Harriet West and Irma Cayton going over recruiting schedules in 1942 (image via National Archives)

Within the areas of race and gender during World War II, I am currently looking through the World War II collection. During the war, Towson administrators sent newsletters to the college alumni, staff, and students who were serving in the armed forces. In response, the alumni would keep in touch, relaying some of their job duties and experiences during the war. The collections includes correspondence, news clippings, photos, and ledgers. Its interesting to read how the men versus the women talk about and navigate their time in the military and in military support roles.

Hester Brown, female Naval Yeoman, recounted, “I have relieved a man for sea duty and my feeling was a mixture of emotions when the time came for me to say goodby to him. I was a proud WAVE, and yet fearful that I might not be able to fully take that Bluejacket’s place here. As I grow more accustomed with my job, that fear is being overcome.”

“Three of us from Texas were the first WAACs on the field.” wrote Helene Davis, WAAC Link Trainer,  “Don’t think that wasn’t a thrill. The boys were so glad to see us for they expected us to take over the KP [kitchen patrol]. We soon straightened them out on that score. Most of us are taking over office jobs, but you’ll find WAACs doing most everything except flying the planes.”

Sibyl Davis, WAAC, wrote, “After feeling like the Army’s unwanted step child for over a month, I feel a little better now that I have a job that doesn’t make me feel like a scullery maid, even if it may be temporary.”

From Dorothy Farmer, WAAC Sergeant, “We are fortunate in having quarters in the temporary BOQ–Bachelor’s Officer’s Quarters–where most most of us have private rooms. It is very much like a school dormitory except we aren’t allowed to have curtains or fancy bedspreads and pillows. Everything is strictly GI, and woe to us if any dirt or dust is found anywhere on Saturday morning inspections. We all ought to make immaculate housewives when this is all over.”

“I am convinced that women are learning more from this war by being a part of it than they could have any other way.” Gwendolyn Felts, Pfc. and WAAC recruiter, wrote enthusiastically to Dr. Rebecca Tansil, “Perhaps this is the greatest assemblage of women for one ultimate goal, peace, ever known in the era of democracies…Say this is beginning to sound like an argument and somehow I don’t think you need any persuasion.”

For many women, the opportunities afforded during World War II, both in military service and in civilian positions, exposed them to a variety of jobs that had been typically reserved for men. Once the war ended in 1945 and men returned from active duty, most of these women were forced to revert to traditionally feminine roles. An emphasis on the woman in the role of homemaker and wife prevailed during the “golden age” of the 1950s, before being challenged during the push for civil and equal rights of the 1960s and 1970s.

Lack of opportunities and prevailing prejudice on a national scale limited employment options for African Americans for a very long time.  Even in service to the military, there was an obvious color line. Both the Marine Corps and the Navy began integrating their ranks during WWII, but the roles people of color were allowed to fill tended to differ greatly from that of their white comrades and serving in segregated units was a given. For a time, the only role the Navy allowed black soldiers to play was to serve as mess attendants, cooking and serving food. By the time Towson janitor, John Gwynn (featured on the archives’ blog here), joined the Navy in 1943, they had expanded their options somewhat. Though being a person of color, he was still limited to a service role


John Gwynn in uniform, circa 1943 (image via TU Archives)

similar to the one he had at Towson. He wrote to one of the Towson staff members of his work at the Naval Officer’s Club as being, “very much the same as I did there at school.” Meanwhile, mention was made of his joining the Navy in the newsletter sent to Towson affiliated military personnel, but the manner in which it was communicated gives a clue of the racial climate of the time. There was an elementary school (Lida Lee Tall School) located on the grounds of Towson, which has a long history as a teacher preparation college. The students of the Lida Lee Tall School were said to have done their part to support the war effort by “giving” Gwynn to the Navy.

Though African American men and women still faced Jim Crow laws and unjust practices in their homeland, they were willing to join in fighting for democracy abroad. It was with great disappointment that they returned after the war to find the same social conditions they had left. While white soldiers returned to fanfare and celebration, African Americans, especially in the South, were quickly reminded of their place and, in some instances, killed, for stepping out of it. Unwilling to settle back into this scripted existence of blackness, many departed the South in droves for better opportunities up North and out West, while other began to fight for change in their communities, spurring the Civil Rights  and Freedom movements.

I’m still sorting through materials and alternately laughing, shaking my head, and Googling things in fascination. I can’t wait to see what I stumble across next!

Reflecting on Instruction


This past Thursday, I had the opportunity to teach my first library session. I attended one of the history courses (African American History, 1877-present) to present on locating primary sources, with a particular focus on 20th century African American history and culture. The class consisted of twenty-two undergraduate students and the session was about twenty minutes long. One of the history faculty members had asked me to come and share with her class, as a result of one of the LibGuides I created last year. Of course, I was excited to be able to do so, both because it directly correlates to my research interests and because teaching is a big part of academic librarianship. It allowed me to add a check mark to one of my professional goals for the year.

