This image is a photograph of a painting I had commissioned by artist Kevin Hopkins. The image connects to my research, as I am examining the role of Black female educators in Mississippi. My study details the lived experiences of Black women educators, specifically the lived experiences of my ancestors who taught pre- and post-Brown vs. Board of Education (1954) in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Far too often, the voices of Black women have been disregarded, questioned, discounted, or silenced. Notwithstanding, since the Emancipation Proclamation (1863), Black women as educators have been at the forefront of ensuring that Black students and communities were given the civil liberty of education and literacy. Throughout history, these educators found creative compassionate ways to navigate, and periodically upend, systemic practices in American society that legally or purposefully sought to deny Black folk their personhood, education, and access to full-fledged citizenship. Unbeknownst to many of us, the efforts of these educators preserved and enhanced not only Black life and opportunity, but also changed the landscape of the United States.
References: 1937 School for black students located in a plantation in the Mississippi Delta. Dorothea Lange photograph courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, LC-USF34-017520-E.