I am a perfectionist. As such, I tend to overanalyze everything and upon reflection, gleaned the following takeaways:

  • Having experienced colleagues to give advice and provide mentoring during the planning process is great! Take advantage of it (which I did). Also, the encouragement from library staff before and after is invaluable. Supportive environment = greater growth
  • Pacing the session appropriately ensures better explanation of the research process and allows for better opportunity to engage students
  • Everyone doesn’t know what you know, therefore, take the time to lay foundations and build on what they do know
  • Ask questions. Involve students. Ask what they know and try to find out what they want to know (KWL doesn’t have to end with Elem. Educ.)
  • Ask about technology needs ahead of time (projector, computer, etc.)
  • Get immediate feedback from students (i.e. Was this helpful? Do you have any questions that I did not answer?)

Obviously, since it was my first time, I was somewhat nervous. Otherwise, I think I did okay and hopefully I will get the chance to do it again soon, so that I can work on perfecting my instruction techniques. It’s been awhile since I’ve been in the classroom. On a side note, a couple of students did stop by while I was on the reference desk to follow-up/ask for suggestions in locating a specific collection, which we were able to do. Yay libraries!

“In which we look to the future…”


Most of the time, that just means applying for jobs. Just saying.

This time last year, I was gearing up for one last year of grad school. I am excited to announce that I have now completed my graduate studies in Library and Information Science!! It was tough going at times, particularly while juggling a full-time job and my personal obligations, but I am so happy to have persevered and finished. I am also thankful to my family and friends who supported me in achieving my goals. I know good people.

So what’s next? As most of you know, I am interested in working with African American collections and/or supporting research in African American history and culture. To this end, I have been seeking out opportunities on the job to create research tools and better support academic programs in this area. Most recently, this included creating a LibGuide for African American Studies. I’m continuing to work on that, as well as one for African American Literature. One of my courses involved developing a guide for African American Art and Artists, which was probably the highlight of that class. These experiences have helped me to not only navigate diverse information organization tools, but also to strengthen my skills in information design, user experience, and consumer outreach. I’m also taking this time to develop general practical skills in librarianship and information sciences. Part of that will involve working part-time as a reference librarian at my academic institution, which I am really psyched about. Hopefully, in the near future, I will be writing about my first teaching experience.

Oh, but speaking of African American art, I had the opportunity to stop by the National Museum of African Art this weekend and view the Conversations: African and African American Art in Dialogue exhibit. It was a beautiful and thought provoking exhibit. I encourage all to go see it! It’s not easy to comprehend the magnitude of the African diaspora, but the cultural context that is shared across continents…it’s something. It inspired me to return to my art form(s). There’s such a voice in creating. Art transcends boundaries and it challenges people.

Have a great beginning of the year!! Happy 2015!

Blog Post on SIA’s The Bigger Picture


Exciting news! I just learned that my blog post has been published to the Smithsonian Institution Archives blog. I researched, developed, and wrote an article on John N. Robinson in the course of my digital services internship at SIA this past summer. Here’s a link, because you know you want to check it out.


“I knew the pathway like the back of my hand…”


It turns out that the last semester is actually the hardest, for a number of reasons. But anyhow, I am going into my last semester of grad school, still working full-time, and serving as the president of my school’s SAA student chapter. So lots of fun all around! One of the classes I am taking, LSC 555 (Information Systems) requires periodic blog posts reflecting on required reading. Since I already use this blog for very periodic postings, they will be hosted here. Be informed. The other class I am taking is LSC 634 Humanities Information. It’s basically an overview of using and evaluating sources as a librarian for the arts and humanities. It seems interesting so far with a lot of practical information. Last but not least, I am taking….COMPS!! Because that means I am (almost) so done! So yes, I am excited.

We’ve started back into the semester at work. As such, I’ve been caught up in hiring and training student employees, teaching students (and sometimes faculty) how to use their library accounts and best take advantage of library resources, and trying a few new things on the job. One is that I started cross-training with Research Assistance (formerly known as Reference) over the summer. Now that the semester has started, I’m excited to see it when it’s busy. I’m also the liaison between Access Services and the Research, Teaching, and Learning divisions. It has allowed me to see what librarianship is like behind the scenes and what types of skills are priceless. It has also allowed me to build relationships with the librarians and find ways to get involved on their end. To that end, I’m currently working on a few LibGuides. One of which (seriously gleeful here) will feature resources for those studying African American Studies and the African Diaspora. In case you haven’t yet figured it out, AfAm Studies is a serious area of interest for me and I am tickled pink to be able to put my enthusiasm and skills to good use. I’ll be sure to post a link to the guide when it is done.

In other news, my blog post should be published at SIA pretty soon. Keep an eye out for that.